Money can take the enjoyment out of life

A new study published in the June print edition of the journal
Psychological Science outlines how researchers found having more money diminished the "ability to savor everyday positive emotions and experiences."

The authors of the study, including Jordi Quoidbach, PhD, at the Personality and Individual Differences Unit at the University of Liège in Belgium, suggest the old adage "money can't buy you happiness" - or rather the ability to savor and enjoy life's pleasures - is true.

In one of the dual study projects, "working adults" from Belgium were surveyed about happiness, attitudes to savoring and income levels. They were then separated into two groups and one group was shown images of euros as a reminder of wealth.

The team of researchers from Belgian, British and Canadian institutions noted that "wealthier individuals reported lower savoring ability (the ability to enhance and prolong positive emotional experience)."

"Moreover, the negative impact of wealth on individuals' ability to savor undermined the positive effects of money on their happiness."

And when participants were experimentally exposed "to a reminder of wealth... [it] produced the same deleterious effect on their ability to savor as that produced by actual individual differences in wealth, a result supporting the theory that money has a causal effect on savoring."

To counter the self-reporting of enjoyment, the researchers studied a group of adults in Canada by comparing wealthier and not-so-wealthy individuals' "exhibited enjoyment" while eating a piece of chocolate. The high-income group didn't spend much time savoring the unnamed chocolate.

Quoidbach and his colleagues conclude that their study "presents evidence supporting the widely held but previously untested belief that having access to the best things in life may actually undercut people's ability to reap enjoyment from life's small pleasures."

However, Christopher Peterson, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, responded in The Good Life, a blog of the online edition of Psychology Today, questioning the research methods, "Can we quibble with these studies? Absolutely. Psychological Science, the high-impact journal in which this paper was published, often privileges 'oh my goodness' studies with their share of loose ends."

The connection between money and lack of enjoyment is not precisely made in the study as Peterson rightly points out, and the kind of chocolate is important as are the demographics of the particpants and more specifics on measuring enjoyment and one's appetite and satisfaction.

Although, if you don't have much you can take the study at face value and feel a little better thinking your chocolate soufflé tastes better than that of the wealthy couple in the corner booth - even if it isn't true.

Or maybe it is just about appreciating what you have as many (including Mae West and Cher) have said, "I've been rich and I've been poor. Rich is better."

Full study, "Money Giveth, Money Taketh Away: The Dual Effect of Wealth on Happiness": http://pss.sagepub.com/content/21/6/759.abstract

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