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How does putting a price on time affect our ability to smell the roses?
Increasing evidence suggests that the mindsets associated with the concepts of time and money can differentially affect the happiness we derive from a given activity.
In three separate experiments we have demonstrated that bringing individuals’ effective hourly wage to their attention impairs the ability to derive happiness from pleasurable experiences. This effect was observed both when participants were free to create their own pleasant experience on the internet and when the pleasant experience was held constant in the form of listening to a beautiful piece of music. That participants’ reported different degrees of happiness subsequent to identical pleasant events suggest that thinking about time in terms of money impairs happiness by influencing the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’ of pleasant experiences.
In this paper, we investigate how the impatience that results from placing a price on time impairs individuals’ ability to derive happiness from pleasurable experiences. Experiment 1 demonstrated that thinking about one’s income as an hourly wage reduced the happiness that participants derived from leisure time on the internet. Experiment 2 revealed that a similar manipulation decreased participants’ state of happiness after listening to a pleasant song and that this effect was fully mediated by the degree of impatience experienced during the music. Finally, Experiment 3 showed that the deleterious effect on happiness caused by impatience was attenuated by offering participants monetary compensation in exchange for time spent listening to music, suggesting that a sensation of unprofitably wasted time underlay the induced impatience. Together these experiments establish that thinking about time in terms of money can influence how people experience pleasurable events by instigating greater impatience during unpaid time