In a new study, published in the current issue of Psychological Science, Jordi Quoidbach and three colleagues demonstrate that money-even the thought of it-undermines life's simple pleasures. Specifically, the authors found that wealthier people were less able than poorer ones to savor, to enhance and prolong positive emotional feelings such as joy, awe, excitement, contentment, pride, and gratitude, and that this "negative impact of wealth on individuals' ability to savor undermined the positive effects of money on their happiness." They also found that even the thought of money reduced the ability to savor.
Though the idea is scarcely a new one-the Quakers preached it, and so did Thoreau-this is the first solid evidence for its truth. Participants were 374 university-connected adults, ranging from custodial staff to senior administrators; they were divided into two randomly assigned groups. The first group was shown a picture of a pile of money and then given psychological tests that measured savoring ability. The second group was shown the same picture, but blurred beyond recognition; they, too, then got the psychological test. The group who'd seen the clear picture of money demonstrated a substantially lesser ability to savor than the blurred picture subjects.