Love thy stuff


Consumer identity is shaped by love of objects

How does the saying go? Love what you drive, don't drive what you love? The premise is that a sturdy, reliable car is a more prudent purchase than a flashy, speedy car. Whether practical or not, an article in the June 2005 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research reveals that love of one's possessions can play an exceptionally important role in a person's identity.

"Consider the vast number of objects and consumption activities that come and go in our lives; groceries, hobbies, vacations, clothing, clubs, gifts, tools, cars, movies, investments, computers, newspapers, art, books, furniture," argues Aaron Ahuvia (University of Michigan). "From this vast sea only a handful are loved. It is not surprising then that these few loved objects and activities play a special role in consumers' understandings of who they are as people."

Ahuvia's research explores how consumers construct their perceptions of who they are. In creating a narrative of self, possessions play an essential role.

"The people and things we love have a strong influence on our sense of who we are," explains Ahuvia. "This article investigates the possessions and activities that consumers love, and their role in the construction of a coherent identity narrative."

In today's world of consumerism, notes Ahuvia, it's impossible for a person's relationship with objects--some of which they love--to not impact who they are and who they want to be.

"Sometimes love-objects assist with symbolically demarcating the boundary between the self and identities that the consumer rejects. In other instances love-objects help to symbolically support an identity which combines potentially conflicting aspects of self--such as tensions between the consumer's past identity versus the person they want to become, or the conflicts between ideals of who the consumer should be, which are advocated by socializing agents."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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