Do you feel a twinge of jealousy every time you see someone with colorful clothing, a creative mani, or a bold electronic device? Maybe you secretly lament that you chose another all-black thing or passed up a statement piece that gave you heart eyes. At the time, your decision might have seemed sensible, but a new study from USC Marshall shows that while consumers most often buy “safe” colors, people who purchase vibrant stuff like it more — and like it for a longer time, leading to increased overall happiness.

Two women on red background with glitter

In the study, researchers divided products into two groups based on arousal or excitement. The first group of high-arousal products all featured bold hues and busy patterns; the second group of products, labeled as low-arousal, featured solid colors such as silver, beige, and black. Next, researchers conducted a number of tests to figure out how participants felt about each product before using it. Finally, each person was allowed to use the product repeatedly for a set amount of time.

What the researchers uncovered is fascinating: Participants wrongly guessed how much they’d like the bright and colorful products that were grouped into the high-arousal designs category. Even more, they underestimated how much satisfaction they’d get from using a high-arousal product more than once.

So why do we choose neutrals, time and time again? The research suggests that we may feel like our choices are safer, or simply more practical: “Consumers likely find motivation in selecting low-arousal designs, be it because it makes matching different designs easier (clothes), because these designs are less likely to go out of style over time (furniture), or because the designs are more versatile over time (household items).”

Lead researcher Dr. Eva Buechel is an expert in future feeling and forecasting satisfaction. According to her, the study’s findings are important for buyers, designers and marketer because encouraging different aesthetic choices — like buying “exciting” stuff — can scientifically help improve self-expression and satisfaction.

Armed with this factual information, you don’t need to feel stuck when waffling between a bright dress or yet another classic choice. Living colorfully IS living happily. Dare to be bold and bright!

How do you shop? Tell us what kind of stuff you buy time and time again on Twitter @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)