DEFINITION of 'George Bailey Effect'

A feeling of increased gratefulness for what one has upon considering how much worse off one might be if a critical event or events had not occurred. The George Bailey Effect is a reference to the experience of protagonist, George Bailey, in the movie "A Wonderful Life." In the movie, Bailey considers suicide before a supernatural experience shows him that his community would be much worse off if he had not lived.

BREAKING DOWN 'George Bailey Effect'

In economics, Daniel Kahneman has observed that there is an "aspiration treadmill" in that people who achieve increased wealth do not report increased happiness versus those who have less. This is apparently because humans adjust their expectations upward at each level of wealth or success. By imagining an alternate scenario and practicing gratitude, however, some psychologists theorize that it may be possible to maintain a high level of satisfaction and partially avoid the treadmill of increasing expectations.

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