People Who Experience Traumatic Events Tend To Spend Compulsively
September 26, 2013

Terrorist Attacks Lead Materialistic People To Shop

Lee Rannals for – Your Universe Online

According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, terrorist attacks lead materialistic people to look for comfort in their credit card.

Researchers determined that when materialistic people experience traumatic events like a terrorist attack, it makes them more likely to spend compulsively.

“When the going gets tough, the materialistic go shopping,” according to Ayalla Ruvio, assistant professor of marketing in MSU's Broad College of Business. “And this compulsive and impulsive spending is likely to produce even greater stress and lower well-being. Essentially, materialism appears to make bad events even worse.”

Ruvio and colleagues surveyed 139 citizens from a southern Israeli town under extreme rocket attacks from Palestine for about six months in 2007. The team also surveyed 170 residents from another Israeli town that was not under attack. They found that when highly materialistic people are faced with a mortal threat they were much more likely to experience post-traumatic stress symptoms and impulsive and compulsive buying than less materialistic counterparts.

“The relationship between materialism and stress may be more harmful than commonly thought,” Ruvio said.

Ayalia, who is from northern Israel, said that these possession-driven people tend to have lower self-esteem than others, and experiencing a traumatic event doesn't help this struggle either.

The team also set out to examine the factors behind the effects of materialism seen in Israel. They surveyed 855 US residents and asked them about their materialistic nature and fear of death. This survey found that materialistic people are more likely to relieve fear of death through out-of-control spending.

Researchers said that the effects of a shopping spree after an attack occurred not just in response to a specific threat, but as a way to cope with general anxiety about mortality. The findings suggest that materialism's effect on extreme stress could be driven by a global response to fear of death and low self-esteem.

The results from this study could play into other areas of stress as well, such as automobile accidents, criminal attacks or natural disasters. Ruvio said a future study should address the relationship between stress and materialism in different contexts.

A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research in July found that loneliness could be a cause of materialism. This study found that singles pursued material possessions less for pleasure, and more as a "material medicine." These researchers also saw that men were more likely to view possessions as a measure of success in life and as a material medicine, whereas women viewed them as a source of "material mirth."