People who place a high value on wealth,status,and stuff are more depressed and anxious and less sociable than those who do not,say researchers.
They also indicated that materialism is not just a personal problem. Its also environmental.
We found that irrespective of personality,in situations that activate a consumer mindset,people show the same sorts of problematic patterns in wellbeing,including negative affect and social disengagement, said Northwestern University psychologist Galen V. Bodenhausen.
Bodenhausen conducted the study with colleagues Monika A. Bauer,James E. B. Wilkie,and Jung K. Kim.
In two of four experiments,university students were put in a materialistic frame of mind by tasks that exposed them to images of luxury goods or words mobilizing consumerist values (versus neutral scenes devoid of consumer products or words without such connotations).
Completing questionnaires afterwards,those who looked at the pictures of cars,electronics,and jewellery rated themselves higher in depression and anxiety,less interested in social activities like parties,and more in solitary pursuits than the others.
Those primed to materialism by exposure to certain words evinced more competitiveness and less desire to invest their time in pro-social activities like working for a good cause.
In two other experiments,participants completed tasks that were framed as surveysone of consumer responses,another of citizens.
The first experiment involved moving words toward or away from the participants name on a computer screenpositive and negative emotion words and neutral ones that actually suggested materialism (wealth,power),self-restraint (humble,discipline),transcendence of self,or self-indulgence.
The people who answered the consumer response survey more quickly approached the words that reflected materialistic values than those in the citizen survey.
The last experiment presented participants with a hypothetical water shortage in a well shared by four people,including themselves. The water users were identified either as consumers or individuals.
Might the collective identity as consumersas opposed to the individual rolesupersede the selfishness ordinarily stimulated by the consumer identity? No:
The consumers rated themselves as less trusting of others to conserve water,less personally responsible and less in partnership with the others in dealing with the crisis.
The consumer status,the authors concluded did not unite; it divided.
The findings have both social and personal implications,said Bodenhausen.
Its become commonplace to use consumer as a generic term for people, in the news or discussions of taxes,politics,or health care. If we use term such as Americans or citizens instead,he says,that subtle difference activates different psychological concerns, explained Bodenhausen
We can also take personal initiative to reduce the depressive,isolating effects of a materialist mindset by avoiding its stimulantsmost obviously,advertising. One method: Watch less TV, he added.