Menus Subscribe Search

Quick Studies

yacht

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Science: Owning Yachts Much Better Than Merely Chartering Them

• April 30, 2014 • 5:00 AM

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

When it comes to luxury products, owning them makes you much more satisfied with your life than using them.

Swilling champagne and shoveling Almas Beluga caviar into your mouth with diamond-ring-encrusted fingers makes you happier than swilling knock-off sparkling wine and shoveling Lumpfish caviar into your mouth with ringless fingers.

Or, so it is decreed by science. Research has shown “that luxury consumption positively affects an individuals subjective well-being.” According to a study in the April issue of Applied Research in Quality of Life:

The study of Hudders and Pandelaere, for instance, shows that the frequent spending of money on luxury brands in various product categories, such as accessories, clothing, or travel is positively related to Satisfaction With Life (SWL). This implies that spending money on Gucci bags, Abercrombie & Kent travel or Godiva chocolates has a more positive impact on an individuals well-being than spending money on less luxurious counterparts, such as H&M handbags, Guylian chocolates or cheaptickets.com travel.

Of course, these types of studies, which “equate consumption with ownership,” raise a key question: “Because ownership implies that one retains possessions after product use, it remains unclear whether it is the mere use (i.e. using the product without owning it) or the ownership of luxury products that positively affects an individual’s well-being.”

In other words, do you benefit from riding on your friend’s yacht in the same way that you benefit when you purchase and name your own yacht after your late great grandfather Cornelius IV, a name which you pay Damien Hirst to paint sumptuously in gold on the hull?

In order to figure out the answer the researchers conducted a faux product evaluation test with 307 subjects. The real purpose of the experiment was testing how “mere use” of “luxury” pens and chocolate versus ownership affected people’s perceptions of their own satisfaction with life. In the use-conditions, subjects were allowed to sample the chocolate and use the pen, but in the ownership conditions, they were allowed to take the products home to own. The results:

[T]he mere use of luxuries seems to decrease an individuals SWL. This is observed for both a durable (a pen) and a non-durable (a chocolate). These results may provide some preliminary evidence that mere use of luxury products seems to be detrimental for ones SWL.

Why, besides the fact that you’re being overtaken by the emptiness of your own soul-crushing materialism, is this the case? The authors speculate that when a person uses a luxury product, without owning it, they might imagine a depressing ideal version of themselves, the one who could have captured that investment banking job and surfed down mountains of gold to a life of luxury pens (and binge cocaine use). “This typically evokes psychological discomfort and accordingly, may negatively affect an individuals SWL,” the authors conclude.

The research indicates that you’re not doing anyone any favors by letting them borrow your snazzy private jet. Science has yet to test the effects of yacht dockage fees on SWL.

Ryan Jacobs
Associate Digital Editor Ryan Jacobs joined Pacific Standard from The Atlantic, where he wrote for and produced the magazine’s Global and China channels online. Before that, he was a senior editorial fellow at Mother Jones. Follow him on Twitter @Ryanj899.

More From Ryan Jacobs

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

July 30 • 2:04 PM

The Rise of the Nuisance Flood

Minor floods are afflicting parts of Maryland nearly ten times more often than was the case in the 1960s.


July 30 • 2:00 PM

The (Mostly Awful) Things You Learn After Investigating Unpaid Internships for a Year

Though the intern economy remains opaque, dialogue about the role of interns in the labor force—and protections they deserve—is beginning to take shape.


July 30 • 12:00 PM

Why Coffee Shortages Won’t Change the Price of Your Frappuccino

You’re so loyal to Starbucks—and the company knows it—that your daily serving of caffeine is already marked up beyond the reach of any fluctuations in supply.



July 30 • 10:00 AM

Having Difficult Conversations With Your Children

Why it’s necessary, and how to do it.


July 30 • 8:00 AM

How to Make a Convincing Sci-Fi Movie on a Tight Budget

Coherence is a good movie, and its initial shoot cost about the same amount of money as a used Prius.


July 30 • 6:00 AM

Are You Really as Happy as You Say You Are?

Researchers find a universal positivity bias in the way we talk, tweet, and write.


July 30 • 4:00 AM

The Declining Wage Gap for Gay Men

New research finds gay men in America are rapidly catching up with straight married men in terms of wages.


