Monday, December 20, 2010

Surplus Wealth May Rob You of Your Ability to Savor Small Pleasures

New research by Jordi Quoidbach and colleagues in the journal Psychological Science add to the growing body of literature on money and subjective well being, which indicate that money cannot buy happiness.

The authors of this study conclude that having access to the best things money can buy actually reduces a person's ability to savor small pleasures.  Savoring an experience gives you double the pleasure.  There is the pleasure of the experience itself, and the experience of remembering it, recounting it, reliving it.

This study provides the first evidence that money impairs people’s ability to savor everyday positive emotions and experiences. In a sample of working adults, wealthier individuals reported lower savoring ability (the ability to enhance and prolong positive emotional experience). Moreover, the negative impact of wealth on individuals’ ability to savor undermined the positive effects of money on their happiness. We experimentally exposed participants to a reminder of wealth and produced the same deleterious effect on their ability to savor as that produced by actual individual differences in wealth, a result supporting the theory that money has a causal effect on savoring. Moving beyond self-reports, we found that participants exposed to a reminder of wealth spent less time savoring a piece of chocolate and exhibited reduced enjoyment of it compared with participants not exposed to wealth. This article presents evidence supporting the widely held but previously untested belief that having access to the best things in life may actually undercut people’s ability to reap enjoyment from life’s small pleasures.