Money Can('t) Buy Happiness?

Does having expensive, lavish things desensitize you to life's smaller pleasures? We all know affluent people can be scumbags but do they enjoy life less than others just because of their money? A new series of studies suggest it may be the case.

Quoidbach and his colleagues found that employees at a university were less likely to 'savor positive experiences in their lives' if they were wealthier than their peers.  Even if they were just reminded of money by being shown a stack of Euros lessened their ability to savor positive experiences.  In their second study they used subconscious priming by discretely slipping in a picture of money during a questionnaire.  After the questionnaire, the participants had to eat chocolate.  Those that were primed ended up eating less chocolate and were rated by observers as enjoying the chocolate less than participants primed with a neutral non-monetary picture.

The researchers explain the results by claiming that the more wealth you acquire, the greater the ability to experience all the best things life has to offer - which is true.  When you experience the best things all of the time, you get habituated to, for example, lobster in garlic butter sauce every day or what-have-you. Having these experiences all the time desensitizes us to the enjoyability of a sunny day or finding $20 on the floor.  One study on lotter winners confirmed this theory finding that people who won between $50,000 and $1,000,000 in the 1970s were unimpressed by life's small pleasures than non-winners.

There are alternative explanations for Quoidbach's studies.  Maybe seeing money triggers feelings of guilt.

Maybe it even causes feelings of disgust this affect our ability to enjoy chocolate.

Whatever the case, Sonja the woman who penned the article, argues that money can buy happiness but it must be used wisely.  For more information see the full article.

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