When considering the perfect romantic gift for your Valentine, it may be best to forgo the risky adventure vacation in favour of a safer gift, for a new study has shown that buying life experiences rather than material possessions leads to greater happiness only when purchase goes well.
What's more, a bad choice of an experience could make your valentine unhappy for a much longer time than will a badly chosen material gift.
Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin's McCombs School of Business and Washington University in St. Louis say that their study has shown that sometimes experiences can backfire.
The study was co-authored by Leonardo Nicolao and Julie Irwin of the McCombs School of Business and Joseph K. Goodman of Washington University in St. Louis.
"Previous studies have only tested happiness with positive experiences versus positive material purchases. We have studied the effects of negative purchases-ones where the results went poorly," said Irwin, associate professor of marketing at the McCombs School of Business.
Irwin said that indeed, experiences do lead to more happiness when the purchase goes well.
"However, for negative purchases, bad experiences lead to more lasting unhappiness than do bad material purchases. Experiences 'stay with' us longer than material purchases, whether good or bad. They simply have more lasting power over our happiness. Imagine that really terrible play or restaurant meal-it is tougher to recover from picking the wrong experience than from picking the wrong thing," she said.
The study is published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.