The study, published in the February issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, found that sub categorising things may be the key to slowing the hedonic treadmill. The hedonic treadmill is a theory which compares the pursuit of happiness to a person on a treadmill, who has to keep working just to stay in the same place. The theory states that humans adapt very quickly to good things, and end up taking these things for granted. We soon get used to a new car or a new pair of shoes, and these things no longer provide us with the pleasure they once did. This means that people are always looking for the next possession or accomplishment in order to feel happy.
In one of three studies, participants were asked to eat 22 fruit flavored jelly beans (cherry, orange, strawberry, peach, tangerine) while rating their enjoyment. At the end the participants were asked to indicate: how well they could distinguish the flavors, how much they noticed different flavors, how similar the jelly beans seemed to one another, and how much variety they perceived.
People given specific flavor labels (e.g. peach ) became less satiated and kept enjoying the jelly beans for longer than those given the general label ?jellybean?. Though everyone ate the same variety of jelly beans, those give the ?jellybeans? compared to ?strawberry jellybean? or ?tangerine jellybean? to eat gave lower assessments as the experiment wore on, despite the fact that both groups rated them equally at the beginning of the study. The authors also found similar results for experiences that were more cognitive (e.g. studying)
Redden, the lead author, does caution that ?countering satiation may also potentially have a negative effect by reducing one deterrent to mindless over-consumption?
He says that 'Consumers should find sub categorization especially useful when facing limited options, developing expertise, or following a repetitive regimen. Regardless of how they use the findings, the current research establishes that sub categorization offers people the potential to make their lives more enjoyable