Misery is not miserly: sad and self-focused individuals spend more

Psychol Sci. 2008 Jun;19(6):525-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02118.x.


Misery is not miserly: Sadness increases the amount of money that decision makers give up to acquire a commodity. The present research investigated when and why the misery-is-not-miserly effect occurs. Drawing on William James's concept of the material self, we tested a model specifying relationships among sadness, self-focus, and the amount of money that decision makers spend. Consistent with our Jamesian hypothesis, results demonstrated that the misery-is-not-miserly effect occurs only when self-focus is high. That is, self-focus moderates the effect of sadness on spending. Moreover, mediational analyses revealed that, at sufficiently high levels, self-focus mediates (explains) the relationship between sadness and spending. Because the study used real commodities and real money, the results hold implications for everyday decisions, as well as implications for the development of theory. For example, economic theories of spending may benefit from incorporating psychological theories -- specifically, theories of emotion and the self -- into their models.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Decision Making*
  • Economics
  • Ego*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Male
  • Problem Solving
  • Psychoanalytic Theory
  • Self Concept