DOI: 10.1002/mar.21886 ISSN:

Skills make you happy: Why high (vs. low) skill activities make consumers happier, yet they don't choose them

Max Alberhasky, Raj Raghunathan
  • Marketing
  • Applied Psychology


High‐skill activities—defined as those for which ability increases with practice over time—tend to contribute more to well‐being than do low‐skill ones. Nevertheless, consumers may spend the majority of their leisure time partaking in low‐skill activities (e.g., watching television, listening to music, web surfing)—despite correctly recognizing that higher‐skill activities, despite requiring more effort, are more happiness‐inducing. We explore this paradox in the present research. Results from five experiments (three online experiments and two lab experiments) confirm that consumers report being happier when spending time on high (vs. low) skill activities, and that the increased happiness from these high‐skill activities is mediated by increased “flow” from them. Expertise in an activity moderates this effect, such that those who are relative experts in a high‐skill activity experience increased happiness and meaning compared to those who are amateurs. We discuss how consumers can utilize this knowledge to improve their well‐being, and how marketers and employers can build on our findings to enhance customer and employee satisfaction.

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