People of lower social status crave bling

Jan. 2, 2013 at 11:33 PM
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MANSFIELD, Ohio, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- People who feel low in status try to compensate by buying high-status goods such as fur coats, cuff links, caviar and Italian suits, U.S. researchers say.

Lead author Philip Mazzocco of Ohio State University's Mansfield campus said the findings cast doubt on the notion urban minorities have developed a corrosive "bling culture" unique to them.

"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 in a statement. "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."

Mazzocco and colleagues Derek Rucker, Adam Galinsky and Eric Anderson of Northwestern University said in the first experiment, 146 American adults -- half white and half black -- were told they would be participating in a study of consumer preferences. They were asked to rate 10 products on a nine-point scale from extremely negative to extremely positive.

The findings, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, found 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.

In another experiment, 69 white adults wrote a story in which they imagined themselves as a white or black character. They also rated their desire to own or purchase specific high- and low-status products.

The findings suggest people don't like being in a low-status situation, and they compensate by trying to acquire high-status products, Mazzocco said.

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