• Soo Yon Ryu

The Experiential Advantage: a Review.

The Experiential Advantage


Scholars of the social sciences have questioned the benefits of material goods as the world witnessed an unprecedented material consumption. Frank (1999) suggests that as the super-rich overspend on luxurious goods, the less abundant others force themselves to ape their betters, eventually leading to less happier lives. In researches in the materialism literature, materialistic individuals showed lower satisfaction with life than their less materialistic counterparts. (Belk, 1985) In a series of research to

investigate a material disadvantage and an experiential advantage, Gilovich and colleagues have concluded on the ‘experiential advantage’.


Experiential advantage refers to the greater happiness or well-being (used inter-changeably in prior studies) experiential purchase provides relative to material purchase. Such is found to be true because experiential consumption is open to positive reinterpretations, more meaningful part of one’s identity, contribute more to successful social relationships (Van Boven and Gilovich, 2003), and evaluated more on their own terms and evoke fewer social comparisons (Gilovich et al., 2014). In addition, experiential purchase is associated with more relatedness and less social comparison, leading to eudemonic well-being. (Howell and Hill, 2009) Experiential purchase is simply less comparative, since it is harder to align specific features, harder to exchange with other options and the innate perishability naturally fades the worse parts and strengthen the ‘rosy’ bits. Moreover, such difference in interchangeability leads to different types of regrets, material to regrets of action that strengthens over time, and experiential to regreats of inaction that is only short-term. (Rosenweig, Gilovich, 2012) Its conversational value also foster stronger social connection by facilitating the reliving of experience and encouraging embellishment. (Kumar and Gilovich, 2013) To add on to these benefits, experiential consumption provides hedonic benefits even before the actual consumption by presenting happiness, pleasantness, and excitement, whereas material consumption leads to edgier impatience. Such is due to the fact that experiential consumption is simply higher in abstraction, allowing for more imagination, lower in competitive mind-set in regards to

comparison, and provides more conversational value. (Kumar, Killingsworth, Gilovich, 2014) Even in the gift giving context, experiential advantage holds valid. Experiential gift foster stronger relationship by making the receiver feel closer to the giver and

evoke more emotion. (Kumar, Killingsworth, Gilovich, 2014)


However incredible the experiential advantage sounds, it still has some limitations. It has been also suggested that adaptation is quicker for material purchases, making experiential purchase provide stronger happiness in positive situations, but show no advantage in negative situations. (Nicolao et al, 2009) Also, impacts on the self mediates and socioeconomic status moderates the purchase types to happiness. (Thomas and Millar, 2013) The attempt to maximize either well-being or economic value also influences what type of purchase people decide. (Pchelin and Howell, 2014)


There also exists a materialism stigma that shed relatively a positive light on experience, that makes people see materialistic people to be selfish, self-centered, extrinsically motivated, and therefore have less favorable impressions, which lead to denigration of materialistic people and less conversation with materialistic purchases. (Van Boven, Campbell, Gilovich, 2010)


The Material Advantage


stronger connection, although consumers fail to predict such connection. (Goodman, stances when material consumption pose advantage over experiential consumption. recent study shows that a material purchase upon a special life event can provide

stronger connection, although consumers fail to predict such connection. (Goodman, Malkoc, Stephenson, 2016) Moreover, consumers feel more frequent momentary happiness over time from material purchase, whereas experiential purchase provide

more intense momentary happiness. (Wiedman & Dunn, 2015) In addition, experiential advantage not only leads to greater happiness, but also lead to a greater or similar unhappiness as material purchase, thereby providing limits to the experiential

advantage and shedding light on the possibility of material advantage. (Nicolao, Irwin, Goodman, 2009)


Somewhere In Between


The reoccurring issue of how to distinguish between material and experiential purchase has raised issue. For instance, what about material purchases that allows experience? Or material purchases that make time for more experience? The foggy line between the two types of consumption has not yet been thoroughly investigated, despite the reoccurring admit of limitations. There has been a study in “To have in order to do” by Guevarra and Howell in 2014, exploring material products that facilitate life experience, such a TV or laptop. These ‘experiential products’ showed similar Well-being levels as life experience, and more than material items. The limitation regarding this middle ground has been a reoccurring theme in limitations of research in the experiential-material continuum, yet little has been investigated to distinguish the different phases and qualities in the grey zone.

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