You Can’t Take It With You, but You Still Want More

The New York Times:

All work and no play may just be a result of “mindless accumulation.”

So say scholars behind research, published in the journal Psychological Science in June, that shows a deeply rooted instinct to earn more than can possibly be consumed, even when this imbalance makes us unhappy.

Given how many people struggle to make ends meet, this may seem a frivolous problem. Nonetheless, the researchers note that productivity rates have risen, which theoretically lets many people be just as comfortable as previous generations while working less. Yet they choose not to.

Michael Norton, an associate professor at the Harvard Business School who is familiar with the field, said the study’s implications were “enormous” in part because they can enlighten people to an unconscious motivation that leads to shortsighted, even unhappy choices.

Still, he said, choosing happiness or leisure over earning is challenging, in part because accumulation of money — or candy — is easier to measure than, say, happiness. “You can count Hershey’s Kisses,” Dr. Norton said. Being an involved parent or partner is not so quantifiable. “Most of the things that truly make us happy in life are harder to count,” he said.

Read the whole story: The New York Times

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