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Positive Psychology Paper

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December, 12th 2014
Happiness: Experiences vs. Materialistic Items

Abstract When discussing happiness there are so many different factors that contribute to one’s own happiness in life. The purpose of this survey is to analyze whether or not buying experiences rather than possessions increases one’s level of subject well-being. The survey consisted of 90 participant’s, 15 being male and 75 being female volunteers. In this study, survey analysis was the method used to obtain results from participants in a randomized survey. It t. lysis of the study in the has already been conducted in the alayzed as well as other researchpiness from materialistic iteis crucial to understand the definition of happiness which is scientifically known as subjective well-being. Subjective well-being is a commonly used measure of what many tend to believe as happiness. Subjective is what people feel and report, while well-being is what we know as happiness. On top of the survey there will be an analysis of other research that has been done in order to be able to better understand the relationship between ones happiness in terms of experiences or materialistic items. The hypothesis is that purchasing experiences will increase ones happiness more than purchasing a possession. In order to find data results to prove the hypothesis, this paper will discuss an analysis of the study along with other research that has already been conducted in the past.

Literary Review There has been a variety of studies that have shown concrete evidence that supports the theory which states buying experiences increases one’s subjective well-being more than buying possessions. In order to discuss the relationships between the different articles and studies being conducted one must understand each study in depth. All of the articles and studies discuss a variety of aspects in terms of studying the relationship between happiness levels in the actions of buying experiences versus possessions. The study in the first article included fifty-three Cornell University Students including thirty-one females and twenty-one males and one unspecified. It entailed how closely people associate their material and experiential purchases with their self-concept. The college students completed a survey in exchange for a candy bar or gave them a filler survey during an unrelated experiment. In this experiment, the participants were asked to describe several material and experiential purchases. Once they had done that, they were then asked to depict their connections to the self using a Venn diagram, with distance between each purchase and the self representing perceived closeness and importance (Carter and Gilovich, 2010). The prediction and results, which are discussed in the later portion of this paper will correlate with the second article being analyzed which contains two related studies. This first study in the second article included a survey in which one hundred forty-two participants took while waiting to take other surveys. The sample included ninety-two women and fifty men. This survey first asked the participants to recall either a material or an experiential purchase which cost at least fifty dollars. The reason behind the money minimum was to ensure that it had adequate importance to generate continued thought. Once the participants had recalled their purchases, they were then asked three questions evaluating the difficulty of the decision in terms of at the time they were making it. In the article it states these questions were asked to the participants, “a direct question about the difficulty of the decision, a question about how concerned they had been about whether they had made the right choice, and a question about how torn they had been between the option they chose and the other options” (Carter and Gilovich, 2010). In order to get a sense of how the participants approached the questions being asked, they were also questioned whether they had looked at the purchase in a more absolute way or more in terms of comparing to other similar items. Lastly, the participants were questioned on two parts of the purchase, their initial satisfaction as well as their current satisfaction. The second study in the second article discusses the terms maximizing and satisficing. According to Schwartz and others, “Maximizing refers to decision strategy whereby all possible options are compared and what is considered the best possible alternative is selected” (Schwartz, et al., 2002). According to Simon, “Satisficing refers to a decisions strategy whereby a minimum standard for overall quality is set and the first option that meets that standard is selected” (Simon, 1955). Now that these two terms have been defined, the study can be discussed. There were thirty participants recruited at various points around a campus to complete this survey. The purpose of this study was to examine how people approach decisions regarding material and experiential purchases. The participants were asked to recall both a material and an experiential purchase they had made. The key was they must have been faced with a range of options. After each participant gave a brief statement describing each purchase, they were then explained the two decision making strategies, maximizing and satisficing. Once given a brief description, they were told to indicate which purchase they intended to use each decision making strategy on which was measured on a two nine point scale. The participants were also asked the strategy they tended to use most often, regardless of the purchase type (Carter and Gilovich, 2010). Before analyzing the common results between all of these studies there is one major common theme the researchers used to conduct the surveys.
