Materialism and Quality of Life

Abstract

An attempt is made in this paper to establish a foundation for a theory of materialism and quality of life. The theory posits that overall life satisfaction (quality of life) is partly determined by satisfaction with standard of living. Satisfaction with standard of living, in turn, is determined by evaluations of one's actual standard of living compared to a set goal. Materialists experience greater dissatisfaction with their standard of living than nonmaterialists, which in turn spills over to overall life causing dissatisfaction with life in general. Materialists experience dissatisfaction with their standard of living because they set standard of living goals that are inflated and unrealistically high. These goals set by materialists are more influenced by affective-based expectations (such as ideal, deserved, and need-based expectations) than cognitive-based ones (such as predictive, past, and ability based expectations). Materialists' ideal standard-of-living expectations are influenced by social comparisons involving remote referents, more so than comparisons involving standards that are situationally imposed. Examples of situationally-imposed standards are perceptions of wealth, income, and material possessions of family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and so on. In contrast, examples of standards based on remote sources are perceptions of standard of living of others in one's community, town, state, country, other countries; perceptions of standard of living of others based on gender, age, education, ethnicity, occupation, and social class. This tendency to use remote referents in social comparisons may account for materialists' inflated and value-laden expectations of their standard of living. Materialists' deserved standard-of-living expectations are influenced by the tendency to engage in equity comparisons involving income and work. Thus, materialists compare themselves with others that seem to have more income and worked no harder. These equity comparisons generate feelings of inequity, injustice, anger, or envy. These emotions may also account for materialists' inflated and value-laden expectations of their standard of living. Materialists' standard-of-living expectations based on minimum needs are influenced by the tendency to spend more than generate income. This proclivity to overconsume and underproduce may be partly responsible for materialists' inflated and value-laden expectations of their standard of living.

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Sirgy, M.J. Materialism and Quality of Life. Social Indicators Research 43, 227–260 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1006820429653

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Keywords

  • Life Satisfaction
  • Social Class
  • Social Comparison
  • Actual Standard
  • Material Possession