Tim Kasser, Professor and Chair of Psychology at Knox College, answers questions related to the life we live today.
TK: There are two main sources that our research has identified over the years. The first main source is pretty obvious and that’s social modelling. There’s substantial evidence showing that when people are exposed to messages in their social surroundings which suggest that materialism is an important aim to strive for, they are more materialistic themselves. We’ve seen that people’s levels of materialism are positively correlated with their parents’ levels of materialism, with their friends’ levels of materialism, and with their level of exposure to commercials on television. The second major set of influences on whether or not people are materialistic is what we call ‘insecurity’ or ‘threat’. Several different kinds of studies show that people focus more on materialistic values if they were exposed to threatening circumstances when they were younger, or if they are reminded of threats in laboratory manipulations.