Humans

Money can buy happiness if you know what you're doing, plus argumentative kids and good gifts in this week's news

Don’t worry, buy happy Studies find that money buys less happiness than most people think, but that’s because people don’t spend it right. Psychological research provides eight principles for getting a spending buzz that often go ignored, say psychologist Elizabeth Dunn of the University of British Columbia and her colleagues. In an upcoming Journal of Consumer Psychology , Dunn’s team recommends the following: Buy more experiences and fewer goods, spend on others, focus purchases on small pleasures, buy less insurance, pay first and consume later, assess the daily impact of major purchases, avoid comparison shopping and pay attention to purchases that make others happy. — Bruce Bower Kids’ argument clinic Preteens can be taught to argue better, and that’s a good thing — really. Kids who take twice-weekly classes from sixth to eighth grade in which they research and debate different sides of controversial public issues develop reasoning skills central to critical thinking and effective arguing, say psychologists Deanna Kuhn and Amanda Crowell of Columbia University in New York City. Unlike their peers, these youngsters increasingly considered opposing views, sought supporting evidence and tried to integrate perspectives when writing essays about controversies such as whether teachers should get raises according to merit or seniority, the researchers report in an upcoming Psychological Science . — Bruce Bower Why gifts go wrong Regifting is no fluke. Gift getters appreciate presents that they explicitly request more than surprises, whereas gift givers assume that solicited and unsolicited offerings will be equally valued, say Harvard economist Francesca Gino and Stanford business professor Francis Flynn. In surveys about wedding gifts, birthday presents and Amazon.com wish lists, gift givers typically thought that unrequested gifts would be considered more thoughtful by recipients than was actually the case, the researchers report in an upcoming Journal of Experimental Social Psychology . Although givers assumed that recipients frown on cash gifts, gift getters appreciated money more than a moderately priced gift from a wish list. — Bruce Bower Elusive tool insights Human culture may depend on an early-developing ability to learn about tools, not invent them. Although 4- to 7-year-olds easily use toy tools, the same youngsters surprisingly fizzle at concocting simple implements, finds a team led by psychologist Nicola Cutting of the University of Birmingham in England. Children usually couldn’t figure out that they could bend a pipe cleaner into a hook to remove an object from a flask, or straighten a bent pipe cleaner to make it long enough to poke an item out of a tube, the researchers report in an upcoming Journal of Experimental Child Psychology . — Bruce Bower

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