Posted on Feb 28, 2014, 6 a.m.
Age – and the perceived amount of time left in life – appears to impact the happiness that people enjoy.
Studies in psychology and consumer research suggest that, despite the penchant to acquire material possessions in an effort to increase one’s happiness, experiences can deliver even greater happiness. Amit Bhattacharjee, from Dartmouth College (New Hampshire, USA), and colleagues completed a series of eight studies, in which the researchers asked participants to recall, plan, or imagine happy experiences in an attempt to draw a distinction between experiences that are ordinary (common and frequent) versus extraordinary (uncommon and infrequent). The researchers were specifically interested in testing their theory that younger people will associate extraordinary experiences with greater happiness than ordinary experiences. In one study, over 200 participants from across the United States and between the ages of 18 and 79 were asked to recall a recent extraordinary experience that made them happy. The researchers assigned the responses into 12 broad categories including spending time with others, life milestones, and travel. While responses from all age groups reported happiness in extraordinary experiences, study results indicated that happiness from ordinary experiences was more common in the older age demographic.
Amit Bhattacharjee, Cassie Mogilner. “Happiness from Ordinary and Extraordinary Experiences.” Journal of Consumer Research, June 2014.