Week 9 – Consumption and Happiness

Can happiness be found by purchasing goods or services? Marketers and advertisers certainly would like us to think so no doubt. It is quite debatable in terms of psychology as whether people will generally feel happier through purchases, but there has been increasingly suggested that consumers are purchasing products and services in hope of becoming a happier person. One thing for definite though is that people’s choice criteria has moved on from practical purposes to other choice criteria.

One thing that most purchases have in common is that people no longer consume purely for practical purposes (Campbell, 2004). Instead it appears that consumers are purchasing products and services in the hope of expressing who they are (Dittmar & Beatty, 1998), to gain social status (McCracken, 19990), and in hope of becoming happy (Csikszentimihalyi, 2000; Wood & Bettman, 2007). As mentioned in my previous blogs for example “Week 4 – Cadbury’s chocolate, Way to win consumers’ heart”, Cadbury has endorse excitement, entertainment and joyfulness with their products in the advert, so that when consumers want happiness, they will consume Cadbury’s chocolate. Another example “Week 7 – Fair Trade… Are you sure Nestle?”, I mentioned about how what kind of coffee a person purchase may influence their perceived image as coffee is one of those goods that you share / give away to people around you, and there are increasing number of “give-away” products which encourage people to consume for the sake of the perceived image / status.

According to Scherhorn, Reisch & Raab 1990, they suggested that a common problem for compulsive buyers is that they get into debt, and according to Drentea & Lavrakas 2000, they suggested that these debts are likely to be inflamed further by the easy access to credit. Other difficulties include getting involved in embezzlement and losing social relationships (Dittmar, 2004). Clearly that materialistic individual use products and service in the hope to have something back from their missing lives and meanwhile the compulsive buyers (approx. half a million people in the UK) often get into credit problems. Basically people buy more for happiness short term, but in reality and long term wise, they will run out of credits and got into serious trouble.

Like everything in the world, there are disadvantages and also advantages. Purchasing experience such as holidays can make people happy. This is because they are interpreted in a positive constructive way, social relationships can be fostered and are less prone to negative comparisons. In conclusion, almost like everything in the world where everything is pretty much can be demonstrate in an inverted U graph, where both extreme sides of the graph. In order to achieve optimal point of happiness, moderate consumptions are required. Not consuming like crazy, and not just sit at home and consume nothing, moderate consumption is the way forward!

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7 thoughts on “Week 9 – Consumption and Happiness

  1. A really interesting blog and some great ideas! It is strange to think that even when in debt people will still purchase items for short term happiness. Students are always in debt so I was wondering how does debt effect student’s happiness. Zhang and Kemp (2009) discovered that student debt had no impact on student motivation or happiness. So adding to your points students also stay happy when in debt. It is the sudden short term happiness of buying products that prevents people from realising that they are in long term debt!

    Brilliant blog!

  2. I find this blog interesting and realistic in that it demonstrates with example the reality of the consumer in todays world. The consumer does and has a tendency to buy happiness through the purchase of products and services, even to the extent of being accepted as a consumer with a trending process of purchasing. For example the latest iPhone is a prime example of a product that may not be needed but is still purchased due to the trending need and hence will make the individual happy and possibly accepted in a certain situation for having the latest phone and re-inforce that possible ego of having the product first also.
    I beleive strongly that money does buy happiness and in the materialistic world we live in its becoming more and more the case. The fact that consumers are purchasing and fulfilling a need in the short term is a dangerous game and will for sure lead to a debt crisis and for sure the consumer ought to look for long-term solutions to purchasing rather than short-term if they want to stay happier for longer.

  3. Very interesting topic! It is realistic that we often buy things for happiness. But I am wondering that where this kind of happiness come from. According to the research of Chatvijit (2012), it is found that people love to buy luxury and scarce products mostly to demonstrate their social status and wealth. So I think that the feeling of being respected and admired can be one source of happiness. Besides that, people may purchase something just for seeking to or maintaining their friendship, which can also be considered as one of the causes of conformity (Venkatesan 1966). Obtaining friendship may be another source of happiness. In fact, people are willing to get happiness through consumption, because it is an easy but effective way. But, always pay attention to your debt!

  4. I agree that buying things can make us happy in the short term but ‘real’ happiness has to come from deeper experiences like success and love etc. But what about consuming media? Can that make us happy? Cunado et al. (2012) found that (in Spain) watching tv for up to an hour a day can make us fell happier. However, watching for any longer has no effect on happiness. This finding only holds true for females, higher incomes and employed people. Interestingly listening to the Radio for up to 90 minutes a day has the opposite effect, with respondents reporting lower levels of happiness. I don’t think I agree with the radio study because I’ve been listening all day and I’m not depressed yet!

  5. If we are considering purchases and what type of purchases make us happy then I believe that it comes in two types 1)material and 2) experiential purchases. I agree that moderate consumption is needed to maintain happiness. Materialistic purchases I see as ones that we buy to try and maintain our happiness or enhance our emotions (Dittmar, Long & Bond 2007) can lead to compulsive buying and generally this is not correlated to happiness. While experiential purchases which are ones that are all about the experience and research has found that experential purchases tend to make people happier (Van Boven & Gilovich, 2003).experiential purchase decisions are easier to
    make and more conducive to well-being (Carter and Gilovich 2010). So if people are trying to purchase to improve happiness then purchases which lead to good experiences are the way forward.

  6. In my point of view, in most cases, people buy goods to improve the life, it could be either clothes, or food, clothes makes people feels new, and delicious foods is definitely positive to mood. Moreover, it also shows the taste of people,. The most extreme cases are the luxury buyers, they spend millions of money on things which mostly be expressed by the brand name.
    And ‘what goes up, must go down’, as U shape illustrated, too much purchases bring budget burden, and it can be predicted that too many purchases is not always joyful.
    There was an survey about GDP and happiness, will higher GDP bring more happiness? It is not sure; it is very possible that people get tenser on their increasing bank account. There could be money that people will not use but paid effort on it.

  7. There may also be the factor that the visibility of some of the products gain can be more visible than the debt gained. People may not care as much about things that are less visible (Barber, Davis & Zheng, 2003). Therefore, they may still be happy or happier after getting to debt as they are, for example, driving in their dream car and keeping it in their garage, not needing to give it back to the car dealership.

    References
    Barber, B. M., Davis, U. C., Odean, T., & Zheng, L. (2003). Out of sight, out of mind: The effects of expenses on mutual fund flows. Retrieved from http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=496315

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