More and more, trends of minimalism are on the rise. In the age of social media, many are with taking in the #minimalistlife or #nomadlife. But, for as many people embracing this way of life, just as many are concerned with what they have, what they look like, and how their material goods reflect their status. Is living with less the new more? Japanese culture has lived by the concept of minimalism for centuries, why hasn’t this concept taken root in other cultures? Here, I want to explore the possible scientific reasoning behind happiness and materialism, whether it is correlational or causal, and if we can truly fix our levels of happiness. The null hypothesis being that material goods do not affect happiness while the alternative hypothesis stands that yes, the lack or possession of more material goods affects one’s happiness.
Multiple studies have been conducted in which researchers explore this connection. A study conducted at the University of Chicago found that the relationship between self esteem and materialism was causal. As one goes down the other goes up and vice versa. If you think about it, this is why so many companies advertise heavy the early adolescent/young adult age group. We are the ones most likely to buy material items, coping with psychological problems that are buried in the subconscious.
Using a cross sectional survey study, Michael Norton and others from the Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia released an article later appearing in Science Magazine. “ Separated into three studies, the study focused not just on the connection of happiness to materialism, but more specifically, what and who that money was used for and its results on happiness. This reminded me of parents wanting to buy/support their kids, because it literally makes them happier. Ranging from national surveys to field studies, the most important finding was that the people randomly assigned to go out and not spend money on themselves rated the most happiness. Just 5$ a day could make a significant difference.
In a similar study, Marsha L. Richins of Louisiana State University published “Media, Materialism, and Human Happiness”. Published by the Association for Consumer Research, the methodology she used was data collection. Using 252 questionnaire data, she took from a sunbelt city using half male and half female participants. Here, she found correlational reasonings behind people’s level of life happiness and their satisfaction with material goods. This relationship was highest for the participants valuing material goods. They believed that the more they bought, the happier they would feel.
Lastly, age old psychological understanding of the world tell a lot about human behavior. The concept of always wanting what you can’t have and always thinking the grass is greener on the other side immediately comes to my mind. Also, after a comprehensive and shocking study, two psychologists almost thirty years ago builds on those motos. Their idea of the hedonic treadmill is the concept that no matter what spark of happiness, event, material buy, etc you receive, you always go back to the same level of baseline happiness. The study being titled “Lottery winners and accident victims: is happiness relative” revealed that two very different categories of people (lottery winners and people who became paraplegic/quadriplegic victims post car crash) were equally as happy, reporting the same levels in the data collection.
I think going minimalistic would do good for anyone. I am switching to believing in the alternative hypothesis. Even though happiness is relative, too many people rely on tangible goods as measurements of fulfillment or joy. Happiness is determined within the mindset. Similar to our in class study of wormy kids and levels of intelligence, third variables could possibly exist. Overall though, materialism causes changes in happiness. So next time you think you need to buy that Kylie Jenner lip kit or 89.99 dollar dress, think, do you really need this?
photo 1: http://cdn.trendir.com/wp-content/uploads/old/house-design/luminous-house-with-translucent-walls-and-minimalist-design-13.jpg
photo 2: http://thirdworld.nl/images/articles/34749958.png
photo 3: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/The-hedonic-treadmill-graph.jpg