Buying experiences or buying objects: which is better?

Van Boven and Golovich published their findings in 2003 in an article titled ‘To Do or to Have: That is the Question’. They surveyed participants in two ways:
1. The participants were asked to bring either an object or an experience and to rate it in terms of happiness for them
2. The participants were asked to rate on a scale from -4 to +4 both an experience and an object (-4 was very low happiness and +4 was very high happiness)

The results were clear. Buying experiences rather than objects brought greater happiness.

How is this the case?

It seems that the mind filters experiences generally forgetting the poor or bad experiences and holding onto the good. This is an example of cognitive dissonance:

“I spent the money on the holiday, I had a good time but I had a poor experience… May be the experience wasn’t as bad as I thought after all the money I spent… I remember the good times…”

In the case of the object though there’s no escaping it. It’s in front of you. Further, it gets more tatty and out of date with every new day. The brand-spanking new yesterday gadget is today’s tatty gadget and tomorrow’s out of date; ‘could do better’. (If this doesn’t apply to you, congratulations! You are bucking the trend and not a victim of commercialism.)

Experiences are social too in the majority of cases. The time is spent with family or friends and the social element of the shared experience is extremely powerful and we hold on to the shared memories.

What do you find more pleasurable? Buying objects or buying experiences? Please do complete the pole and we’ll conduct our own research.

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