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People Overestimate the Happiness New Purchases Will Bring
Date:1/25/2013

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- They say money can't buy happiness, and a new study suggests that's true for even the most materialistic.

Instead, the study found, these folks seem to be happiest right before they buy a coveted item. Once they have the purchase in hand, their joy fades quickly.

The findings may not be all that surprising, experts say. But the notion that you're a lot happier before a big buy than after -- particularly if you're on the more materialistic side -- had not been "empirically tested" before, said Brent McFerran, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who was not involved in the new research.

In real life, you might be able to think of times when you've anticipated an important purchase, then felt let down after buying it. But whether you learn from that, and stop putting so much stock in "stuff" is another matter, McFerran said.

"With big purchases, we're not making them that often," McFerran said. So you might not remember that last car did not actually bring you lasting joy.

"Or," McFerran said, "you might think, just because that car didn't make me happy doesn't mean this flat-screen TV won't. For some of us, there's always this hope -- a belief in 'retail therapy.'"

But based on the new findings, recently reported online in the Journal of Consumer Research, that therapy does not have lasting effects.

For the study, Marsha Richins, a professor of marketing at the University of Missouri in Columbia, surveyed 329 undergraduates on three separate occasions. In the first survey, the students were asked about an important purchase they expected to make during that semester; the later surveys asked them how they felt after the buy.

Richins also separated the group into those with "high" or "low" materialism -- based on how much the students said they valued possessions in th
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