Materialistic values and goals - Kasser (2016) - Article


How do we measure and conceptualize materialism? 

Most empirical research on materialism measure materialism as a value that reflects the extent to which an individual believes that it is important to acquire money and possessions, as well as to strive for the related aims of an appealing image and high status/popularity, both of which are frequently expressed via money and possessions. Probably the most widely used device to assess materialism at a dispositional level is Richins & Dawson’s (1992) Material Values Scale. The MVS consists of three subscales: the centrality of acquisition to a person’s life, the beliefs that acquisition provides happiness and signifies success.

How does dispositional materialism correlate? 

The pattern of materialism’s relationships to other psychological constructs should depend on whether materialism is compatible or in conflict with those other constructs. Materialism should correlate positively with experiences, attitudes, and behaviors relevant to amassing wealth and possessions, to being concerned about image and popularity, and to pursuing hedonistic pleasures, as these aims are relatively consistent withmaterialistic values and goals and it should correlate negatively with  experiences, attitudes, and behaviors relevant to prosocial, community, and other self-transcendent concerns, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, with personal growth/self-acceptance strivings, as these aims stand in relative conflict with materialistic pursuits. 

What is the correlation of materialism with financial and consumption attitudes? 

The priority people place on materialism should be positively associated with consuming at high rates. Individuals who prioritize materialistic values/goals are rather “loose” with their money, as they have worse money management skills and more gambling problems and compulsive consumption problems. Materialism seems to be associated with difficulty holding back one’s desires to buy stuff. Status concerns are also notable in the motives of people scoring high in materialism, as such individuals typically report wanting to make money for reasons such as to have a house and cars that are better than those of their neighbors. 

What is the correlation of materialism with social attitudes? 

Materialism is associated with more interpersonal problems and with negative social attitudes toward other people. It is associated with shorter and lower-quality interpersonal relationships. Materialism is also associated with treating other people in more self-serving ways. In business settings, materialism is negatively correlated with caring about corporate social responsibility and positively correlated with interpersonally deviant workplace behaviors. It also predicts more competitive (and less cooperative) behavior. Finally, people high in materialism have a stronger social dominance orientation, hold more prejudicial beliefs about out-group members.

What is the correlation of materialism with ecological attitudes? 

Materialism should be associated with caring less about ecological sustainability. They engage in fewer environmentally beneficial behaviors and have higher ecological footprints than those who place a low priority on materialism. 

What is the correlation of materialism with educational and job motivation? 

Because external rewards such as money and grades typically undermine intrinsic motivation, and because intrinsic motivations are reflected in the self-direction and self-acceptance goals that conflict somewhat with materialistic goals, a materialistic focus might be negatively associated with motivation in work and educational domains. 

What is the correlation of materialism with personal well-being? 

Materialism is negatively associated with personal well-being, but that depends on the ways that materialism and well-being were each measured. Attempts to understand when and why materialism correlates negatively with well-being have spawned several theories and empirical investigations. Negative associations between materialism and well-being were generally robust across study.

Study shows that lower need satisfaction would result as the quality of one’s interpersonal relations declines, as one spends less time pursuing “something bigger” than one’s self, and as one’s motives are increasingly driven by status and rewards rather than freedom and interest.

How can you momentary activate materialism? 

Everyone has some concepts of materialism, at least to some extent, because they represent fundamental motivations basic to all humans. Two predictable sets of effects from activation were found. First, activation of a value/goal should increase behaviors and attitudes that reflect the values/goals that are consistent with the activated value/goal; this can be called a bleed-over effect. Second, activation of a value/goal should suppress behaviors and attitudes that reflect the values/goals that are in conflict with the activated value/goal; this can be called a seesaw effect. 

What does research say about activation? 

The bleed-over effect is shown by using experiments, which shows that you can activate materialism by encountering people in a certain way. Being referred to as a “consumer” rather than a “citizen” causes study participants to have more positive implicit evaluations of the self-enhancing values with which materialism is consistent A materialistic prime causes a shift toward greater concern with topics, values, self-concepts, and economic systems. Several studies also show that momentarily activating materialism (versus other topics) causes people to be less likely to help others and to donate money. Motivation for academic behavior is also affected by activatingmaterialistic values/goals. Framing a task as concerning extrinsic (rather than intrinsic) goals caused decreased depth of processing, persistence, and performance. Further, thinking about one’s time as money (versus control procedures) caused increased feelings of impatience, decreased happiness from leisure-time activities on the Internet, and decreased pleasure from listening to a song. 

In what ways can you decrease materialism?

There are three sets of strategies to decrease materialistic values.

  • Activating and encouraging the values/goals that stand in relative opposition to materialistic values/goals. Those interventions should support healthy attitudes and should reap the additional benefit of suppressing materialistic values. When people focus on materialistic values/goals, they tend to deprioritize behaviors and attitudes associated with the intrinsic and self-transcendent values/goals. 
  • Attempts to reduce the extent to which people are exposed to and affected by messages in their social surroundings suggesting that money, possessions, status, and image are important values. Exposure to materialistic messages causes people to prioritize these values.
  • Helping people to feel less insecure, threatened, and worried about their ability to satisfy their physical and psychological needs. Threat and insecurity cause people to place a relatively high priority on materialistic values/goals. If these threats can be reduced, or if people can learn to respond to these threats differently, materialism should decline. 

What interventions decrease materialism? 

When people are led to focus on intrinsic and selftranscendent values/goals, they shift away from materialistic values. Environmental norms also mitigate the tendency to behave in more materialistic and greedy ways after thinking about one’s own death  Interventions that improve people’s feelings of security also cause decreases in materialism. Further, when individuals who participated in a meditation program became more mindful, they also reported smaller gaps between their current and desired financial situation; this, in turn, benefitted their well-being. Interventions with adults can also help children become less susceptible to consumer culture’s influences. 

What policies decrease materialism? 

Materialistic values/goals can become less important when people orient their lives around intrinsic and self-transcendent values/goals. Individual-level attempts to orient away from materialistic values/goals will be hampered when people are frequently encouraged by their peers, employers, media, and government to focus on materialistic values. Cultural and economic shifts of these sortswill require broader policy changes. Alternative indicators, in contrast, typically focus on intrinsic and self-transcendent values/goals by directly assessing well-being, interpersonal connections, the health of one’s community and natural environment, etc. 

What is the main conclusion? 

Although materialism may have trait-like and identity-like features, but materialism must be seen as a set of values with particular dynamic relations to the other aims in the human value/goal system. Besidesan accurate attitude is to recognize that everyone has materialistic tendencies. These tendencies can be activated in a particular moment, enhanced when we see them modeled in society, and brought on by temporary or chronic feelings of threat or insecurity. A question that needs to be asked by researchers is when people are materialistic. The final conclusion is that materialism is not likely to disappear from the human psyche. Researches must aim to find out how someone can live without the materialistic tendencies to run rampant over other valuable aims in life. 

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