Feeling Grateful? It's More Likely After a Trip Than a Birkin

OK, so it's almost Thanksgiving and stories about gratitude abound.

But here's a new one, at least to me.

We all know that giving is better than receiving, right?  But what if you're giving an experience rather than an  XBox1 Virtual  Reality headset.

People are more grateful for what they’ve done than what they have, and that gratitude can lead to greater generosity toward others, according to new research, newswise.com reports.

The new study found that feelings of gratitude develop more often when people reflect on experiential purchases, such as vacations or tickets to events, than when they reflect on gadgets, furniture or clothes they’ve purchased.

Reflecting on gratifying experiences also leads to more subsequent altruistic behavior than thinking about significant material possessions, the researchers found. In other words, when people are grateful for experiences, they treat the other people better as well.

“We know a sense of gratitude carries a number of benefits with it, so how can we increase the likelihood of having these feelings? One step people can take that isn’t very difficult to implement is shifting some investments away from ‘stuff’ and towards experiences—doing so will likely make one feel more grateful,” say researchers.

Gratitude has been widely linked with better individual physical and psychological health and happiness.
In a series of six experiments, the researchers set out to examine how material consumption and experiential consumption affect feelings of gratitude.

In one experiment, the researchers surveyed 1,200 online customer reviews on popular websites for words expressing gratitude, and found that consumers are more likely to spontaneously mention feeling grateful for experiences they purchased than for material goods they bought.

Another study was presented as a memory task in which participants were asked to recall either a significant material purchase or a significant experiential purchase. They were then asked to play an economic game in which they were assigned to be the “dictator” and allocate money between themselves and someone else whom they would never meet.

Those participants who had reflected on experiences rather than material purchases were significantly more generous to others and kept less for themselves than did those in the group who reflected on possessions.
One explanation for that behavior, experts say, is that people feel more socially connected when they reflect on experiences, but don’t experience the same levels of connection after considering significant possessions.

The conclusion? “If people feel closer to other humans, they may end up treating others better. If there’s a way to make people feel more connected to others in general, this could lead to more altruistic behavior,” researchers say.


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