What makes people happy? Decoupling the experiential-material continuum

Evan Weingarten, Kristen Duke, Wendy Liu, Rebecca W. Hamilton, On Amir, Gil Appel, Moran Cerf, Joseph K. Goodman, Andrea C. Morales, Ed O’Brien, Jordi Quoidbach, Monic Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Extant literature suggests that consumers derive more happiness from experiences (e.g., vacations) than from material possessions (e.g., furniture). However, this literature typically pits material against experiential consumption, treating them as a single bipolar construct of their relative dominance: more material or more experiential. This focus on relative dominance leaves unanswered questions regarding how different levels of material and experiential qualities each contribute to happiness. Four preregistered studies (N = 3,288), using hundreds of product categories, measured levels of material and experiential qualities using two unipolar items. These studies investigate recalled, evoked, and anticipated happiness. Results show a more nuanced view of the experiential advantage that is critical for future research and consumer theory: material and experiential qualities both have positive relationships with happiness. Further, there is no inherent trade-off between experiential and material qualities: consumers can enjoy consumption that is high on both (e.g., swimming pools and home improvements).

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Consumer Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • emotion
  • experiential
  • happiness
  • material
  • well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Marketing


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