The study found that impulsive buying and excessive debt can be viewed as manifestations of poor self-control, as they trigger materialistic thoughts in the consumers.
Author Hyeongmi Kim from Johns Hopkins University, investigated why materialism leads to poor self-control and found that materialistic thoughts are specific and concrete, and that the more materialistic thoughts a consumer has, the more likely he or she is to demonstrate a lack of self-control.
In one study, researchers instructed one group of participants to buy a lottery ticket with a jackpot of 1 million dollars, while a second group of consumers did not. Participants in both groups wrote down their thoughts and indicated how much they preferred a small, immediate reward to a large, delayed reward. The consumers who bought a lottery ticket wrote down more materialistic thoughts and showed stronger preferences for a small, immediate reward.
In another study, participants received lottery tickets and were prompted to write either about products they would buy or trips they would take if they won.
"The consumers who were asked to write about products or brands that they would like to buy with a possible windfall indicated stronger preference for a small, immediate reward than did those who wrote about travel," the author explained.
The author concluded saying that it is well-documented that materialistic consumers struggle with their materialistic longings and sometimes show poor self-control. Self-control is perhaps one of the most important attributes that a person needs to have a successful life.
The study is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.