The Latest in Happiness Research

In the L.A. Times, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton highlight some of the more interesting recent findings in the field of happiness research.  Two surprising examples from the article:

  • “A study of women in the United States found that homeowners were no happier than renters, on average. And even if you’re currently living in a cramped basement suite, you may find that moving to a nicer home has surprisingly little impact on your overall happiness. Researchers followed thousands of people in Germany who moved to a new home because there was something they didn’t like about their old home. In the five years after relocating, the residents reported a significant increase in satisfaction with their housing, but their overall satisfaction with their lives didn’t budge.”
  • “[D]ozens of studies show that people get more happiness from buying experiences than from buying material things. Experiential purchases — such as trips, concerts and special meals — are more deeply connected to our sense of self, making us who we are. And while it’s anyone’s guess where the American housing market is headed, the value of experiences tends to grow over time, becoming rosier in the rearview mirror of memory.”

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

 

COMMENTS: 9

View All Comments »
  1. JPB says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 9
  2. nobody.really says:

    “[D]ozens of studies show that people get more happiness from buying experiences than from buying material things. Experiential purchases — such as trips, concerts and special meals — are more deeply connected to our sense of self, making us who we are. And while it’s anyone’s guess where the American housing market is headed, the value of experiences tends to grow over time, becoming rosier in the rearview mirror of memory.”

    Econ quiz:

    When you take a vacation, should you regard that as and expense — or as an asset? After all, the memories will pay dividends in the form of positive utility until your memory fails. How many other investments offer that kind of return?

    Who should take a vacation — the young or the old? A vacation is like an annuity: it pays off, but only for the lifetime of its owner. So the old joke about having your retirement when you’re young, and then working into your senior years to pay off the debt — it’s no joke!

    Conversely, the cost of things that create bad memories may be larger than we generally imagine. Consider: I have a head full of happy memories with my spouse; those memories are churning out emotional dividends daily. Then she dumps me. I still have a head full of memories, churning out emotional reactions, non-stop. Sure, we’ll fight over remaining assets — the TV and the dog — but who can appraise what we’ve lost?

    Divorce: More impoverishing that you’ll ever really know.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0
  3. Lord says:

    So housing has little to do with our lives? Our lives are a compendium of a lot of little things and perhaps some big ones too, but every little bit helps.

    Material things satisfy the lower level of needs without which the higher actualization levels experiences provide can’t proceed, though it is possible to become stuck on the lower levels, never making progress on the higher levels. The best material things can provide extended experiences when things of beauty and delight and we can continue looking at them anew.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
    • Enter your name... says:

      I believe it’s generally accepted in the “happiness industry” that people have a sort of setpoint for happiness, and unless there is something seriously wrong (e.g., ongoing abuse), then changing circumstances doesn’t have a long-term effect. As I understand it, it’s partly because of hedonic adaptation (you get used to what you have) and partly because your circumstances (like a house that you dislike) are more a focus for your internal state than a true cause of unhappiness.

      Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
      • Steve Cebalt says:

        “Most people are about has happy as they make up their minds to be.” –Abraham Lincoln
        _________________________________

        At a motivational seminar, a speaker mentioned his home in California. Someone asked, “I’ve heard that the people in California are really friendly and happy, is that true?”

        The speaker: “Do you find that to be true of the people here in Dallas?”

        The questioner. “No, not at all.”

        The speaker: “Then you’d find the people in California to be just the same as here.”

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0
  4. Jack says:

    Under the constraints of the external environment, happiness is a family integrated products using of the various elements. Is it the ultimate pursuit of life? Only the big house but not a perfect family, are you happy?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  5. Steve Cebalt says:

    Can you be to smart for your own good? The question is flawed by lack of definition and context. What is “smart”? What is “too smart”? How does one define “for your own good?”

    If you are smart in physics and enjoy it and work as a highly paid advanced theoretical physicist, that would lead to one answer; if you are smart in physics but work at McDonald’s, the answer would be different. Context is everything.

    I think the only thing that can be said is that being far outside the normal range of smartness (on the low or high end) can be socially isolating for a person, because he/she has few true peers.

    I did find a study that correlates intelligence with happiness, but it can’t answer the question of “too smart for your own good.”

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22998852

    RESULTS:

    Happiness is significantly associated with IQ. Those in the lowest IQ range (70-99) reported the lowest levels of happiness compared with the highest IQ group (120-129). Mediation analysis using the continuous IQ variable found dependency in activities of daily living, income, health and neurotic symptoms were strong mediators of the relationship, as they reduced the association between happiness and IQ by 50%.

    CONCLUSIONS:

    Those with lower IQ are less happy than those with higher IQ. Interventions that target modifiable variables such as income (e.g. through enhancing education and employment opportunities) and neurotic symptoms (e.g. through better detection of mental health problems) may improve levels of happiness in the lower IQ groups.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  6. Aaunel says:

    Perhaps the social ubiquity in experiences is a driver in the increasing popularity of experiential purchases… Back in the day, we could take photos on our disposable or digital camera, or log the adventure in a diary, and share in batch with friends and family eventually (if ever). Now, we have countless mediums for sharing our experiences with those around us, broadcasting near- or real-time. The individual satisfaction of this, in my opinion, is deep-rooted.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  7. PaulD says:

    Steve Cebalt, in one of his posts, quotes both Abraham Lincoln and a motivational speaker.

    Strange to say, I think the motivational speaker got it right and Lincoln didn’t. I’m one of those people who would like to say that Lincoln was right so that I could pat myself on the back for my good choice. But I know enough people with clinical depression to know that it’s not that simple.

    The motivational speaker’s point is more or less orthogonal to Lincoln’s, but he is correct. As Michel de Montaigne wrote, “The traveller takes himself wherever he goes.”

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0