Ryan Howell, assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, presented the findings of a study that looked at people enrolled at San Francisco State University, with an average age of about 25. Participants answered questions about a recent purchase -- either material or experiential -- they personally made in the last three months with the intention of making themselves happy.
While most people were generally happy with the purchase regardless of what it was, those who wrote about experiences tended to show a higher satisfaction at the time and after the experience had passed.
The most striking difference was in how participants said others around them reacted to either the purchased object or experience. Experiences led to more happiness in others than purchases did. A sense of relatedness to others -- getting closer to friends and family -- may be one of the reasons why experiences generate more happiness.
"When people spend money on life experiences, whether they also take someone with them or buy an extra ticket or whatever, most of our life experiences involve other individuals," Howell said. People were fulfilling their need for social bonding while having these experiences.”
Another reason for increased happiness in experiences, the researchers found, was that people felt a greater sense of vitality or "being alive" during the experience and in reflection,
"As nice as your new computer is, it's not going to make you feel alive," he said.
Amen, Dr. Howell