My latest piece for LAist just went up:
Retail therapy: It's the answer for almost any problem. Girlfriend broke up with you? Didn't get that promotion? Buy yourself something pretty. People like to shop, especially for high-status items, when they're feeling down. Decades of research has indicated that when a key feature of one's identity is threatened - such as by being passed over for a promotion or being dumped by a former lover - people turn to things. Possessions can allow us to signal our awesomeness to others. And if others think we're awesome, then we just might begin to remember just how awesome we are in the first place.
But parting with cash is also a painful process, so what gives? In a new paper in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers Niro Sivanathan of the London Business School and Nathan Pettit of Cornell University describe how they think people resolve this conflict...
Nathan C. Pettit, & Niro Sivanathan (2011). The Plastic Trap: Self-Threat Drives Credit Usage and Status Consumption Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2 (2), 146-153 : 10.1177/1948550610385138
The original journal article is available free for a limited time.