Money Giveth, Money Taketh Away: The Dual Effect of Wealth on Happiness

“Moving beyond self-report, we observed that a reminder of wealth led participants to devote less time to savoring a piece of chocolate and to exhibit reduced enjoyment from this small pleasure of everyday life. ”

Abstract (Via Jordi Quoidbach1* Elizabeth W. Dunn2 K.V. Petrides3 Moïra Mikolajczak4,5)

The present study provides the first evidence that money impairs people’s ability to savor everyday positive emotions and experiences. In a sample of working adults, wealthier individuals reported lower savoring ability. Moreover, the negative impact of wealth on savoring undermined the positive effects of money on happiness. Supporting the causal influence of money on savoring, experimentally exposing participants to a reminder of wealth produced the same deleterious effect on savoring as did actual individual differences in wealth. Finally, moving beyond self-report, participants exposed to a reminder of wealth spent less time savoring a piece of chocolate and exhibited reduced enjoyment of it. The present research supplies evidence for the previously untested notion that having access to the best things in life may actually undercut the ability to reap enjoyment from life’s small pleasures.

Introduction (via Jordi Quoidbach1* Elizabeth W. Dunn2 K.V. Petrides3 Moïra Mikolajczak4,5)

Can experiencing the best life has to offer undermine one’s ability to savor everyday joys? This question springs from one of the most puzzling findings uncovered by well-being research: that objective life circumstances explain little of the variance in happiness (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade, 2005). In particular, income appears to exert a surprisingly modest impact on happiness (e.g., Aknin, Norton, & Dunn, in press), especially in wealthy societies (Diener & Oishi, 2000; Veenhoven, 1991). Although a number of explanations have been proposed for the weakness of the money-happiness relationship (e.g., Dunn, Aknin, & Norton, 2008), one of the most intriguing—but untested—explanations lies in what Gilbert (2006) termed the experience-stretching hypothesis. According to this perspective, experiencing the best things in life—such as surfing Oahu’s famous North Shore or dining at Manhattan’s four-star restaurant Daniel—may actually mitigate the delight one experiences in response to the more mundane joys of life, such as sunny days, cold beers, and chocolate bars (Gilbert, 2006; Parducci, 1995).

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25. February 2010 by Miguel Barbosa
Categories: Behavioral Economics, Curated Readings | Leave a comment

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