Retail therapy, in which people buy products to reinforce their ideal self-image, can backfire and lead them to dwell more on their failures, reveals a new study.
Authors Monika Lisjak (Erasmus University), Andrea Bonezzi (New York University), Soo Kim (Cornell University) and Derek D. Rucker (Northwestern University) wrote that when consumers experience a psychological threat to how they would like to see themselves, buying products that signal accomplishment in the same area of their life could ironically cause them to dwell on their shortcomings, which can strip consumers of their mental resources and impair their self-control.
The authors concluded that consumption can sometimes compensate for people's blunders and failures, but this doesn't always work as consumers who use products to boost their sense of self-worth tend to dwell on their shortcomings and their ability to exert self-control is impaired.
They added that after experiencing a setback in one area of their life, consumers might be better off boosting their sense of self in a different area of their life, for example, a consumer whose intelligence is undermined might be better off signaling their self-worth socially rather than trying to assert their intelligence.
The study is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.