Results from our first psychology experiment

Today, we completed our first psychology experiment. Students were randomly assigned 1 of 2 writing prompts:

  • Prompt A: Write about a time when you used money to purchase an experience .
  • Prompt B: Write about a time when you used money to purchase a material good.

Here are the full prompts:

After this, students were asked to complete a short survey about how their purchase affected their happiness.

I have included the results from the two different groups below.

Group A Responses: People who wrote about purchasing an experience.

Group B Responses: People who wrote about purchasing a material good.

So, scientists, how do you interpret these data? What conclusions can you make? Post your answers in the comments below!

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11 responses to “Results from our first psychology experiment

  1. I scrolled through each the graphs for each question and compared groups A and B side by side. To me, they looked reasonably similar with the following differences:
    1) on the question “did this purchase make me happier?” group A agreed more than group B
    2) on the question about strengthening friendships, group B again disagreed more than group A
    3)on the question “did this purchase make me feel more alive?” group B was more neutral, while A agreed more
    4)on the question “am I concerned about how others will perceive this purchase?” group B was somewhat polarized (a few more agreed than disagreed), while A was much more towards the disagree side.

  2. So what’s the difference between group A and B? What big conclusions can you make?

  3. The results seem to show that buying material goods affects others more than buying an experience. If you buy a material others can use it, borrow it and it’s easier to be jealous of. If you buy an experience, for example a ticket to a concert, it can’t affect other people as much. Since the people who bought an experience didn’t have to worry about what others thought and how others reacted they are happier with their purchase. So could other people and their opinions be a significant variable in terms of happiness?

  4. I thought it was interesting how the B responses seemed to be far more concerned with the “self” and the A responses seemed to see it more as a group purchase.

  5. So, based on this evidence, which purchases make people happier? Material or experiential ones? How can you tell?

  6. I feel like its pretty safe to assume that the experience related purchase made people happier because all the people who purchased an experience agreed or definitely agreed that the purchase made them happier, while some of the people who purchased a material good only slightly agreed, slightly disagreed, and disagreed that the purchase made them happier. However, I feel like our sample size wasn’t large enough to satisfactorily eliminate any flukes that could be caused by just one random or unusual particpant and not enough people were surveyed to really provide a randomized sample. Furthermore, it would be really interesting to include in our sample some less affluent people than Westminster students and teachers, who might have a greater need for or appreciate more a material good.

  7. The results of this experiment don’t really surprise me. When using money to purchase an experience, it is not only done with a group of people, explaining the social aspect of the results. Also when you purchase an experience you generally know at the time of purchase that you will enjoy the experience. Purchasing socks don’t quite hold up to going the Falcons game. I hypothesize that the people who were writing about experiences choose to write about memorable and fun experiences they purchased but some people writing about material goods may have chosen to write about something as meaningless as a tee-shirt. In analyzing the results, I believe it would be helpful if we knew what experience or object people were thinking about when they filled out the survey.

  8. I thought it was interesting that one of the differences that stood out the most to me was concern about how others will perceive the purchase. People were more concerned with how people would perceive a material purchase. I guess you could pair it with the other really big difference making new friends/strengthening existing relationships. If people are strengthening social ties with the experience, then they know people approve of the purchase because they share the same fond memories. If you purchase something material when you’re by yourself, you’re worried what your friends might think of it. This concern or lack thereof might affect their happiness.

  9. I agree with what Mary was saying, that sometimes people think it is riskier to buy a material good, because it’s generally a reflection of your taste, that you are then sharing with the world. However, an experience is more focused on the actual event, and your own enthusiasm towards it, rathen than what others might think.

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