A Path to More Enduring Happiness: Take a Detour from Specific Emotional Goals

October 2018 | Olson, Nicholas

Although much of consumption behavior is prompted by the pursuit of happiness, enduring happiness remains elusive, since happiness is destined to adaptation. Our research identifies a novel yet simple method of slowing hedonic adaptation from consumption activities: reducing specificity of the happiness goal. We propose that in the realm of happiness, contrary to findings from other domains, having a general (e.g., feeling good) versus a specific (e.g., excitement) emotional goal might hold the key to more enduring happiness. One lab experiment and a longitudinal study demonstrate general (vs. specific) goals expand the breadth of emotions experienced from consumption activities, which in turn impact the top‐of‐mind awareness of the consumption target over time; higher top‐of‐mind awareness of the target allows one to continue to derive happiness from it. Importantly, the happiness advantage of general emotional goals strengthens over time. Given a significant tendency by consumers to pursue specific happiness goals (as three pilot studies reveal), a simple change in the way they formulate their happiness goals could be consequential for consumer wellbeing.



  • Maria A. Rodas
  • Rohini Ahluwalia


Journal of Consumer Psychology

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