Hedonic Nondurability Revisited: A Case for Two Types

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Abstract

Hedonic durability refers to the extent to which the hedonic impact of a change lasts, that is, how long the unhappiness from a loss (or happiness from a gain) will endure over time. The lesson from previous research on this topic has been that the long-term effect of most changes (e.g., larger incomes, bigger houses, shorter commutes) is negligible. The present research shows something different. Consistent with previous research, we observed a pattern of hedonic nondurability in which the impact of a change did not endure over time. However, we also observed a pattern of hedonic durability in which the impact of a change does endure over time. We demonstrate differential rates of hedonic durability for losses, both across variables (Experiment 1) and within different ranges of the same variable (Experiment 2). We also extend our research to show differential rates for gains (Experiment 3). To explain our results, we propose a distinction between preference types, arguing that comparison-independent (i.e., absolute) preference types are hedonically more durable than comparison-dependent (i.e., relative) preference types. This research offers a method for validating preference-type categorization as well as a novel paradigm for testing hedonic durability in the laboratory. Moreover, it yields theoretical insights for affective forecasting and adaptation as well as practical implications for the hedonic treadmill and the joyless economy.

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