This common theme between the articles and studies being analyzed, is the definitional issues with a study that measures perceived happiness levels in experiences verses possessions. There is one major facet all of the researchers had in common when creating their surveys which is the difficulty in defining and distinguishing material and experiential purchases. In the first article it discusses this distinction and its problems. Typically a material possession is a physical object such as jewelry, shoes, electronic gadgets, or cars. On the other hand, experiential purchases tend to be made with the intention of gaining some sort of experience. These purchases are intangible, and some examples may include but are not limited to, going to a restaurant, going on vacation, or going to a concert. All of these experiential examples have the common idea that you are taking away a memory. The article puts it as “One purchases an experience to do and a material possession to have” (Carter & Gilovich, 2012). The main example brought up in the first article is an extravagant spa vacation, while most commonly would be an experiential purchase it can also be argued as a materialistic purchase. The explanation for this is that it can send a status signal in terms of wealth, which is typically regarded in materialistic purchases. It basically becomes materialistic when one makes it flashy and therefore makes it less about the experience and more about the signal it sends, which according to this article makes it more of a materialistic purchase. Another article mentions the unavoidable issue in surveys that compare between material and experiential purchases. In this article it states, “Because of the difficulty defining experiences and material possessions, we operationalized the distinction in several different ways, so that any shortcoming of one method would be overcome by the strength of another” (Carter and Gilovich, 2010). Carter and Gilovich then state, “For example, in Studies 1 and 2, we described both types of purchases and asked participants to recall examples from their own lives, trusting that they understood the categories sufficiently to make the distinction themselves”(Carter and Gilovich, 2010). The reason this is the case is to ensure there was a clear distinction. Both of these articles and studies used the same method in order to ensure that there was clear distinction therefore credibility in there results. While sometimes the distinction can be imprecise these ways stated above are ways to prevent unreliable results. Fortunately, the majority of the time the difference is pretty straight forward. This is all crucial to know to warrant the study is being accurately conducted which therefore the results can be looked at as credible. By having credible results it ensures a successful study in which either supports the hypothesis or disproves it. Now that some of the arising issues have been mentioned as well as the basics of each study, the results each study found can be correlated on a few different levels. The study in the first article which tested the relationship between materialistic and experiential purchases with self-concept had a hypothesis that stated, “We predicted that people would place their experiential purchases closer to the self than their material purchases” (Carter and Gilovich, 2012). The first study in the second article which discussed decision difficulty in terms of experiential versus materialistic purchases. The hypothesis stated, “We predicted that these lingering thoughts of material purchase decisions would be associated with lower feelings of current satisfaction” (Carter and Gilovich, 2010). The second study in the second article examined how people approach decisions about material and experiential purchases in terms of two strategies, maximizing and satisficing. The hypothesis stated, “We predicted that when asked to recall a material and an experimental purchase, participants would report that they had tended to maximize when making their material purchase and to satisfice when making their experiential purchase” (Carter and Gilovich, 2010). Now that all of the predictions have been stated one can understand how all the results correlate. All of these articles have a common ground in terms of correctly predicting the results at least in one of the aspects if not all of what they were studying. The first study in the first article had a correct hypothesis as the participants did in fact plot their experiential purchases closer than the material purchasers in terms of self-concept (Carter and Gilovich, 2012). In the first study in the second article the predictions were proven to be correct. The participants in the material condition reported that their decisions had been more difficult than the participants in the experiential condition. Even though there was no difference regarding initial satisfaction between participants in the experiential and material conditions, they did report more current satisfaction with their experiential purchases than their material purchases (Carter and Gilovich, 2010). Lastly, in the second study in the second article which discusses maximizing and satisficing, even though the hypothesis was not a 100 percent accurate it did have some validity. While the participants did not report an overall tendency to maximize or satisfice their purchasing, they did report that they were more likely to use such a strategy for choosing an experience rather than a possession. Also the participants reported they were marginally more likely to use maximizing when choosing a possession than choosing an experience (Carter and Gilovich, 2010). All of these studies correspond when discussing the relationship between ones happiness and purchasing experiences or possessions. One clear example in the second article, is how the second study reinforces the results gathered from the first study. Both studies found that material purchases are to be evaluated with more concern and in a more comparative way than decisions based on experiential purchases. This relates to the study that will be discussed in the next few sections because one might have more regrets on a purchase they compared to many other options, in turn making their happiness levels go away quicker on materialistic items. Now that past research has been stated, the survey that will be discussed now correlates with the results found in all of these studies.
