Cuing Consumerism: Situational Materialism Undermines Personal and Social Well-Being

Monika A. Bauer, James E.B. Wilkie, Jung K. Kim, Galen V. Bodenhausen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

169 Scopus citations


Correlational evidence indicates that materialistic individuals experience relatively low levels of well-being. Across four experiments, we found that situational cuing can also trigger materialistic mind-sets, with similarly negative personal and social consequences. Merely viewing desirable consumer goods resulted in increases in materialistic concerns and led to heightened negative affect and reduced social involvement (Experiment 1). Framing a computer task as a "Consumer Reaction Study" led to a stronger automatic bias toward values reflecting self-enhancement, compared with framing the same task as a "Citizen Reaction Study" (Experiment 2). Consumer cues also increased competitiveness (Experiment 3) and selfishness in a water-conservation dilemma (Experiment 4). Thus, the costs of materialism are not localized only in particularly materialistic people, but can also be found in individuals who happen to be exposed to environmental cues that activate consumerism-cues that are commonplace in contemporary society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)517-523
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012


  • consumerism
  • materialism
  • personal values
  • situationism
  • social engagement
  • well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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