Where Happiness Comes from

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This study conducted by Caprariello and Reis starts out with a thought provoking introduction on the connection between happiness and how it correlates to our spending. He cites several researchers that came to the conclusion that, “people reported greater happiness after spending their discretionary money on life experiences rather than on material possessions” (Caprariello & Reis, 2013). Life experiences were defined as events or a series of events that a person lives through, such as a vacation, a night on the town, or a camping trip. Material possessions would be defined as anything tangible that one can buy and keep in their possession. Caprariello and Reis, from the research of others, lists several reasons why happiness through experiences is more satisfying than possessions, such as experiences are more likely to satisfy psychological needs, have longer lasting hedonic qualities, and appears more significantly in people’s self-narratives. Caprariello and Reis then mentions present research on this topic and singles out a key component that may be a factor in the way individuals obtain happiness from spending money. This dynamic is that experiences are often shared with others; where as material possessions are more inclined to individual use. “If so, variations in the sociality of experiences should moderate the extent to which they provide happiness relative to material possessions. Extensive research shows that social relations are influential sources of happiness” (Caprariello & Reis, 2013). Therefore material possessions intended for social use may lead to greater happiness than possessions intended for nonsocial use. Their goal in this study was to further investigate the acknowledged advantages of experiences over possessions, as well as study whether the fact that the social characteristic of spending is a better way to predict happiness than just the general difference between experiences and possessions. To achieve their goal they constructed three questions to guide their research: “(a) Are experiences more likely to be social than solitary, and are material possessions more likely to be solitary than social? (b) Do solitary experiences make people as happy as material possessions do? and (c) Is the social–solitary dimension more important for happiness than the material–experiential dimension? The remainder of the introduction introduces hypotheses derived from these questions and reviews evidence relevant to each hypothesis” (Caprariello & Reis, 2013). Through their research they came up with a few hypotheses to test and analyze. One hypothesis being social experiences will make people happier than solitary experiences, as well as experiences not involving others are likely to be seen as no more valuable than, and perhaps less valuable than, material possessions. Another hypothesis they looked to test was the social or solitary element may predict happiness better than materialism or experientialism does. Caprariello and Reis also propose that the value of material possessions can be enhanced by involving others. “If social interactions are as critical to happiness as research suggests, then obtaining discretionary material possessions with the goal of enhancing social interaction may make people happier than obtaining discretionary material possessions primarily for personal use. From this reasoning, we propose that proper understanding of the happiness benefits of life experiences versus material possessions requires consideration of whether one's purchases are meant to be shared or solitary.” (Caprariello & Reis, 2013). When we cross these two dimensions there are four possible results according to Caprariello and Reis: shared experiences, shared possessions, solitary experiences, and solitary possessions. His team of researchers conducted a series of 4 studies to try and prove their hypotheses. Study one was designed to test and analyze the choice between spending money to do things...
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