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Experiences Bring More Joy Than Possessions Do
Date:2/9/2009

Buying an outing, like going to the beach, boosts well-being, study suggests,,,,

MONDAY, Feb. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Although everyone knows that money can't buy happiness, purchasing life experiences instead of material possessions may increase your well-being, new research suggests.

In a study that asked more than 150 older college students to rate a recent purchase intended to make them happy, researchers found that people were more satisfied with purchases of life experiences, such as a trip to the beach or for a meal.

There are likely a few reasons this is true, said study co-author Ryan Howell, an assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University. One may be that purchasing life experiences often brings someone closer to another person and satisfies a natural human need to be connected to others.

Another reason is that experiences provide "memory capital" that you can draw on in less happy times.

"Once you buy something, there's no reason to hold that memory," explained Howell. "But with a life experience, you can't take anything home. The only thing you can take with you is a memory, and we tend to focus our memories on the intense emotion we felt during the experience or on how it ended. Memories have an inherent bias, and you remember the best parts of life experiences."

The findings were presented this weekend at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual meeting, in Tampa, Fla.

Howell's study included 154 students from San Francisco State University, average age 25. About one-third of the group was white, nearly one-quarter were Asian-American, 11 percent were multi-racial, 15 percent were Hispanic, and about 4 percent were black, Howell said.

The researchers asked each student to rate a recent purchase they made specifically with the intent of increasing their happiness. Half were told to write about a life experience purchase, whi
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