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The Pursuit of Happiness: Can it Make You Happier?

59 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2012 Last revised: 4 Oct 2016

Lauren Cheatham

Northwestern University

Kelly Goldsmith

Vanderbilt University - Marketing

David Gal

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management

Rajagopal Raghunathan

University of Texas at Austin - Red McCombs School of Business

Date Written: April 1, 2016

Abstract

The pursuit of happiness has preoccupied philosophers, psychologists, and consumer researchers, amongst others. Recently, the pursuit of happiness has been investigated empirically, with results appearing to support the perspective that explicitly trying to enhance one’s own happiness may be counterproductive. However, prior investigations were often correlational or involved participants being asked to monitor their happiness under constrained conditions (e.g., while engaging in tasks assigned to them by an experimenter). The current research endeavors to address this limitation, and build a broader framework for understanding when the pursuit of happiness may be effective. In line with prior work, we find that when consumers are asked to monitor their own happiness, they often experience a decrease in happiness regardless of whether their experience is constrained or not. However, when individuals adopt a behavior-focused happiness goal, and are given the freedom to engage in behaviors of their choosing, they tend to modify their behaviors in a way that improves their overall happiness. We relate our findings to prior research regarding why individuals often fail to make happiness-enhancing choices and discuss the practical implications these results may offer for improving consumer welfare.

Keywords: consumer happiness, well-being, goals, behavior

Suggested Citation

Cheatham, Lauren and Goldsmith, Kelly and Gal, David and Raghunathan, Rajagopal, The Pursuit of Happiness: Can it Make You Happier? (April 1, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1979829 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1979829

Lauren Cheatham

Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Kelly Goldsmith (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Marketing ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

David Gal

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Rajagopal Raghunathan

University of Texas at Austin - Red McCombs School of Business ( email )

Austin, TX 78712
United States

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