Washington, Dec mber 18: A new study has suggested that a desire for expensive, high-status goods is related to feelings of social status - which helps explain why minorities are attracted to bling.
Previous research had shown that racial minorities spend a larger portion of their incomes than do whites on conspicuous consumption - buying products that suggest high status.
But a new study showed that whites could be induced to crave expensive, high-status products if they imagined themselves in a low-status position.
These findings cast doubt on the notion that urban minorities have developed a corrosive "bling culture" that is unique to them, said Philip Mazzocco, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University's Mansfield campus.
"Minorities don't buy high-status products because of some 'bling culture.' It is a basic psychological tendency that we all share when we're feeling inferior in some part of our life," Mazzocco said.
"Anyone who is feeling low in status is going to try to compensate. And in our capitalistic, consumption-oriented society, one way to compensate is to buy high-status products," he stated.
Mazzocco conducted the study with Derek Rucker, Adam Galinsky and Eric Anderson of Northwestern University.
For the study, the researchers conducted several related experiments.
In the first experiment, 146 American adults - about half white and half black - were told they would be participating in a study of consumer preferences. They were asked to rate how positively or negatively they viewed 10 products on a nine-point scale from "extremely negative" to "extremely positive."
The study found that, overall, blacks had more positive evaluations of the high-status products than did whites. But more importantly, blacks who considered their race to be an important part of their identity rated high-status goods higher than did blacks who had lower racial identification.
There was no such difference among whites in the study.
"Because African Americans are seen as lower in status in our society, those who identify more strongly with being black are more likely to compensate by seeking high-status goods," Mazzocco said.
"It suggests that people don't like being in a low-status situation, and they compensate for that by trying to acquire high-status products," he stated.
In another study, the researchers found that the white students who imagined themselves as a black character rated the high-status products as more desirable than did the white students who imagined themselves as white characters.
The findings don't relate only to race, he said. Another study showed that other situations involving status could affect how people feel about conspicuous consumption.
Again participants who imagined themselves as a janitor had more positive evaluations of high-status products than did the participants who imagined themselves as brain surgeons.
"This provides additional evidence that it is a perception of having low status that is driving the increased preference for high-status products," Mazzocco said.
"It suggests that people don't like being in a low-status situation, and they compensate for that by trying to acquire high-status products," he explained.
Mazzocco said having this knowledge might help people as they're shopping.
The findings appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology. (ANI)