There are Free Lunches Statement of Intentions

There are Free Lunches: Behavioral Clues to Live Happy in the Economic World is a blog that intends to present updated and relevant information about the "hidden" and only recently uncovered dimensions of the economic science: the behavioral factors. With this blog we intend to promote in Europe and in the rest of the World, the top research articles and perspectives on behavioral economics, decision making, consumer behavior, and general behavioral science. We aim to be followed by journalists, academics, managers, civil servants, and everyone who wishes to improve their daily interaction with the economic world and consequently, their lives' happiness.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Principle 1: Buy Experiences Instead of Things

Research suggests that people are often happier when they spend their money on experiences rather than things. "Experiential purchases" are defined as those "made with the primary intention of acquiring a life experience: an event or series of events that one lives through", while "Material purchases" as those "made with the primary intention of acquiring a material good: a tangible object that is kept in one's possession". When asked to a nation-wide sample of over a thousand American which of these 2 type of purchases made them happier; 57% reported that they had derived greater happiness from their experiential purchase, while only 34% reported greater happiness from their material purchase. Similar results were obtained when participants were randomly assigned to reflect on either a material or experiential purchase they had made, suggesting that experiential purchases produce more lasting hedonic benefits. The importance of experiences for happiness is also corroborated by recent studies in which people reported their current happiness, their current activity, and the current focus of their thoughts. Results showed that current happiness was more determined by people’s focus of their thoughts than by their current activity. People reported more happiness when they were focused on their current activity, instead of having their minds wandering to pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant topics. Thus, it seems that a wondering mind is an unhappy mind, and one of the benefits of experiences is that they keep us focused on the here and now. Experiences are also better than things because we adapt to things much quickly than to experiences. After devoting days to choose a new hardwood floor to install in our apartment, we will quickly note that it will become nothing more than the unnoticed ground beneath our feet. In contrast, the memory of seeing a baby cheetah at dawn on the African safari continues to provide delight, and each session of a year-long cooking class is different from the before. This happens because we adapt most quickly to that which doesn't change. Another reason why we get more happiness from experiences than from things is because we anticipate and remember the former more often than the latter. Things bring us happiness when we used them, but not so much when we merely think about them. Experiences bring happiness in both cases and some (climbing a mountain or making love to a new partner) may even be better contemplated than consummated. We are also more likely to mentally revisit our experiences than our things in part because our experiences are more centrally connected to our identities. Because experiences are as unique as the people who experience them, they are also difficult to compare, and that its good because it saves us from troubling ruminations about roads less travelled - its' difficult to say if we could have more fun going one week vacations to sunny Brasil instead of cold Sweden. A final reason why experiences make us happier than things is that experiences are more likely to be shared with other people, and that - as will see - is our greatest source of happiness.

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