December 9th, 2012| Topic: RaMbLeS | 0


’Tis the season to spend, spend, and spend.

Just make sure you aren’t feeling sad when you go shopping.

In a joint research study conducted by investigators from Harvard, Columbia, and University of California (Riverside), they have discovered that sadness goes along with foolish financial decisions. Folks feeling miserable are prone to decide to be instantly gratified and go for the offer of less money right now, than to wait for later to make more money.

When caught between the choice of smaller amounts of cash now and that of larger sums three months down the line, sad sacks accepted 13% to 34% less money immediately than did their happy counterparts. The former didn’t care to wait.

Six hundred participants were assigned various mental states—neutral, disgusted, or sad. Neutrality was produced by watching underwater scenes of the Great Barrier Reef. Sadness was elicited by viewing a three-minute clip from The Champ, where a child watches his father die before him. Disgust was evoked with the use of a clip from Trainspotting, in which a guy reaches into a gross toilet.

When all was seen, said, and done, the median sad guy opted for $37 right away than for $85 three months later. Neutral folks needed more to fall for the immediate deal—about $56. The disgusted saps did not succumb like the sad ones; they behaved more like the neutral participants, proving that it wasn’t just any ol’ negative emotion that caused this differential. Immediate gratification, apparently, is specific for the feeling of sadness.

“The idea is that when you’re sad, you want to accelerate consumption,” announced Ye Li, co-author of the study, and member of the faculty at UC Riverside. “It’s all about getting money sooner.”

The researchers called this phenomenon “myopic misery”: sadness creating a myopic focus on obtaining goods instantly as opposed to later, even if it means taking a loss.

(Of course, none of the participants really got any money, making everybody sad!)

Dr. Li speculates that those unhappy folks who wanted the money right away were intending to spend it on themselves soon. “Retail therapy,” he called it, seeking instant gratification to neutralize or abrogate sadness. The good professor warned about the implications—rash purchases after a divorce; liquidation of stocks/estate of a loved one who has recently died, etc.

And holiday spending.

If you are in the throes of melancholy, in a mood somber and sepulchral, dejected and disconsolate, wan and woebegone, jaundiced and joyless, watch out. You’re sad. You want instant gratification.

I don’t doubt there’s a lot to be sad about these days. Economy. Politics. Cliffs. Wars. Morals. Health. Jobs.

However, there is reason for cheer. And not because of the glim and glitter, or the tinsel and trinkets, or bearded giants in red suits and baby ornaments in feeding troughs.

But because we are in Advent, the season in which the church has historically focused not only on the first coming but also the second coming of Jesus Christ.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,
instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires
and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,
looking for the blessed hope and the appearing
of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.
Titus 2:11–13

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Be happy. Not sad. Jesus is coming! Blessed hope, indeed!

(And save the money!)

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