We are all searching for happiness
Here at Tinggly, we're in the happiness business: we come to work each day, understanding that during the night, people all around the world have been gifting experiences to one another, sharing happiness around the planet. What a feeling!
We're on a mission to change the culture of gifting.
Let's move away from material stuff, reduce consumption, and bring genuine happiness to our loved ones.
Think about it - what did you get for a birthday or special occasion five years ago?
Now think about a time when you were given an experience.
The magical thing about experiences is that you continue to live it after you've done it. After six months, you're hardly likely to talk about a new toy or gadget, whereas an experience becomes a story. This is a story that you can share over and over again.
So what about the science behind all of this?
In 2003 two psychologists, Leaf Van Boven, and Thomas Gilovich, provided the first empirical test on the effects of buying experiences versus material goods and how these purchases affect our happiness. The results demonstrated that in almost all cases, the experiential purchases lead to greater overall satisfaction.
Following many additional studies, the scientists concluded that experiences bring people happiness because of four main reasons:
01 Experiences tend to contribute to a person’s sense of self
One of the ways to define yourself to others is through the outward display of possessions. This may lead to the over-consumption of visible (material) products. These material goods are only necessary for the show. Experiences, on the other hand, live in our memories and stories; in other words, they are somewhere “in here” (Frank). They become parts of our autobiography and, hence, part of us. Quoting Carter and Gilovich, We are literally the sum of our experiences. We are not, however materialistic we might be, the sum total of our possessions.
02 Experiences tend to connect the consumer to other people more than material goods do
By purchasing experiences instead of material things, you receive a double bonus - from the experience itself and that which comes from sharing the experience with others. It is always enjoyable to share an experience with your family, friends, or even acquaintances - chances are that after relating an experience, these acquaintances may even become your friends.
After an appreciated experience, people are more likely to talk about it rather than their possessions. Firstly, because the experiences which have been lived make for better stories, secondly, people actually enjoy hearing stories about real experiences rather than stories about the functions of your new handbag or smartphone.
Lastly, if you find a person who has had the same experience as you’ve had - not necessarily at the same time - chances are that you will look at that person more favorably. Knowing that somebody did a similar trip in some remote location or adventure tends to create a stronger bond.
What happens if you do not purchase an experience but rather get it as a gift?
According to the research conducted by Chan and Mogilner, there is no difference in the intensity of emotion recipients feel upon receiving experiential or material gifts. However, they feel more emotional when using experiential gifts that lead to a stronger bond or relationship with the gift giver.
Conducted experiments have also proven that experiential gifts produce more significant improvements in relationship strength rather than the gifting of material goods, regardless of whether the gift giver and recipient consume the gift together. Experience creates more intense emotions that go towards improving the relationship between the recipient and the gift-giver. Therefore, giving experiential gifts is thus identified as a highly effective form of prosocial spending.
03 Experiences tend to be experienced and evaluated more on their own terms
Experiences are harder to compare and are evaluated in their terms and less in how they compare with other purchases of the same type. Also, lasting satisfaction from an experiential purchase is likely to be supported by comparisons with the special purchases of others. In simple terms, you might like your new car until you see that your friend bought a better one. However, you will still love that great concert you went to, even if your friend went to hear an even more famous artist (Carter, Gilovich).
04 Experiences are more open to positive reinterpretation
The essential thing to remember about experiences is that they will always pleasure retrospect. Even if it was not particularly pleasant at the time - hiking the Camino de Santiago in the rain - in hindsight, the overall experience will be remembered with great fondness. In fact, a rainy holiday may sound like a nightmare, but it’s perhaps it provided you with the opportunity to spend more time with your family or get to know your partner better.
It’s far harder to find a silver lining with something like a new phone that keeps on crashing. Plus, we are likely to regret purchasing some material possession and equally likely to regret not buying an experience. In other words, it is a case of buyer’s remorse versus missed opportunities.
In addition, psychologists note one more point on how experiences created more happiness - which could be called from Prospect to Retrospect. Experiences make a pleasant waiting period. It is more exciting to wait for the beginning of a long-awaited movie than waiting for a shoe to get fixed. It means that the experience can bring you happiness or happy feelings before, during, and after the experience occurs (Van Boven).
Our experiences make us who we are, so why not collect as many of them as possible?
Gift a memory that lasts a lifetime - give stories, not stuff.
Want to learn more? Take a look at these interesting articles:
"To Do, to Have, Or to Share: the Value of Experiences Over Material Possessions Depends on the Involvement of Others." by Peter Caprariello and Harry Reis (2011)“
“The preference for experiences over possessions: Measurement and construct validation of the Experiential Buying Tendency Scale” by Ryan T. Howella*, Paulina Pchelina, and Ravi Iyer (2012)
“Giving Happiness: Do Experiential Gifts Lead to More Happiness?” by Joseph Goodman (2014)
“Experiential Gifts Foster Stronger Social Relationships than Material Gifts” by Cindy Chan & Cassie Mogilner (2016)
“I am what I do, not what I have: The differential centrality of experiential and material purchases to the self.” by Thomas Gilovich & Travis J. Carter (2012)
“Consumers’ pursuit of material and experiential purchases: A review.” by Gilovich T, Gallo I. (2019)
“We’ll Always Have Paris: The Hedonic Payoff from Experiential and Material Investments” by Thomas Gilovich, Amit Kumar (2014)
“Experientialism, Materialism, and the Pursuit of Happiness” by Leaf Van Boven (2005)