People who frequently relocate for work, school or simply to ‘wipe the slate clean’ are more likely to develop an attitude that just as the material objects — like furniture and books — social relationships too can be replaced, suggests new research.
“We found a correlation between the way you look at objects and perceive your relationships,” said lead study author Omri Gillath, associate professor of psychology at University of Kansas in the US. “If you move around a lot, you develop attitudes of ‘disposability’ toward objects, furniture, books, devices — basically whatever merchandise you have at home, your car even,” Gillath noted.
In four separate studies, the researchers tied the view that objects are disposable to an attitude that social relationships also could be replaced. The findings will be published in the journal Personal Relationships. The study participants completed questionnaires measuring willingness to dispose of objects or relationship partners. Some of the participants were primed to imagine scenarios that involved the probability of relocating.
Analyses showed that perception of objects as disposable is associated with perceiving friends the same way. A personal history of greater mobility is tied to a higher readiness to dispose of objects and also close social ties like friendships and romantic relationships, the findings showed.
The study points to a mobile society characterised by disposability — which tends to promote superficiality over profounder human relationships. “If you are willing to move for school or a job, you have a higher chance of being successful. But we’re saying it also makes things superficial and disposable. It might be fine to have disposable diapers, but not disposable friendships,” Gillath said.