Material and consumer identities

Dittmar, Helga (2011) Material and consumer identities. In: Schwartz, Seth J, Luyckx, Koen and Vignoles, Vivian L (eds.) Handbook of identity theory and research: domains and categories. Springer, New York, pp. 745-769. ISBN 9781441979872

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One increasingly powerful context in which individuals construct and express their identities is the material and consumer culture we live in. Having the ‘right’ material goods has become vital to many, not so much because of these goods themselves, but because of hoped-for psychological benefits, such as moving closer to an ideal identity, creating a desired social image, and achieving positive emotional states. Having, buying, and desiring material goods has a profound impact on individuals’ identities and their well-being (Dittmar, 2008). This chapter starts with a sketch of contemporary material and consumer culture as a significant context for identity processes, and develops a theoretical framework for understanding how material goods become incorporated into identity. Second, it outlines an integrative model of identity-related functions of material goods, and reviews pertinent research with respect to each function, in relation to both favourite personal possessions and acquiring new consumer goods. Third, although material goods can, and do, have positive functions for individuals’ identity, a strong emphasis on having and buying goods in order to make ourselves feel better and move closer to an ideal identity can have negative consequences for well-being. This is illustrated in a selective review of research on the link between materialistic values and well-being, as well as on the search for a better self in compulsive buying, a dysfunctional consumer behaviour, in both conventional and online buying environments. Thus, interventions are needed to protect vulnerable individuals from a maladaptive pursuit of material and consumer identities.

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Depositing User: Helga Dittmar
Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2017 09:02
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2017 09:02
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