, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 90-101
Date: 31 Jul 2013

When bad gets worse: the amplifying effect of materialism on traumatic stress and maladaptive consumption

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Abstract

Our research explores the amplifying effect of materialism on the experience of traumatic stress and maladaptive consumption via both an Israeli field study and a U.S. national survey. Our field study assesses the moderating impact of materialism upon both traumatic stress and maladaptive consumption among participants from an Israeli town under terrorist attack vs. participants from an Israeli town not exposed to hostilities. Our survey examines the possible underlying processes behind these effects among a nationally representative sample of Americans. The Israeli study reveals that, when faced with a mortal threat such as a terrorist attack, highly materialistic individuals report higher levels of post-traumatic stress, compulsive consumption, and impulsive buying than their less materialistic counterparts. Our U.S. study suggests that these effects are likely due to the fact that materialistic individuals exhibit lower levels of self-esteem, which reduces their ability to cope with traumatic events. Thus, our results indicate that, in addition to its well-documented harmful direct effect on psychological well-being, materialism also exerts an indirect negative effect by making bad events even worse.