As people head to shopping malls to find the perfect holiday gift, doctoral candidate in the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University Amit Kumar says the perfect gift is not a material item, like an electronic gadget or article of clothing. Instead research shows experiences – like that vacation you've been thinking about – provide the most joy and tend to increase social connectedness.

Kumar co-authored two research papers on experiential and material purchases in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, which will be published in January.


Kumar says:

“An effect we've found over and over again in our studies is that experiential purchases – that is, money spend on doing, like on trips, tickets to events, and meals at restaurants, tend to make people happier than do material purchases – money spent on having, on possessions like clothing, jewelry, and gadgets. "Part of the reason for why this is the case is because experiential consumption enhances social relations more readily and effectively than material consumption. Moreover, one consequence of experiential consumption is a greater feeling of social connectedness that then leads people to want to pursue further connection. "One of the reasons people give gifts in the first place is to connect with the person they're giving the present to. I think it makes sense, then, for those gifts to be the ones that are likely to promote connection rather than inhibit it. Spending on doing is much more likely to foster feelings of connectedness than spending on having.”

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