Methods
The sample included in the study is composed of a total of 90 participants. The respondents were female (n=75) and male (n=15) all within the same socio-culture. The median age was 18 to 24 (n=74). Subjects completed a survey containing a series of nine questions in which were answered using a variation of the Likert Scale. Respondents answered questions rating their subjective well-being on a scale from 1-10 (1 being least happy, 10 being the happiest).
When creating and distributing this study it was conducted in an ethical fashion which followed the guidelines set in place by the American Psychology Association. The American Psychology Association states a list of ethical codes in which this study followed. The first guideline involves discussing intellectual property. The APA Ethics Code requires psychologists to release their data to others who want to verify their conclusions provided that participants' confidentiality can be protected and as long as legal rights concerning proprietary data don't preclude their release. APA's Ethics Code also states psychologists should avoid relationships that could reasonably impair their professional performance or could exploit or hurt others. It is crucial to also respect the confidentially and privacy of the participants in the study. Ways of doing this is to know the federal and state laws, take practical security measures, as well as think about data sharing before the actual research begins. Most importantly in terms of the participants it is vital to discuss the limits of confidentiality with them. In order to follow this the researcher must explain to the participants about how their data will be used, what will be done with case materials, photos and audio and video recordings, and secure their consent. The study being conducted was in the form of a casual design survey. It compared the difference in one’s perceived level of subjective well-being in terms of the purchase of possessions or experiences. Typically there is always at least one independent variable along with one dependent variable in order to do some sort of analysis. The independent variables in this survey had a direct correlation with the dependent variable. In this particular study there were two independent variables which were possessions or experiences. The dependent variable was the level of perceived subjective well-being. The two independent variables were represented by a few different types of purchases. For possessions, these purchases included buying a new phone and buying new clothes. For experiences, these purchases included going on a vacation, going to a professional sporting event, and going out to dinner with friends. The dependent variable which is the level of perceived subjective well-being is measured by using a variation of the Likert Scale. This scale is vital in order to process and understand the results which arouse from the respondents of the survey.
Results
After conducting a casual group design, the researchers used the notable differences between ones perceived level of subject well-being in relation to the purchase of possessions or experiences. The data received from the respondents had very clear trends in which supported the hypothesis made originally. The two questions at the latter of the survey (See Tables 3 and 4) gave the overall common ground seen throughout the survey, which basically was that people are generally happier after purchasing an experience rather than a possession. While there are many examples that could be given based on the results of the survey that support the hypothesis, one will be sufficient enough to exemplify a general understanding of the overall results. The last question (See Table 4) asked on the survey was, are you happier when you spend money on materialistic items or experiences? This question sums up the main point of the survey being conducted and had a large majority of respondents choose the option which supported the original hypothesis. The respondents who chose experiences was 76.4% or 68 participants compared to the respondents who chose possessions which was a minimal 23.6% or 21 participants. The questions leading up to this question seemed to all follow the same trend in terms that people are generally happier when purchasing experiences rather than possessions. There was one outlier question (See Table 2) in which did not seem to follow this trend and that was the question which asked, on a scale from 1 to 10 (10 being happiest), how happy are you when you are at a professional sporting event? One reason why this outlier happened was because of the ratio of females to males who participated in the survey. There was a 5:1 ratio of females to males (See Table 1) and it possible this could have skewed the results as a result of interests between genders being slightly different. While this outlier may have slightly affected the overall results, it is safe to say based on the responses to the majority of the questions, ones level of subjective well-being tends to be higher after purchasing an experience rather than a possession.

