To have or to do : it's all in the mind(set)
Date of Issue2018-02-06
College of Business (Nanyang Business School)
The pursuit of happiness in our consumerist society is all about getting the biggest hedonic bang for the (limited) buck. In the domain of consumer behavior, extant research over the last decade suggests that people generally derive more happiness from experiences rather than material possessions. But is this experiences-over-goods effect universal? I propose that an individual’s beliefs about the malleability (vs. fixedness) of human characteristics, influence the preference for experiences over goods. Ten studies provide converging evidence that incremental theorists (growth mindset) value experiences (over material possessions) more than entity theorists (fixed mindset). I replicate the effect across multiple contexts, both for anticipatory consumption choices and preferences and retrospective post-consumption evaluations (Pilot Study, Studies 1 & 2a-2c). Further, I find that incremental theorists’ preference for experiences is driven by the belief that experiences contribute to self-growth and learning (Studies 3 & 4). In a stricter test of the hypothesis, I demonstrate that incremental theorists’ preference for experiences holds even when a product (experience) is framed as an experience (vs. a material possession) (Studies 5 & 6). Finally, I also propose a ‘material’ reward to nudge entity theorists into opting for experiences that are beneficial for them (Study 7). This research contributes to literature on experiential vs. material consumption by investigating a meaningful individual difference that influences the happiness people derive from experiences. I also contribute to implicit theory literature by examining the underlying reason that drives incremental theorists’ preference for experiences. Lastly, it has interesting implications for marketers to design compelling communication campaigns by leveraging either the material or experiential attributes to appeal to specific target audiences.