156 Anticipatory happiness: material or experiential?

Based on research by Kumar, Amit, Killingsworth, M. A., and Gilovich, Thomas. (2014), written by Mara Rowcliffe, BS.

Do you need an extra reason to buy those summer concert tickets or plan a beach vacation?

According to new psychological research, spending money on doing something provides more anticipatory happiness than on looking forward to having material purchases.  While buying a new television may technically last longer, research guided by Dr. Thomas Gilovich and graduate student Amit Kumar suggests there is more pleasure in using that money for an experiential activity or event.  In their experiment, they directed 97 participants to think about an upcoming experiential or material purchase.  Participants rated their level of anticipation on a scale from extremely unpleasant to extremely pleasant.  They also reported an estimated cost of the purchase.  Results of this study indicated that anticipating an experience was more pleasant than waiting for a new material possession.  In addition, the costs for the experiential and material purchases were the same.

Before spending your money on a new item, consider experiencing a new activity instead.  Anticipating the upcoming event will be more exciting and help to create long lasting memories.  You could take a cruise, see a new show, participate in cooking classes, or even ride in a hot air balloon!


Kumar, A., Killingsworth, M. A., & Gilovich, T. (2014). Waiting for Merlot Anticipatory Consumption of Experiential and Material Purchases. Psychological science, 0956797614546556.

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