The Devil Wears Prada? Effects of Exposure to Luxury Goods on Cognition and Decision Making

“This paper demonstrates that mere exposure to luxury goods increases individuals’ propensity to prioritize self-interests over others’ interests, influencing the decisions they make.”

Abstract (Via Harvard)

Although the concept of luxury has been widely discussed in social theories and marketing research, relatively little research has directly examined the psychological consequences of exposure to luxury goods. This paper demonstrates that mere exposure to luxury goods increases individuals’ propensity to prioritize self-interests over others’ interests, influencing the decisions they make. Experiment 1 found that participants primed with luxury goods were more likely than those primed with non-luxury goods to endorse business decisions that benefit themselves but could potentially harm others. Using a word recognition task, Experiment 2 further demonstrates that exposure to luxury is likely to activate self-interest but not necessarily the tendency to harm others. Implications of these findings were discussed.

Implications (Via Harvard)

The current research has some important implications. In the midst of the current global economic crisis, people are outraged by highly paid executives living on the lap of luxury but continue to make self-serving decisions while ignoring the plight of others (The Economist, 2009). One commonly proffered explanation is that these executives lack a moral compass, leading them to care only about themselves to the extent of hurting others. Our findings offer another perspective – the fact that these executives are surrounded by luxury did not help their decision making to be more others-oriented. Yet their seemingly “immoral” decisions stem not so much from real tendency to hurt others but more from over self indulgence. Perhaps limiting corporate excesses and luxuries might indeed be a step toward getting executives to behave more responsibly.

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About Miguel Barbosa

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23. November 2009 by Miguel Barbosa
Categories: Behavioral Economics, Curated Readings | Leave a comment

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