Experiential or Material Purchases? Social Class Determines Purchase Happiness

Jacob C. Lee, Deborah Hall, Wendy Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Which should people buy to make themselves happy: experiences or material goods? The answer depends in part on the level of resources already available in their lives. Across multiple studies using a range of methodologies, we found that individuals of higher social class, whose abundant resources make it possible to focus on self-development and self-expression, were made happier by experiential over material purchases. No such experiential advantage emerged for individuals of lower social class, whose lesser resources engender concern with resource management and wise use of limited finances. Instead, lower-class individuals were made happier from material purchases or were equally happy from experiential and material purchases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1031-1039
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • experiential purchases
  • happiness
  • material purchases
  • open data
  • open materials
  • preregistered
  • social class
  • socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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