Shop Til' You Smile

Experiential shoppers report greater well being than material shoppers

(RxWiki News) Have you ever considered that what you buy has an effect on your life satisfaction? A new study shows that if you spend money on experiences, rather than items, you may have a better outlook on life.

Extraverts and those who are open to new experiences tend to spend disposable income on experiences, like concert tickets and vacations, rather than a trip to the mall. These people also report a greater sense of satisfaction with life.

"Watch how you spend your disposable cash."

Ryan Howell, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University, led the study and subsequent launch of research website.

"Even for people who naturally find themselves drawn to material purchases, our results suggest that getting more of a balance between traditional purchases and those that provide you with an experience could lead to greater life satisfaction and wellbeing," says Howell.

The research team surveyed almost 10,000 participants using online questionnaires about shopping habits, life satisfaction, personality traits, and values. The questionnaires use the “Big 5” personality trait model, commonly used by psychiatrists to describe the extraverted, neurotic, open, conscientious, and agreeable tendencies of a person.

Those who purchase experiences scored high in the extraverted and open categories.

Howell believes that “this personality profile makes sense since life experiences are inherently more social, and they also contain an element of risk. If you try a new experience that you don't like, you can't return it to the store for a refund."

The research team has also launched a website that anyone can use to discover more about their spending habits. Simply sign up and fill out a few surveys. The researchers will collect this data for more in depth research - specifically to discover why some people gravitate towards experiential purchases.

Shannon Kolakowski, Doctor of Psychology, notes that anyone can benefit from experiences because they don't have to be expensive purchases.

"Spending money on activities, rather than material possessions, allows people to have shared experiences with friends or loved ones and build memories that are meaningful. Although the study highlights how you spend your money, new experiences don't need to cost a fortune. Taking a walk through a garden or through the city, playing sports, going to a weekend art walk, these experiences are of little cost and are very rewarding."

The study was published in the Journal of Positive Psychology on Jan. 23rd, 2011 and funded by San Francisco State University.

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Review Date: 
January 28, 2012