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Science Says Happiness Can Be Achieved Through Experiences, Not Material Goods



By Rina Marie Garcia on April 10 2015 10:05 AM

Experts recently delved into the science of what makes people truly happy. Many believe that buying material stuff equate to happiness but according to a recent research, acquiring new experiences is the key factor in attaining a higher level of happiness.
Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, found that happiness can be achieved by acquiring new experiences rather than owning material things. Together with co-authors Amit Kumar, a doctoral student who studies psychology at Cornell University, and Matthew Killingsworth of University of California, San Francisco, the team investigated the relationship between an individual’s anticipation for a new purchase or experience and the actual thing that is to be acquired.
The study discovered that individuals experience a higher level of happiness when engaging in events, such as travelling and going to a concert, rather than in purchasing material things. Part of the research is the review of newspaper records that account circumstances of people waiting in line. In the said review, it was found that people waiting to purchase travel tickets and the like were more satisfied and well behaved compared to those queued to buy material things.
Kumar said to the Cornell Chronicle, “You sometimes hear stories about people rioting, smashing windows, pepper-spraying one another, or otherwise treating others badly when they have to wait. Our work shows that this kind of behavior is much more likely in instances where people are waiting to acquire a possession than when they’re waiting for tickets to a performance or to taste the offerings at their city’s newest food truck.”
Dr. Gilovich adds that the enemy of happiness is adaptation, and that while new things may excite us, the happiness is only temporary as we adapt to it. Meanwhile, our experiences are greater parts of ourselves compared to material things which are a completely separated from who we are as persons.
"By shifting the investments that societies make and the policies they pursue, they can steer large populations to the kinds of experiential pursuits that promote greater happiness," Dr. Gilovich and Kumar said recently in the academic journal, Experimental Social Psychology. With this, Gilovich closes by raising a recommendation to the society to enable more people to create valuable experiences.


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