The self, interpersonal relationships, and conspicuous behaviors: Consumption and helping




Lee, Jaehoon

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The first essay examines the proposition that social exclusion may produce either self-focused or affiliative responses, depending on what needs are threatened. In seven experiments, I test the hypothesis that different types of social exclusion threaten different needs, which in turn produce distinct outcomes (differential needs hypothesis). Being implicitly ignored increases conspicuous consumption, whereas being explicitly rejected increases helping and donation behavior. The underlying process of these effects is the desire to repair particular needs that are differentially threatened by being ignored versus rejected. When efficacy needs (power, meaningful existence) are bolstered, the effects of being ignored are eliminated, whereas when relational needs (self-esteem) are bolstered, the effects of being rejected are eliminated.

The second essay examines social class differences in the patterns of conspicuous consumption in selecting a gift. In two experiments, I test the hypothesis that lower class individuals express a stronger preference for conspicuous consumption when they select a gift for others than when they do for themselves. However, this effect occurs only when a conspicuous gift is associated with status. The underlying process of these effects is the desire to gain status and conform to others among lower class individuals. Compared to upper class individuals, lower class individuals have strong desires for status and conformity, in the service of their psychological self-protection, and such desires are manifested through the preference for a status-related conspicuous gift for others versus for themselves.


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Conspicuous Consumption, Helping, Social Class, Social Exclusion