July 30 • 2:00 AM

LeBron James Migration: Big Chef Seeking Small Pond

The King’s return to Cleveland is a symbol for the dramatic shift in domestic as well as international migration.


July 29 • 4:00 PM

Are Children Seeking Refuge Turning More Americans Against Undocumented Immigrants?

A look at Pew Research Center survey data collected in February and July of this year.


July 29 • 2:00 PM

Under Water: The EPA’s Ongoing Struggle to Combat Pollution

Frustration and inaction color efforts to enforce the Clean Water Act.


July 29 • 12:40 PM

America’s Streams Are Awash With Pesticides Banned in Europe

You may have never heard of clothianidin, but it’s probably in your local river.


July 29 • 12:00 PM

Mining Your Genetic Data for Profit: The Dark Side of Biobanking

One woman’s personal story raises deep questions about the stark limits of current controls in a nascent industry at the very edge of the frontier of humans and technology.


July 29 • 11:23 AM

Where Should You Go to College?


July 29 • 10:29 AM

How Textbooks Have Changed the Face of War

War is more personal, less glorious, and more hellish in modern textbooks than in the past. But there’s still room for improvement.


July 29 • 10:00 AM

The Monolingual American: Why Are Those Outside of the U.S. Encouraging It?

If you are an American trying to learn German in a large German town or city, you will mostly hear English in return, even when you give sprechen your best shot.


July 29 • 8:00 AM

The Elusive Link Between Casinos and Crime

With a study of the impact of Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino, a heated debate gets fresh ammunition.


July 29 • 6:00 AM

What Are the Benefits of Locking Yourself in a Tank and Floating in Room-Temperature Saltwater?

After three sessions in an isolation tank, the answer’s still not quite clear.


July 29 • 4:00 AM

Harry Potter and the Battle Against Bigotry

Kids who identify with the hero of J.K. Rowling’s popular fantasy novels hold more open-minded attitudes toward immigrants and gays.


July 29 • 2:00 AM

Geographic Scale and Talent Migration: Washington, D.C.’s New Silver Line

Around the country, suburbs are fighting with the urban core over jobs and employees.


July 28 • 4:00 PM

Border Fences Make Unequal Neighbors and Enforce Social Inequality

What would it look like if you combined Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, demographically speaking? What about the United States and Guatemala?


July 28 • 2:00 PM

Are Patient Privacy Laws Being Misused to Protect Medical Centers?

A 1996 law known as HIPAA has been cited to scold a mom taking a picture of her son in a hospital, to keep information away from police investigating a possible rape at a nursing home, and to threaten VA whistleblowers.


July 28 • 12:00 PM

Does Internet Addiction Excuse the Death of an Infant?

In Love Child, documentary filmmaker Valerie Veatch explores how virtual worlds encourage us to erase the boundary between digital and real, no matter the consequences.


July 28 • 11:11 AM

NASA Could Build Entire Spacecrafts in Space Using 3-D Printers

This year NASA will experiment with 3-D printing small objects in space. That could mark the beginning of a gravity-free manufacturing revolution.


July 28 • 10:00 AM

Hell Isn’t for Real

You may have seen pictures of the massive crater in Siberia. It unfortunately—or fortunately—does not lead to the netherworld.


Follow us


Subscribe Now

The Rise of the Nuisance Flood

Minor floods are afflicting parts of Maryland nearly ten times more often than was the case in the 1960s.

America’s Streams Are Awash With Pesticides Banned in Europe

You may have never heard of clothianidin, but it's probably in your local river.

How Textbooks Have Changed the Face of War

War is more personal, less glorious, and more hellish in modern textbooks than in the past. But there’s still room for improvement.

NASA Could Build Entire Spacecrafts in Space Using 3-D Printers

This year NASA will experiment with 3-D printing small objects in space. That could mark the beginning of a gravity-free manufacturing revolution.

The Most Popular Ways to Share Good and Bad Personal News

Researchers rank the popularity of all of the different methods we have for telling people about our lives, from Facebook to face-to-face.

The Big One

One in two full-time American fast-food workers' families are enrolled in public assistance programs, at a cost of $7 billion per year. July/August 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.