The disappointment of things

The disappointment of things

Research shows that buying objects is ultimately more disappointing than buying experiences:

Psychological research tells us that this disappointment is particularly pronounced when people buy things like mp3 players or watches, compared with experiences like vacations or concert tickets (see: experiences beat possessions).

The researchers explore six reasons why objects are less satisfying than their experiential counterparts:

1. Objects are easy to compare unfavourably
2. A “maximising” strategy leaves us less satisfied
3. Material purchases more likely to be re-evaluated
4. The new option effect
5. The reduced price effect
6. A cheaper rival

This seems problematic. The research suggests, then, that if we design objects in the context of a larger experience then we’ll lower the risk of disappointment. What is the difference between “object” and “experience” though? That distinction seems very much at the discretion of an individual, not the designer.