Connecting dots

Feeling powerless leads to expensive purchases | Science Blog

Feeling powerless can trigger strong desires to purchase products that convey high status, according to new research in the Journal of Consumer Research.

In a study that may explain why so many Americans who are deeply in debt still spend beyond their means, authors Derek D. Rucker and Adam D. Galinsky (both Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University) found that research subjects who were asked to recall times when someone else had power over them were willing to pay higher prices for status-symbol items.

Is it just me, or is this a great explanation for the stereotype of housebound, male-dominated women supposedly buying a lot of stuff?

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  1. Maura
    June 26, 2008

    As far as anecdotes, I do know folks who grew up in poverty and either went into debt buying for others or themselves to get a stake of the claim. It’s a symptom of especially the lower-middle class according to the classic “Class” text i have at home – forget the author.

    Ah materialism. As for me, overspending was my way of falsely expressing the assumed social identity i had after getting my degrees- i was still underemployed but needed to feel as if i was among the professional class.

    But, this study explains the 50’s and 90’s quite well. I think the women’s issue is more complex. Sometimes instead of overspending a woman will just cut her hair- a few friends of mine were working on an oral history anthology about that.

  2. June 28, 2008

    I think it also accounts in some way the obsession with status items in urban culture.

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