On the Psychology of Materialism: wanting things, having things, and being happy

Document Type



psychology; materialism; happiness; desire

Identifier Data



Advertising Educational Foundation

Publication Source

Advertising & Society Review, 7(1)


The psychology of materialism is reviewed. The concept is complex and multi-faceted, but most definitions focus on the extent to which the acquisition and possession of material objects is important to individuals. Materialism seems to develop as a method for coping with uncertainty and self-doubt, but is also a by-product of the natural tendency to compare one’s self with others. The relationship between materialism and happiness is also complex. People who have more realistic desires are more satisfied than those who have unattainable desires, but financial satisfaction is more closely related to life satisfaction in impoverished nations than in wealthier nations. When basic needs are not met, it appears that how much one owns actually becomes a more critical predictor of happiness. Finally, people who spend in pursuit of experiential goals tend to be happier than those who spend in pursuit of purely material goals.