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People with low self-esteem tend to purchase luxury items via credit cards


May 6, 2011 - Washington

A study has indicated that people shop for high status items when they are feeling low, and they are more likely to make those expensive purchases on credit.

When a person's ego is threatened-by doing poorly on a task, by being told they're not as good as they hoped-people sometimes repair their self-worth by purchasing luxury goods.

Because actually parting with cash can be psychologically painful, researchers Niro Sivanathan of the London Business School and Nathan Pettit of Cornell University studied whether people might be more likely to use a credit card when feeling badly about one's self.

The researchers had people work on an ambiguous computer test, and then told half of them that their "spatial reasoning and logic ability was in the 12th percentile," which is a scientific-sounding way of telling them they're not very smart.

They told the other half that they were in the 88th percentile, a perfectly fine performance. When asked how they might pay for "a consumer product that you have been considering purchasing," people who'd had their ego threatened were substantially more likely to say they were planning on paying on credit.

In a follow-up study, Sivanathan and Pettit asked 150 college students to think about buying a pair of jeans. Half were told to consider a pair of exclusive, high status designer jeans, while the rest were told to think about normal, everyday jeans.

The students then went through the same computer test, and were told they had done poorly or well. The self-esteem threat made people willing to pay almost 30 pc more for the luxury jeans, and were more than 60 pc more likely to intend to purchase the jeans with a credit card.

The study has been published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science.

ANI

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