New Research Done by BeyondThePurchase.Org Explores the Link between Money and Happiness--Finds That Materialists Do Not Become Happier When Purchasing

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New research done by BeyondThePurchase.Org shows that materialistic people purchase life experiences for extrinsic reasons, thereby reducing the happiness they might gain from experiential purchasing. The results extend what we know about the relation between money and happiness.

Beyond The Purchase

These results shed light on why materialists tend to show a lower level of life satisfaction. Materialists may perceive experiential items as another possession they want ‘to have’, instead of ‘to do’.

BeyondThePurchase.Org helps people understand the relationship between money and happiness. A new research study by the academic research website suggests that materialists may not feel happiness from experiences because they spend money on experiences to pursue extrinsic goals.

Numerous studies have shown that spending money on life experiences improves psychological well-being, compared to material possessions. However, not everyone feels happier when purchasing life experiences. Psychologists have begun to study the psychological consequences of different motivations for experiential purchasing, and have found that purchasing experiences for intrinsic reasons, such as personal satisfaction led to more well-being than purchasing experiences for extrinsic reasons, such as trying to impress others.

"Why you buy is just as important as what you buy," said Ryan Howell, associate professor of psychology at San Francisco State University. "When people buy life experiences to impress others, it wipes out the well-being they receive from the purchase. That extrinsic motivation appears to undermine how the experiential purchase meets their key psychological needs."

Researchers at BeyondThePurchase.org were interested in individuals’ motivation for spending money on life experiences. Visitors to the website completed the Materialistic Values Scale and the Motivations for Experiential Buying Scale as well as a happiness quiz. Results indicated that people who had greater materialistic values were more likely to buy experiential items for extrinsic reasons, such as showing off or impressing others. Individuals who choose life experiences to gain recognition from others also reported feeling less autonomous, competent and connected to others.

“These results shed light on why materialists tend to show a lower level of life satisfaction. Materialists may perceive experiential items as another possession they want ‘to have’, instead of ‘to do’. Therefore, they spend money on life experiences for the same reason they pursue material possessions - to show off to others,” said Aekyoung Kim, a researcher at the website. “Because materialists tend to pursue extrinsic goals whenever spending their money, their purchases are not making them happier, even life experiences.”

"The biggest question you have to ask yourself is why you are buying something," Howell said. "Motivation appears to amplify or eliminate the happiness effect of a purchase."

To increase life satisfaction for materialists, therefore, it may be helpful for them to focus on the intrinsic benefits of life experiences, such as representing one’s identity or improving interpersonal relationships, as opposed to how these experiences will be perceived by others.

To better understand the benefits of specific consumer choices, BeyondThePurchase.Org continues to investigate the relationships between consumer preferences, psychological needs, happiness, and values by allowing people to take tests on personality. To learn about consumer psychology, BeyondThePurchase.Org allows members of the public to take free personality quizzes to find out what kind of shopper they are and how their spending choices affect them. With these insights, people can better understand the ways in which their financial decisions affect their happiness. Responses to these surveys will also help researchers further understand the connection between money and happiness.

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Graham Hill
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