Happiness for Sale: Do Experiential Purchases Make Consumers Happier Than Material Purchases?

11 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2009 Last revised: 5 Mar 2012

See all articles by Leonardo Nicolao

Leonardo Nicolao

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Marketing

Julie R. Irwin

University of Texas - McCombs School of Business

Joseph K. Goodman

Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University

Date Written: January 28, 2009

Abstract

Previous theories have suggested that consumers will be happier if they spend their money on experiences such as travel as opposed to material possessions such as automobiles. We test this experience recommendation and show that it may be misleading in its general form. Valence of the outcome significantly moderates differences in respondents' reported retrospective happiness with material versus experiential purchases. For purchases that turned out positively, experiential purchases lead to more happiness than do material purchases, as the experience recommendation suggests. However, for purchases that turned out negatively, experiences have no benefit over (and, for some types of consumers, induce significantly less happiness than) material possessions. We provide evidence that this purchase type by valence interaction is driven by the fact that consumers adapt more slowly to experiential purchases than to material purchases, leading to both greater happiness and greater unhappiness for experiential purchases.

Suggested Citation

Nicolao, Leonardo and Irwin, Julie R. and Goodman, Joseph K., Happiness for Sale: Do Experiential Purchases Make Consumers Happier Than Material Purchases? (January 28, 2009). Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 36, No. 2, pp. 188-198, August 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1334312

Leonardo Nicolao (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Marketing ( email )

Austin, TX
United States

Julie R. Irwin

University of Texas - McCombs School of Business ( email )

Business,Government and Society Department
Austin, TX 78712
United States

Joseph K. Goodman

Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University ( email )

Fisher Hall 542
2100 Neil Ave
Columbus, OH 43210
United States

HOME PAGE: http://u.osu.edu/goodman/

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