Material things can actually bring happiness, according to a new study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. Material purchases provide more frequent happiness over time while experiential purchases, such as visiting the zoo or watching a concert, for example, provides more intense happiness on individual occasions.

Previous studies examining material and experiential purchases and happiness looked at people's expectations about shopping or memories about items and experiences, but the researchers wanted to know how people felt at the very moment, like the first weeks with a new sweater or tablet computer.

The team analysed momentary happiness that people experienced from material and experiential purchases, five times a day for two weeks. The team categorised items such as leggings, portable speakers or coffee machines as material purchases and a ski trip, tickets to a hockey game or spa gift cards as experiential purchases.

The results showed that material purchases bring repeated doses of happiness over time in the weeks after the items were bought. Meanwhile, experiential purchases offer a more intense but temporary dose of happiness. However, when people looked back on their purchases six weeks after Christmas, they felt more satisfaction about experiential purchases.

"The decision of whether to buy a material thing or a life experience may therefore boil down to what kind of happiness one desires," Aaron Weidman said in a press release. "Consider a holiday shopper deciding between tickets to a concert or a new couch in the living room ... the new couch will never provide a thrilling moment to match the concert, but will keep the owner snug and comfortable each day throughout the winter months."

With the holiday season around, shopping is in full swing and everybody’s searching for the perfect gift. As shoppers go about their tasks this season, either for themselves or others, the researchers suggest about thinking about what form of happiness people want to satisfy before making any purchase.

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