By On February 11th, 2008

Misery is not miserly

A new study has revealed that people who are sad tend to spend more money and to generally be more extravagant. The study, preformed by four universities (Harvard, Stanford, Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon) analyzed the spending responses of individuals after watching a movie clip. Thirty-three participants were asked to watch a sad video about a boy who lost his mentor, while others in a control group watched a video about the Great Barrier Reef. The participants were each given ten dollars to participate in the study and were offered a chance to exchange a portion of that money for a sports bottle. On average the group that watched the sad video spent $2.11 for a trendier bottle, while others that did not watch the sad video spent on average 56 cents. The researchers deducted that sad feelings caused the participant to focus on self and thus, presumably, spend more to feel better about themselves. The following is an excerpt of an article from CNN.com that reviews the study’s findings:

Study participants who watched a sadness-inducing video clip offered to pay nearly four times as much money to buy a water bottle than a group that watched an emotionally neutral clip.

The so-called “misery is not miserly” phenomenon is well-known to psychologists, advertisers and personal shoppers alike, and has been documented in a similar study in 2004.

The new study released Friday by researchers from four universities goes further, trying to answer whether temporary sadness alone can trigger spendthrift tendencies.

The study found a willingness to spend freely by sad people occurs mainly when their sadness triggers greater “self-focus.” That response was measured by counting how frequently study participants used references to “I,” “me,” “my” and “myself” in writing an essay about how a sad situation such as the one portrayed in the video would affect them personally.

The brief video was about the death of a boy’s mentor. Another group watched an emotionally neutral clip about the Great Barrier Reef, the vast coral reef system off Australia’s coast.

On average, the group watching the sad video offered to pay nearly four times as much for a sporty-looking, insulated water bottle than the group watching the nature video, according to the study by researchers from Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford and Pittsburgh universities.

Thirty-three study subjects — young adults who responded to an advertisement offering $10 for participation — were offered the chance to trade some of the $10 to buy the bottle. The sad group offered to trade an average of $2.11, compared with 56 cents for the neutral group.

Click here to read the rest of this excerpt from CNN.com

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