Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 829–840 | Cite as

Caught in the Monkey Trap: Elaborating the Hypothesis for Why Income Aspiration Decreases Life Satisfaction

  • Tamás KellerEmail author
Research Paper


This research note links recent psychological research to literature about income aspiration, and advances the monkey-trap hypothesis for further research. It argues that what people have not yet acquired makes them dissatisfied, because it prevents them from enjoying what they have already accomplished. Therefore, people’s income aspirations limit their life satisfaction, in the sense that if they aspire to more, they feel less satisfaction. The empirical analysis, which uses two waves of Special Eurobarometer surveys in 27 European countries, finds support for this hypothesis, and reveals that income aspiration decreases life satisfaction. The results, however, should be interpreted with caution, on account of possible measurement issues. The implications of the results are discussed, in order to encourage future research on this question.


Income aspirations Minimum income Life satisfaction Wandering mind Focusing illusion Cross-country analysis 



This paper was supported by the János Bolyai Research Scholarship of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Center for Educational and Network Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Centre for Social SciencesBudapestHungary
  2. 2.Educational AuthorityBudapestHungary
  3. 3.TÁRKI Social Research InstituteBudapestHungary

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