Materialistic People Cope With Negative Events In The Worst Way

People who hold materialistic values automatically reach for the wrong solution.

People who hold materialistic values automatically reach for the wrong solution.

Shopping to try and recover from negative emotions can only make things worse, new research finds.

Typically, negative events make materialistic people run to the shops — but it only helps them feel better in the short-term.

The study examined how people coped with a terrorist attack in Israel.

Professor Rindfleisch, one of the study’s authors, said:

“Materialistic people cope with bad events through materialistic mechanisms.

When there’s a terrorist attack in Israel, people who are materialistic suffer higher levels of distress and are more likely to compensate for that through higher levels of compulsive and impulsive purchasing.”

The researchers found that people who were more materialistic had higher post-traumatic stress along with higher compulsive and impulsive consumption.

Professor Rindfleisch said:

“In times of stress, people often seek solace through shopping.

The idea here is that we need some form of a cultural-based coping mechanism, because the research suggests that there is actually a short-term fix with retail therapy.

Soon after purchasing something, there is a reduction of anxiety.

But it doesn’t last very long.

It’s fleeting.

Materialists seek that as one of their coping mechanisms.”

A separate survey carried out in the US found that low self-esteem made it harder to cope with difficult events.

Professor Rindfleisch said:

“You can think of terrorist attacks as a mortal threat to your life.

To replicate the study in the U.S., as a corollary, we asked people to tell us about their level of death anxiety.

Those who had more anxiety toward death were very similar to the groups who were under terrorist attacks in Israel.”

Professor Rindfleisch concluded:

“If you’re a materialistic individual and life suddenly takes a wrong turn, you’re going to have a tougher time recovering from that setback than someone who is less materialistic.

The research is novel in that an event that’s unrelated to materialism will have a stronger impact on someone because of their materialistic values.

In other words, materialism has a multiplier effect.

It’s a finding that I think is especially interesting given our consumer-driven economy.”

The study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science (Ruvio et al., 2013).

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This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.

It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.

I try to dig up fascinating studies that tell us something about what it means to be human.

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Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.