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Hedonic Treadmill

Kanab, Utah

November 21, 2020

Humpf. This idea explains a lot.

My walkabout is not immune to the hedonic treadmill but in a derivative way. I have not returned to what my “happiness set point” was before I retired. Where I was then was on the lowest end of my “happiness set point range.” I am on my way to returning to my true happiness set point range and living in the high end of the range. 😁


The hedonic treadmill, or hedonic adaptation as it is sometimes referred to is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite positive or negative changes. According to this theory, as a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent gain in happiness.

People are exposed to many messages that encourage them to believe that a change of weight, scent, hair color (or coverage), car, clothes, or many other aspects will produce a marked improvement in their happiness. Our research suggests a moral, and a warning: Nothing that you focus on will make as much difference as you think.

Daniel Kahneman
2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, and
founder of Behavioral Economics

When this is applied to data consumption, hedonic adaptation takes place when a consumer purchases data (e.g. as part of a mobile plan) which has a short term heightened affect on their perceived happiness levels. For example, if a consumer purchases a higher data allowance he will initially be happier, and then habituate to the larger data allowance and return to his happiness set point (adaptation).

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