Materialism is foundational to Transformative Consumer Research (TCR). It plays a central role in many facets of consumer behavior. Although materialism is an old concept, it is only relatively recently that systematic investigations of materialism have been undertaken by consumer researchers. Most of this research has been devoted to establishing the negative outcomes of materialism. Indeed, these are numerous (depression, anxiety, unhappiness, overspending).
However, we believe that a simple focus on the relation between materialism and consumer welfare is overly restrictive. Although one of the goals of TCR is to improve consumer welfare, we think that a more holistic view and investigation of materialism holds the most promise for mitigating its negative effects.
Below are some examples of different approaches to studying materialism. Although we highlight these examples, we recognize that materialism is relevant to a broad range of topics, and we are open to all research on materialism whose end objective is to enhance consumer welfare.
- Most research has focused on the consequences of materialism, particularly the negative impacts on consumer welfare. Relatively less research has focused on the antecedents of materialism. Why are some people materialistic and others not? What are materialism's primary underlying motivations? Do the motivations differ across dimensions of materialism (e.g., success, happiness, and centrality)? Does materialism lead to less happiness and well-being for all consumers? Are there happy materialists, and if so, why?
- What are the mediating processes between materialism and its antecedents, and between materialism and its consequences? Does targeting the mediators represent a way to enhance consumer welfare?
- What is materialism's role in personal economic behavior? Our desire for acquisition has a profound impact on our spending, saving, investment, and a broad swath of economic decisions that influence consumer welfare.
- What is materialism's role in individual behavior? How does the desire for materials self-enhancement lead to overconsumption, influence social relationships (positive or negative), affect our allocation of resources, and ultimately, environmental sustainability?
- What is materialism's role in societal and collective behavior? Can our materialistic pursuits motivate us to support public policies that benefit us at the expense of the collective? Can materialism influence our support for taxation, subsidies, or labor practices?