Friday, 12 November 2010

Presents – are experiences valued more than material goods?

As you browse through all the experience days offered online your eyes alight on a paint-balling morning. 
You ask yourself, “Would Tim prefer a morning squirting paint at a group of businessmen in Berkshire, or a pair of designer cuff-links?” then, further on, “What about Sarah- a spa day or a cashmere scarf?” 
and before long you find yourself thinking, 
"Surely it's time Gran tried sky-diving?"

In a paper entitled ‘To Do or To Have: That Is the Question’ US psychologists Van Boven and Gilovich* show that we value experiences over goods when we’re spending our own hard-earned cash. So does the same apply to presents that we’re given by others?

The researchers stress that experiences contribute to social relationships. And choosing the right gift for someone is critical for a relationship. As my own research shows, the more our gift shows empathy for the other person, the more successful it will be. 

So don’t just pick any experience for your loved one this Christmas, pick one that shows you have real empathy for them as an individual, that you understand their needs, passions and desires. 

And if that means a spa day for Tim and paintballing for Sarah, go for it!
(although I've a sneaky feeling Gran might prefer a sky box to sky diving)


Here’s the abstract from the Van Boven and Gilovich paper:
Do experiences make people happier than material possessions? In two surveys, respondents from various demographic groups indicated that experiential purchases—those made with the primary intention of acquiring a life experience—made them happier than material purchases. In a follow-up laboratory experiment, participants experienced more positive feelings after pondering an experiential purchase than after pondering a material purchase. In another experiment, participants were more likely
to anticipate that experiences would make them happier than material possessions after adopting a temporally distant, versus a temporally proximate, perspective. The discussion focuses on evidence that experiences make people happier because they are more open to positive reinterpretations, are a more meaningful part of one’s identity, and contribute more to successful social relationships.

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