Is a Materialistic Value Orientation Bad for You?

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Having a materialistic value orientation (MVO) describes an individuals desire for material objects, financial success, and a desirable status. We’re constantly receiving messages supporting the importance of money and possessions, in the form of values within society and family life, as well as in the media. But are we aware of the consequences that this can have on behaviour? And is it detrimental to our health and relations with others in our shared environment? This essay will discuss the findings of research linking an MVO with subjective well-being, and the implications that it can have on our behaviour and attitudes in our daily lives.

There has been much research into and around the subject concerning MVO with subjective well-being. The majority of research in this area has demonstrated that individuals who have a strong MVO do in fact report having a lower quality of life. Kasser and Ryan (1993) claimed that striving for material goods does not fulfil instrinsic human needs, in attempts to explain the inverse relationship between materialism and subjective well-being (SWB). Kasser, Ryan, Couchman, and Sheldon (2004) further proposed that people with an MVO struggle to satisfy three psychological needs; competence, relatedness and autonomy. People with an MVO personality struggle to fulfil their need to feel competent, as they often feel insecure and badly about themselves. Research to support such claims comes from Sirgy (1998; in Kasser, Ryan, Couchman, and Sheldon, 2004), who found that materialistically orientated individuals compare themselves against others who may be doing better or worse than themselves, and attempt to project what they may become in the future. Relatedness is another psychological need undermined by an MVO, and individuals are found to experience higher levels of emotion and conflict, causing shorter relationships (Kasser and Ryan, 2001; in Kasser, Ryan, Couchman, and Sheldon, 2004). The third need undermined by an MVO is...
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