Money and Happiness

Eizabeth Dunn (University of British Columbia), Dan Gilbert (Harvard), and Timothy Wilson (Virginia) have posted a study of money and happiness that, in addition to being just plain fascinating, may contain useful insights for our field. Some of the more interesting findings:

  • People tend to be more happy when they are mentally focused on what they are doing rather than when their minds are wandering;
  • Spending money on others tends to increase one’s happiness more than spending money on oneself;
  • People have a “psychological immune system” that insulates them from some of the pain of loss; that is, people expect to feel more pain from negative experiences than they actually do, because of psychological techniques that allow us to spin events to avoid self-blame and regret;
  • We are made happier when we have multiple minor pleasurable experiences than when we have infrequent major pleasurable experiences;
  • We enjoy pleasurable experiences more when we have time to anticipate them than when we receive them immediately;
  • Comparison-shopping can lead people to focus on salient differences between items that are irrelevant to the buyer’s actual desires, and can therefore lead people to seek out the “best deal” instead of the item that is best for them.

Much of this research could be summarized in a handful of exhortations: practice mindfulness; put people before things; be patient; savor the small joys—and don’t sweat the small disappointments. Should be easy . . . .

Sullivan and Heather Wax

3 thoughts on “Money and Happiness”

  1. I found this blog particularly interesting due to the explanation provided regarding the relationship between anticipation of an event and the event itself. Specifically, I agree with the idea that we often anticipate a potentially negative event to be far more negative than it actually turns out to be. On the other hand, I believe that a positive event is far more pleasurable when we have time to anticipate it rather than experiencing it unexpectedly. I believe people often underestimate the impact of anticipation. Being able to take a step back from our daily routine and recognize the influence that anticipation has is an important thing to do, particularly as a law student. With law school exams quickly approaching, I am beginning to recognize the heavy weight of anxiety and fear set in among the law student community. The source of this anxiety and fear, of course, is the often unwarranted anticipation that we will show up for our exams, sit down, and instantly forget everything we have worked so hard to learn throughout the semester. This anticipation can be very impactful on our health both emotionally and physically, which is reason enough to recognize its impact and be able to understand that things are not usually has horrible as we anticipate them to be. Simultaneously, we must not forget – especially during these more challenging portions of the year – that we have six whole semesters to anticipate the positive future event of graduation, making it that much more pleasurable when it finally rolls around.

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