Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Benjamin Wallace on the price of happiness

By Carlee C.

Can money really buy happiness? Is the most expensive item often the best? In most cases, no, but we are just now starting to realize how our brains connect happiness with money. This is the focus of Bejamin Wallace's TED Talk.

Mr. Wallace began his speech by explaining his incentive behind doing this study. "I became increasingly, kind of voyeuristically interested in the question of you know, why do people spend these crazy amounts of money, not only on wine but on lots of things, and are they living a better life than me?" To answer this question of his he, "...decided to embark on a quest. With the generous backing of a magazine I write for sometimes, I decided to sample the very best, or most expensive, or most coveted item in about a dozen categories." Some of the things he tested were; beef, clothing, vehicles, lavish deserts, and expensive hotels rooms. He reported that several of the food products that were advertised to be amazing were simply a disappointment. This also goes for clothing. The magazine paid for a pair of $800 pants made in Japan from organic materials and he had not received one complement during the period of 8 months. This just goes to show that no matter what the price is, the final outcome could be very similar as something of that same nature.

The main focus of Benjamin Wallace's talk was emphasizing his opinion on the many different products he tried. He did not explain why we are automatically drawn to the higher priced items. At the very end of his speech he gave some statistics and a study that was done to explain briefly the reasoning behind the thinking of the more expensive, the better. " which came out earlier this year from some researchers at Stanford and Caltech. And they gave subjects the same wine, labeled with different price tags. A lot of people, you know, said that they liked the more expensive wine more -- it was the same wine, but they thought it was a different one that was more expensive. But what was unexpected was that these researchers did MRI brain imaging while the people were drinking the wine, and not only did they say they enjoyed the more expensively labeled wine more -- their brain actually registered as experiencing more pleasure from the same wine when it was labeled with a higher price tag." Overall, he spoke clearly and confidently. He used humour and gave an entertaining speech. However, it was not very informative and did not have serve much of a purpose.

In conclusion, I do not believe that you can put a price on happiness. There are many ways manufacturers portray items to the public to persuade them that the more expensive products are always better. As we can see through Mr. Wallace's experience trying out the most "exquisite meals" and "comfiest beds," happiness cannot be bought. Although, happiness can be heavily influenced by expensive and lavish items.

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