Hedonic Treadmill

Image created with Midjourney. Image prompt:
Image created with Midjourney. Image prompt: Visualize a sleek, 2D, minimalistic illustration of a person running on a treadmill, with a colorful, vibrant lottery ticket in their hand. As they run, the colors from the ticket start to fade, symbolizing the fleeting happiness from the win. In the background, the same person is seen standing, neutrally colored, symbolizing their state before the win

Creating a successful digital product goes beyond just building functional software—it's about creating a user experience that brings value and satisfaction to the end-user. However, sustaining user satisfaction can be a challenging task due to a psychological phenomenon known as the Hedonic Treadmill.

The Hedonic Treadmill, also known as Hedonic Adaptation, is a theory suggesting that people return to their baseline level of happiness, regardless of positive or negative events that occur in their lives. A prime example is lottery winners, who, after an initial burst of happiness, often return to their previous levels of happiness after some time.

Real-World Application of the Hedonic Treadmill


Facebook constantly updates its user interface and features, keeping the platform fresh and engaging. Despite initial user resistance to these changes, many adapt to the new interface and features over time, and their satisfaction returns to the baseline. This is a classic case of the Hedonic Treadmill at work, where the novelty of the change creates a temporary spike in user happiness, which eventually fades back to the baseline level.

Video Games

Many video games employ a rewards-based system, providing players with a sense of achievement and satisfaction. However, over time, players become used to these rewards, and their impact on player happiness diminishes—a clear demonstration of the Hedonic Treadmill. Game developers combat this by continuously introducing new challenges and rewards to sustain player engagement.

Smartphone Industry

The smartphone industry is another great example. New phone releases initially excite consumers, but this excitement fades over time as users adapt to their new devices. The Hedonic Treadmill in this context pushes smartphone companies to constantly innovate and release new models to keep consumers engaged and satisfied.

The Hedonic Treadmill in Digital Software Creation

The concept of the Hedonic Treadmill is highly relevant in the realm of digital software creation for the following reasons:

User Satisfaction

Understanding the Hedonic Treadmill can help software developers predict and manage user satisfaction levels over time. It's crucial to regularly introduce new features or improvements that keep the product engaging and prevent user satisfaction from stagnating.

Product Life Cycle

The Hedonic Treadmill suggests that novelty wears off over time. Therefore, it's essential to plan for regular updates and iterations of your software product to sustain user engagement and satisfaction throughout the product's lifecycle.

Feedback Mechanisms

The Hedonic Treadmill also underscores the importance of continuous feedback mechanisms in software creation. Regular user feedback helps developers identify areas that need improvement and introduce changes that enhance user satisfaction.


In conclusion, the Hedonic Treadmill presents a unique challenge in sustaining user satisfaction in digital software products. By understanding this concept and designing strategies to counteract its effects, software developers can create products that engage and satisfy users over the long term.