When does self-improvement undermine materialistic tendencies, and when does it strengthen them?
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Submission date: 2016-12-09
Final revision date: 2017-04-02
Acceptance date: 2017-04-03
Online publication date: 2017-12-08
Publication date: 2018-02-01
Current Issues in Personality Psychology 2018;6(1):17–25
In view of the fact that materialism may be caused by feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem, this paper attempts to answer the question of what the role of self-improvement is in the development of materialistic tendencies.

Participants and procedure
Two experiments were carried out (n = 144, n = 126). Half of the participants were exposed to self-threat (failure), which boosts materialistic tendencies, and the others were exposed to self-enhancement (success), which allows maintenance of good self-esteem. In both cases participants were given an opportunity to undertake self-improvement (i.e. redo a task that previously had turned out to be a failure/success). Analyses of materialistic tendencies were based on financial aspirations (study 1) and intentions to purchase luxurious good (study 2).

The results show that people have lower fiscal aspirations (study 1) and want to buy luxury products less (study 2) when they undertake self-improvement in a self-threat (failure) situation. However, when people undertake self-improvement in a self-enhancement situation (success) they have higher fiscal aspirations (study 1) and want to buy luxury products more (study 2).

Self-improvement may be an antidote to materialistic aspirations if undertaken in a self-threat situation, but it may also be a source of materialistic aspirations if undertaken in a self-enhancement situation.
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