Discussion The topic of subjective well-being in terms of purchasing possessions or experiences may not be as researched as some other topics but may be very crucial to one’s overall happiness in life. By understanding what purchases make someone happy, it can greatly increase their overall subjective well-being throughout their lifetime. If someone has the understanding of the types of purchases they make and the correlation to their happiness, they can ensure to try to spend a majority of their money towards purchases that matter to them and therefore increase their levels of happiness. In terms of class discussion a few topics can be correlated with this study. During discussion, subjective well-being clearly has gotten a lot of class time as a result of being a core concept of positive psychology. As learned in class, high levels of well-being support one’s ability to flourish psychologically, socially and emotionally. In contrast low levels of well-being tends to correlate with a lavishing life. In the terms of the study conducted what is mostly focused on is emotional well-being, specifically happiness. In class discussion, another topic that was talked about which can be related back to the study is how to be happier. Under this specific discussion it discusses how while not having money is related to misery, having a significant amount of money does not guarantee happiness. This is important to understand when analyzing the study that was conducted and explained earlier. As long as someone is not struggling financial, it can be concluded that even someone with a moderate income can spend money on experiences to increase their levels of happiness. It can negatively affect one’s happiness under the circumstances where they have no money to spend on in this case experiences which is shown to make one happier rather than possessions according to the study that was conducted as well as the other studies analyzed earlier. One major correlation between the recently conducted study and the first study in the second article is that both include the difference between material and experiential purchases which is how people’s satisfaction with materialistic items tends to unfold over time. According to Carter and Gilovach, “the evidence obtained in Study 1 appears that satisfaction with material purchases tends to decrease over time, whereas satisfaction with experimental purchases tend to increase. Even initially satisfying material purchases are likely to deteriorate over time; very few material goods improve with age” (Carter and Gilovich, 2010). This directly correlates with one of the questions asked in the survey given recently (See Table 3). The results from the Carter and Gilovich study almost directly match the results in the survey which was created for the analysis. The statistics for one of the questions (See Table 3) almost directly correlates with the articles as the survey showed 87.78% or 79 people claimed their experiential purchase created a longer lasting level of happiness compared to a 12.22% or 11 people who claimed material items created a longer lasting level of happiness. It is crucial to make these connections, because as a result of having many studies with related results it increases the validity of the point trying to be made. All of these results, connections, and conclusions contribute to a better understanding of the level of perceived subjective well-being with the purchases of experiences or possessions. After analyzing all the results and past research one can conclude it would be recommended to purchase experiences rather than possessions. By doing so, according to all this information it will increase your level of happiness. As a result of all of the analysis that has taken place, one can better understand the relationship between the level of perceived subjective well-being and the purchasing of possessions or experiences.

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...TO BE LOVED OR FEARED AS A LEADER? Leaders in fields ranging from military and politics to business and even education have been posed with the choice of instilling love or fear among their respective followers. Traits like warmth and trustworthiness of a leader instill love among followers and fear of a leader originates mostly from his strength and competence. Although there are numerous other traits in a leader, warmth and strength are the most influential. According to psychology, a major part of other people's perception about a person is determined by these two dimensions of personality (Cuddy, Kohut and Neffinger, 2013, p. 56). The dilemma of the choice between these two is inherently present in the nature of the two extremes i.e. either of the choices will make you fall at the opposing ends of the human emotional spectrum. It is interesting to note that the question of choosing between the two extremes is not a new one . Tracing this conundrum back to the sixteenth century takes us to the writings of Machiavelli. His political philosophy in 'The Prince' acknowledges the best leaders to command both fear and love. Having said that, Machiavelli recognizes the opposite polarity of the two emotions and maintains that since it is difficult to combine both in one person, it is better to be feared as a leader than to be loved (Machiavelli, 2003, p.53). Today, about five hundred years later, the Machiavellian concept of a feared leader is still quite rigorously......

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