DEFINITION of 'Hedonic Treadmill'

The tendency of a person to remain at a relatively stable level of happiness despite a change in fortune or the achievement of major goals. According to the hedonic treadmill, as a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent gain in happiness.

Also known as the "hedonistic treadmill".

BREAKING DOWN 'Hedonic Treadmill'

The hedonic treadmill theory explains the oft-held observation that rich people are no happier than poor people, and that those with severe money problems are sometimes quite happy. The theory supports the argument that money does not buy happiness and that the pursuit of money as a way to reach this goal is futile. Good and bad fortunes may temporarily affect how happy a person is, but most people will end up back at their normal level of happiness.

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