Comfort for the Jobless: What You Do Better Than the Rich

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between richYou probably don't have to see the results of scientific research to know that money can get in the way of the appreciation of life's simpler pleasures, but a recent study done with chocolate proves that fact: You savor more when you have less.

It's not just the bitter and penniless who say what many people find obvious: If you know that big, expensive pleasures are going to be out of reach for awhile, you're going to appreciate the good, little things in life more. But how do you prove that scientifically? Researchers at the University of British Columbia seem to have found a simple way to do it.

They asked participants to complete a brief questionnaire about their demographics (name, age, gender, etc.), while being shown a picture of money, a picture of chocolate, or a neutral photo -- sky, trees, etc. Then the subjects were given a small piece of chocolate and asked to eat it. Hidden observers using stopwatches measured the time each person took to eat the chocolate. The observers also rated the level of positive emotions each person demonstrated while eating the treat.

Not surprisingly, the people who saw pictures of money gobbled down the chocolate, few taking the time to savor it or even notice it much. Those who saw pictures of chocolate or neutral subjects took a lot more time with the treat, and expressed many more positive comments about the experience.

In the words of those conducting the study: "Our research demonstrates that a simple reminder of wealth produces the same deleterious effects as actual wealth on an individual's ability to savor, suggesting that perceived access to pleasurable experiences may be sufficient to impair everyday savoring... having access to the best things in life may actually undermine one's ability to reap enjoyment from life's small pleasures."

Or to put it another way, money and the pursuit of it, can obsess us, and can keep us from enjoying the things we already have. Just think -- you might get as much enjoyment or more out of a single Hershey's Kiss, than a wealthy person would out of a trip to the original Godiva Chocolate factory in Belgium. You might savor a couple of M&Ms more than a rich guy savors his $15 flourless chocolate cake (plus tax and tip) in an expensive restaurant. That's good to know at a time when simple pleasures might be the only ones available to you.


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