Belk - the Extended Self Concept

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Consumer Behaviour – WEEK 6
The self

«  Possessions and the Extended self »

Russell W. Belk

To understand consumer behaviour we need to understand the meanings that consumers attached to possession. Possessions are part of ourselves.

This aim of the article: examine the relationship between possessions and sense of self

1. Evidence (that possessions are an important component of sense of self)

Possessions in Self-Perception Research
The extended = external objects, personal possessions, persons, places, and group possession, body parts, vital organs... (which as “me” and also which as “mine”).

McClelland (1951): external objects = part of self when we are able to exercise power or control over them. The greater the control we exercise, the more closely allied with self the object should become. Prelinger: besides control over objects, also controls by objects are part of self. The more we believe we posses or re possessed by an object the more a part of self becomes.

Loss of Possessions
Possessions = part of self unintentional loss of possessions are a loss or lessening of self. I.e.: when we go in a military camp, our hair is cut, we are not able to have personal object…ourselves is reduced. Another reason: when Possessions are lost to theft or causality and also, when natural disasters appear. The vulnerability of such losses may damage the sense of self-derived from the attachment to home and neighbourhood. Indeed, home and neighbourhood contributes to sense of self to the degree that a person feels control over them. Functions and property of individual are taken over by institutions such as government and school. The trauma isn’t present in voluntary disposition of possessions; we gladly neglect or dispose of possessions that are inconsistent with our image of self. But involuntary disposition (disposition is forced) will bring sorrow. Involuntary losses = loss of self= just after we attempt of self-restoration by buying again the thing or try to repair the damage.

Investing Self in Objects
We own ourselves = we own our labour = we own what we produce from our labour out of the un owned material of nature. We invest “psychic energy” in an object to which we have directed our effort, time and attention => those products are part of self because they have grown or emerged from the self. Some researches:

- Practice of burying the dead with their possessions.
-Possessions survive even death suggest a strong association between self and possessions. - Contemporary consumption also shows that the feeling of identity invested in material objects can be extraordinarily high.

2. Function of Extended Self

Having possessions ca contribute to our capabilities for doing and being (ex: gun). They are distinct but indispensable.

Mastery of possessions and human Development
* Function - Self Versus Environment
-Infant: unable to distinguish self from the environment.
-Distinction: controlled objects seen as self while uncontrolled objects seen as environment -Sense of self-developed by learning to actively control objects -Person-object relationships= self distinct from the environment

* Function - Self Versus Others
-Value of things to own is far from intrinsic. Open field of rivalry: others have or want the object -The rivalry aspects of possessions: 85% of infants’ object-oriented interactions with peers involved conflict about retaining possession. -Relationships with objects are always three-way (person- thing-person) -Parents‘ control of their children's material possessions: a means of bringing about desired behaviours.

* Adolescence and Adulthood
- Identity seeking by adolescents: acquiring and accumulating selected consumption objects. - In later teenage years: more possessions that reflect skills or level of manipulation or control. - Social power and status: reasons for 40- to 50-year-olds to own personal possessions. - Favourite objects by...
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