Friday Inspiration: Why are experiences better than material things?

For some, it's generally accepted knowledge that experiences are better than material things. The Lady Gaga concert is more memorable than the Anthropologie dress, right? Well, today, I'm going to talk a bit about why experiences can sometimes be better than material things (according to some behavioral economics!).

While the thrill at the beginning may seem the same, your experiences don't degrade as easily or quickly. You usually remember things more vividly at the beginning and at the end. While the Lady Gaga concert remains the same in your mind, your Anthropologie dress may now look worn or super dated. Each time you remember that dress, your first reaction is probably how worn it looks.

There are exceptions to this: pieces worn with a distinctive event in mind (think wedding or prom) call to mind the dress as worn at the event, rather than the piece at the end of its usefulness. On the flip side, there are some (rarer) experiences that change after more information is developed. Think of how experiences get colored after someone cheats in a relationship or a friend is a jerk. You probably won't be able to remember a happy time as easily due to the end of the relationship.

Not all material objects are the same. According to most happiness research, people get more benefit out of objects they can use as an experience vs "non-experiential-objects. For example, a surfboard can bring someone a lot of happiness as it enables or enhances an experience. A GPS may dramatically help someone navigating new neighborhoods or going on a road trip. Buying a smartphone you don't know how to use? Probably more of a non-experiential, status object :)

What do you think about experiences vs things? Do you favor one or the other? Are you pretty balanced?

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