Is Experience Anti-American?

The New York Times has an interview with a social psychologist named Daniel Gilbert who talks about the difference between experiences and products.

Another thing we know from studies is that people tend to take more pleasure in experiences than in things. So if you have “x” amount of dollars to spend on a vacation or a good meal or movies, it will get you more happiness than a durable good or an object. One reason for this is that experiences tend to be shared with other people and objects usually aren’t.

I laughed when I read the followup:
Q. Have you just expressed a very anti-American idea?

Gilbert deftly shoots down that notion:

Oh, you can spend lots of money on experiences. People think a car will last and that’s why it will bring you happiness. But it doesn’t. It gets old and decays. But experiences don’t. You’ll “always have Paris” — and that’s exactly what Bogart meant when he said it to Ingrid Bergman. But will you always have a washing machine? No.

I think this is a nice counter-argument to the idea that we have an easier time embuing artifacts with emotional meaning than intangible services or experiences.




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