Ex­pe­ri­ences, not pos­ses­sions, make peo­ple more grate­ful

The Sun (Malaysia) - - GOOD VIBES -

IF YOU’RE un­sure about what to buy your loved ones for Christ­mas, re­sults from a new US study could be worth bear­ing in mind.

Re­searchers from Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity in New York found that peo­ple are more grate­ful, and even more gen­er­ous, when they en­joy ex­pe­ri­ences rather than ma­te­rial gifts.

Pre­vi­ous find­ings have al­ready shown that feel­ing gratitude can lead to many pos­i­tive health ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing in­creased feel­ings of hap­pi­ness, bet­ter health out­comes, im­proved sleep qual­ity, and even im­proved so­cial co­he­sion.

The new re­search from Cor­nell has now also found that we feel more gratitude for ex­pe­ri­ences than for what we own – and this gratitude re­sults in more gen­er­ous be­hav­iour to­wards oth­ers.

The team car­ried out six stud­ies to show that ex­pe­ri­en­tial pur­chases – such as travel, meals out, tick­ets to events – in­spire more gratitude and, there­fore, al­tru­is­tic be­hav­iour than ma­te­rial pur­chases, such as cloth­ing, jew­ellery and fur­ni­ture.

In their real-world study, they looked at 1,200 on­line cus­tomer re­views, half of which were for ex­pe­ri­en­tial pur­chases, and half for ma­te­rial pur­chases.

Re­view­ers were more likely to ex­press feel­ing grate­ful for ex­pe­ri­en­tial pur­chases than ma­te­rial ones.

Jesse Walker, first au­thor of the study, ex­plained that ex­pe­ri­ences may lead to in­creased feel­ings of gratitude be­cause they lead to fewer so­cial com­par­isons than ma­te­rial pos­ses­sions.

The team also car­ried out a se­ries of ex­per­i­ments to study how gratitude for ex­pe­ri­ences and ma­te­rial pur­chases af­fect pro-so­cial be­hav­iour.

In one study, in which par­tic­i­pants played an eco­nomic game, the team found that think­ing about a mean­ing­ful ex­pe­ri­en­tial pur­chase led to dis­plays of more gen­er­ous be­hav­iour to­wards oth­ers com­pared to when sub­jects thought about a ma­te­rial pur­chase.

“Think about how you feel when you come home from buy­ing some­thing new,” ex­plains Thomas Gilovich, pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy at Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity and co-au­thor of the study.

“You might say: ‘This new couch is cool’, but you’re less likely to say: ‘I’m so grate­ful for that set of shelves’. But when you come home from a hol­i­day, you are likely to say: ‘I feel so blessed I got to go’.”

Gilovich added that peo­ple say pos­i­tive things about the stuff they bought, but they don’t usu­ally ex­press gratitude for it – or they don’t ex­press it as of­ten as they do for their ex­pe­ri­ences.

Pre­vi­ous re­search has also looked into what type of spend­ing makes us hap­pier.

A Cana­dian study pub­lished last year found that maybe money and ma­te­rial pos­ses­sions could bring hap­pi­ness.

The re­search stated that both ma­te­rial and ex­pe­ri­en­tial pur­chases gave spenders hap­pi­ness, but found that ma­te­rial pur­chases brought re­peated feel­ings of hap­pi­ness over time, while ex­pe­ri­ences brought a more in­tense, but shorter feel­ing of hap­pi­ness.

How­ever, that study also found that when par­tic­i­pants looked back on their pur­chases six weeks af­ter Christ­mas, it was the ex­pe­ri­ences which gave them more sat­is­fac­tion, and which tended to stay in their me­mories longer. – AFP-Re­laxnews

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