Academic journal article Journal of Social Research & Policy

Materialism, Subjective Well-Being, and Entitlement

Academic journal article Journal of Social Research & Policy

Materialism, Subjective Well-Being, and Entitlement

Article excerpt


The present article examines interrelationships between materialism, subjective well-being, and entitlement. Three entitlement attitudes (active, passive, and revengeful) are examined as possible outcomes of materialism, whereas subjective well-being (SWB) is regarded as a potential mediator and moderator of this relationship. The study analyzed data from a sample of Polish citizens (N = 534). Active entitlement, which is defined as a focus on self-interest and self-promotion, was positively correlated with materialism and S WB. Passive entitlement, or belief in the world as a net of obligations with a focus on group interest, was positively related to materialism only among individuals with a low level of SWB. Revengeful entitlement, defined as difficulties in forgiving insults, was negatively related to SWB and positively to materialism. Results are discussed in the context of the research literature on materialism and subjective well-being.

Keywords: Materialism; Subjective Well-being; Entitlement.

Investigation of the relationships between materialism and well-being on the one hand, and entitlement and materialism on the other, is not a new idea in social research (see Kasser, 2010; Lash, 1979; Twenge, 2006). Even though this idea is not a novel one, r elatively few studies have examined the interrelations between the three variables of entitlement, subjective well-being, and materialism, respectively. Twenge & Campbell (2009) published a representative example of work exploring these interrelationships. In their study of American youth, Twenge & Campbell described the way in which a materialistic culture results in increased levels of narcissism, entitlement, and dissatisfaction. While this study made a significant contribution to the field, many questions remain to be answered. One of the most important of these questions is identifying the possible link between materialism and entitlement and the degree to which this relation is mediated or moderated by subjective well-being. The inclusion in the same survey of measurements of materialism, entitlement and subjective well-being offers a chance for direct examination of their interrelations (well-being as a mediator of relationship between materialism and entitlement). The other problem yet to be resolved in the research is the oversimplified conceptualization of entitlement. In addition to addressing relationships between well-being, materialism and entitlement, the approach adopted in the present work proposes a three-dimensional understanding of this phenomenon of entitlement alone (based on active entitlement, passive entitlement and revengefulness). This three-dimensional model allows for more precise measurement demonstrating possible differences in linking entitlement with materialism and subjective well-being. The makes a unique contribution to the literature in that it offers a complex conceptualization of entitlement (as a multidimensional phenomenon) and tests these relationships using national-level sample in Poland.

Materialism and its Psychological Consequences

The concept of materialism is broadly defined in sociology, economics, and consumer psychology (see Ahuvia & Wong, 1995 for a review). Richins & Dawson (1992) defined materialism as "a set of centrally held beliefs about the importance of possessions in one`s life" (p. 308). Some researchers describe materialistic individuals are those who pursue fame, status, and wealth as desired outcomes (Górnik-Durose, 2005; Kasser, 2002; Zawadzka, 2006). A focus on the possession of material goods could be described in terms of external goal orientation (see Kasser, 2010). This attitude is an integral part of consumerism and consumption, such as that often observed in countries with developed economies (Kasser, 2010).

Most studies on materialism focus on its negative aspects, especially in the context of decreasing life satisfaction (Belk, 1985; Kasser & Ryan, 1993 Kasser, 2002, 2010), egoistic behaviors (Sheldon & McGregor, 2000), and narcissism (Twenge, 2006; Twenge & Campbell, 2009). …

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