It’s been the refrain of behavioral economists and, in my case at least, my wise partner for many years: Invest your cash on experiences, not things. A trip or a meal with pals will improve your life, brand-new shoes will swiftly lose their charm.

That’s real, however it’s not the whole story, argue psychologists Darwin A. Guevarra and Ryan T. Howell in a new paper in the Journal of Customer Psychology. Not all products, they state, ought to be lumped together.

Here’s the issue, as Guevarra and Howell see it: In lots of researches, participants are asked to think about material items as purchases made ‘in order to have,’ in contrast with experiences – purchases made ‘in order to do.’ This, they state, ignores a category of items: those made in order to have experiences, such as electronics, musical instruments, and sports and outdoors equipment.

Do such ‘experiential products,’ as Guevarra and Howell call them, leave our health unimproved, as holds true with a lot of goods, or do they contribute positively to our joy?

In a series of experiments, Guevarra and Howell discover that the latter is the case: experiential goods made individuals happier, similar to the experiences themselves.

This could seem like a pedantic difference, just a breaking down of 2 categories of purchases (goods and experiences) into 3 (pure products, experiences, and the products that allow you to have those experiences). However there’s more to it: Understanding why some things make people happy and others do not exposes a bit about the mechanics of human joy and ways to cultivate it.

Begin by analyzing why experiences supply more happiness than product usage. What’s it about experiences? It’s not the truth of having an experience per se however that experiences can ‘satisf [y] the psychological requirements of autonomy, skills, and relatedness.’ Speaking to friends, mastering a skill, expressing oneself through art or writing – all these offer a measure of satisfaction that just owning a thing can not.

Experiential goods fit in under this framework since they similarly can satisfy those exact same psychological requirements. A musical instrument, as an example, makes possible a type of human joy hat trick: Carefully tune your skills, get the joy of mastery (proficiency), play your heart out, get the joy of self-expression (autonomy), jam with friends, get the happiness of getting in touch with others (relatedness).

‘Spend your money on experiences, not things’ continues to be a great standard policy. But it’s possible to fine-tune it a little to better reflect the motorists of human happiness: ‘Spend your cash on proficiency, autonomy, and relatedness.’ That doesn’t rather have the very same ring to it, however it will lead you intelligently.