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 . . . .