In an earlier post we described research showing that people get more long-lasting satisfaction from money spent on experiences than money spent on material goods. If you read that post and took it to heart—humor us—an obvious question arose: Do psychologists have anything to say about what sorts of experiential purchases yield the most enduring satisfaction? As it happens, they do. And we thought now was a good juncture to share it because this is the time of year when many people plan their spring and early-summer vacations. If you’re one of those folks, here are a couple of things to keep in mind.Last is best. Things you experience on your last day of vacation will be enhanced simply because you know they’re happening at the end. In a recent paper in Psychological Science, psychology researchers Ed O’Brien and Phoebe Ellsworth had University of Michigan students taste five types of chocolates—milk, dark, crème, caramel, and almond—varying the order in which they were eaten. Some students ate the last one knowing it was the last; others were not given that info and were left to assume it was just another in the series. When later asked to pick which one was their favorite, two-thirds chose the last one when they knew it was the finale when they ate it; only a fifth did so when they hadn’t known it was the last. So be sure to choose something like chocolate the last day or two of your vacation—something good that will seem even better because it comes at the end.
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