behavioural economics | July 18, 2016

New Videos: Elizabeth Dunn and the Science of Spending

To Happy Money author Dr. Elizabeth Dunn, money can buy happiness—if we’re spending it correctly. Dunn is a much-cited happiness researcher, which is exactly what it sounds like: operating out of UBC’s Department of Psychology, she conducts original research into the ways individuals and corporations alike can optimize their finances for longterm satisfaction. Her biggest takeaway? Don’t blow your paycheque on material things; you’re better off spending your hard-earned cash buying time and experiences. And in these new videos, Dunn tells us why. 

We often assume a positive correlation between money and happiness, but in our first clip, Dunn explains how sometimes, this isn’t the case. In a recent experiment at the University of Toronto, two groups completed the same consulting work, with one group charging nine dollars an hour and the other 90. At the end of the exercise, the 90-dollar-per-hour group reported feeling stressed out and pressed for time. “In other words,” Dunn says, “Just making students’ time worth a lot of money was sufficient to turn them into stressed-out, time-squeezed consultants.” But why does this happen? What psychological factors are at play? Watch the full clip to hear Dunn’s take.

Elizabeth Dunn: How Could More Money Mean Less Happiness?


In retail, does consumer interaction really matter? How much should employees engage with consumers? Dunn and her colleagues studied two groups of customers at a busy downtown Vancouver Starbucks: one told to be “efficient”—that is, get their coffee and leave—and one instructed to be “social.” Unsurprisingly, the “social” group left with an elevated mood and increased satisfaction with their shopping experience, but they also reaped a third, more unexpected benefit. Watch to find out what it was.

Elizabeth Dunn: One Great Reason to Interact with Cashiers


Modern financial institutions encourage a spend-now, pay-later mentality, exemplified by the ubiquity of the credit card. But is this wise, financially or in terms of happiness? In another study, 30 out of 30 participants underestimated their credit card bill—and by an average of 30 percent! And those with credit card debt experience greater emotional hardship: couples in debt experience more marital conflict, and not just about money.

Elizabeth Dunn: Avoiding the Emotional Toll of Debt


Dunn’s findings—including her five principles for happier spending—have been featured in numerous mainstream media outlets, such as The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, and The Times of London. To book speaker Elizabeth Dunn, author of Happy Money, contact The Lavin Agency, her exclusive speakers bureau. 

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exclusives | July 15, 2016