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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003 Dec;85(6):1193-202.

To do or to have? That is the question.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309-0345, USA.


Do experiences make people happier than material possessions? In two surveys, respondents from various demographic groups indicated that experiential purchases-those made with the primary intention of acquiring a life experience--made them happier than material purchases. In a follow-up laboratory experiment, participants experienced more positive feelings after pondering an experiential purchase than after pondering a material purchase. In another experiment, participants were more likely to anticipate that experiences would make them happier than material possessions after adopting a temporally distant, versus a temporally proximate, perspective. The discussion focuses on evidence that experiences make people happier because they are more open to positive reinterpretations, are a more meaningful part of one's identity, and contribute more to successful social relationships.

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