Can't Buy Happiness?

Money, personality, and well-being

What Life Experiences Appeal to Materialists?

Determining the experiential purchases preferences of materialists

People frequently spend their money to be happy. Research demonstrates that, compared to material purchases, experiential purchases (activities and events, such as concerts or vacations) contribute to greater happiness, relatedness, and are a better use of money. However, experiences range from dancing to fishing or art shows. A person can have fun while either drinking with friends at their favorite local bar or while hiking alone in the mountains. There are so many experiential choices people can make.

Also, even though materialists, by definition, consume fewer life experiences than experiential consumers, they do spend money on life experiences and, presumably, differ in their preferences for particular life experiences. So, what life experiences appeal particularly to materialists? Researchers at BeyondThePurchase.Org are beginning to discover the answer.

See All Stories In

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Love can be a minefield.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Consumer psychologists, including James Burroughs and Aric Rindfleisch, have demonstrated that materialists tend to value hedonism. Because materialists value hedonism, we aimed to determine if materialists prefer more hedonistic life experiences. The relationships between participants' materialistic values and their experiential purchasing preferences demonstrated that materialists preferred:

(1) attending bars and clubbing,

(2) self-pampering,

(3) skiing,

(4) theme parks.

However, they did not prefer the arts. Possibly, attending art galleries is too passive for people who value immediate excitement and fun. In sum, these results indicate that materialists prefer experiences that are highly pleasurable, require low cognitive effort, stimulate the senses, and signal high social standing.

These results extend the work by Mehmet Mehmetoglu who reported that different personality traits make people more likely to enjoy some experiences more than others. For instance, people who are more neurotic and open to experiences are more likely to enjoy the arts. The neurotic individuals will appreciate the non-risky aspect of museums while the people open to experience will better appreciate the diversity and unfamiliarity of modern art. Also, individuals who are agreeable and conscientious will find greater joy in traditional nature activities, such as mountain tours or fishing, because those often involve group cooperation and meeting the needs of others.

So what life experiences appeal to you?

At BeyondThePurchase.Org, we are researching the connection between people’s spending habitshappiness, and values. To find out more about which life expereinces appeal most to you, first Login or Register with Beyond The Purchase and then take our Experiential Preferences Scale and then List of Values Scale. We think you may learn a lot about how you and why you spend your money the way you do.

Masha Ksendzova, a research assistant in the Personality and Well-being Lab at San Francisco State University, contributed to this entry.

Ryan T. Howell, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University.

more...

Subscribe to Can't Buy Happiness?

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.