Age differences in children's happiness from material goods and experiences: The role of memory and theory of mind

Lan Nguyen Chaplin, Tina M. Lowrey, Ayalla A. Ruvio, L. J. Shrum, Kathleen D. Vohs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Adults view past experiences as making them happier than material goods, yet products and brands are highly coveted by children, even at young ages. Using a child developmental framework, we reconcile these two perspectives. Across four studies with children and adolescents of ages 3–17 years, we show that children (ages 3–12) derive more happiness from goods than from experiences, but the effect changes over time. As children age, the happiness they derive from experiences increases, to the point that older adolescents derive more happiness from experiences than from material goods, consistent with adult findings. We show that these effects are mediated by increases in two cognitive skills: memory and theory of mind, which we posit are necessary for a sufficient comprehension of experiences and their implications, which in turn facilitates their enjoyment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Journal of Research in Marketing
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020
Externally publishedYes



  • Children
  • Experiences
  • Happiness
  • Materialism
  • Memory
  • Theory of mind

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