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Money buys happiness when spending fits our personality

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In contrast to decades of research reporting surprisingly weak relationships between consump-tion and happiness, recent studies suggest that money can indeed increase happiness if it is spent the “right way” (e.g. on experiences or on others). Drawing on the concept of psychological fit, we extend this research by arguing that individual differences play a central role in determining the “right” type of spending to increase wellbeing. In a field study with over 76,000 bank transaction records we find that individuals spend more on products which match their personality and that those whose purchases match their personality report higher levels of life satisfaction. This effect of psychological fit on happiness was stronger than the effect of individual’s total income or their total spending. A follow-up experiment showed a causal effect: Personality-matched spending increases positive affect. In summary, when spending matches personality, it appears that money can indeed buy happiness.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Psychometrics Centre Seminars series.

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