Once, I was in a cheese store together with my mother. We were about to shop something tasty as a dessert after the dinner we should eat together that same evening. The shop assistant gave us some recommendations. We decided and she asked us how much we wanted. I showed her with my thumb and finger how much I though was good. Both my mother and the shop assistant looked at me and wondered “not more than that? It is such tasty cheeses!”.
“Of course” I answered. “The cheese is very tasty. And they wont taste better just because we eat more of them, right?”
It may seem like a simple fact that we, humans, want to have more of what is enjoyable, tasty and pleasurable. That more of the pleasurable equals more pleasure. But the fact, from a psychological perspective, is that it is not true. More food does not equal more pleasure.
Now, we will dig into the research that shows us that wealth actually can undermine the ability to feel pleasure.
A group of researchers tested this hypothesis by conducting a chocolate-tasting session. Forty people, either wealthy with a big income, or poor with a low income, participated in what they believed to be an examination of their flavors. They filled in a survey before and after eating a chocolate praline. What they did not know was that they were observed during the whole session. An observer examined how long time the participants spent on eating the chocolate praline, and how many positive emotions the participants expressed while doing it.
The conclusion of the study confirmed the researchers hypothesis. Wealthy participants with large salaries often devoured the praline in a single piece and did not express any particular emotions while doing it. And they reported less pleasure in the survey. On the other hand, the poor participants with low income, took longer time, expressed more positive emotions and reported more pleasure in the surveys.
It may sound obvious. If you can afford a five dishes dinner every day, a single praline of chocolate is kind of mediocre.
But, we can connect it to other research in positive psychology. For example the fact that increased wealth does not lead to increased happiness and the fact that the small pleasures in life are what brings us the most happiness. To share a dinner with family and friends, enjoy a day off or to see the return of spring after a long and cold winter. That brings happiness. We can see quite interesting tendencies here. Increased wealth may not just be unrelated to increased happiness. It may even make people less able to enjoy these pleasurable moments in life, and therefore make themless happy in the long run.
Lots of people would be happier, if they could enjoy the small pleasures in life. A praline of chocolate, a talk with a friend or a (small) piece of delicious cheese.
Less really is more!
● The research shows us that the ability to feel pleasure is crucial for happiness
● More of the things that gives us pleasure, does not equal more pleasure
● Higher weatlh and salary might reduce the ability to feel pleasure for the small things in life
Reference: Quoidbach, J., Dunn, E. W., Petrides, K. V., & Mikolajczak, M. (2010). Money Giveth, Money Taketh Away The Dual Effect of Wealth on Happiness. Psychological Science, 21(6), 759-763.