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Consumption and Self-Compassion

I have a graduate student who is pursuing her PhD in Apparel Marketing, and is particularly interested in considering the relations between mindfulness, self-compassion, and consumption of luxury brands.  We're interested in several things. One is we want to figure out what aspects of personality and psychology would be related.  A second is how self-compassion is likely to be related to luxury brand consumption. 

I can envision two equally likely scenarios.  It might be that people who are higher in self-compassion (defined as kindness toward the self, seeing one's shared humanity in experience, and having non-judgmental mindfulness of one's internal processes) tend to consume less in general, and luxury brands in particular, as they may have less need for status and need less feeding of the ego from outside sources.  Alternatively, it might be that people who are higher in self-compassion would consume luxury brands more precisely because they tend to be better made and last longer, thereby resulting in lower overall consumption across time (e.g., I buy one pair of designer brand shoes which last me 10 years instead of 10 pair of cheap shoes across the same time period).

We are just beginning to design the studies, and would be interested to hear what readers of the IDP blog think.  What should we be measuring?  What do you think we will find?  How is consumption related to self-compassion in your experience?


Image source: http://www.afranko.com/2013/09/luxury-logos-2014/

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To me, and I might be way off - Buddhism is so antithetical to all this consumerism - it is about getting down to the basics, to dealing with the self and the non-self - what is really important - and again maybe I am way wrong - but I know that there is a different perception of the self for those to whom these things are of importance - I worked on Madison Avenue for over 15 years - and the value system of the supervisors I worked for was very different than what I am perceiving here - the worship of money and prestige were integral to the industry, and so antithetical to the life that I see here in Buddhism

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Sounds interesting

Sounds like an interesting project. Some random thoughts:

I imagine that what people define as a luxury item could vary quite a bit, so it might be worth it to have some exploratory/ open-ended questions on this. For example, while Prada shoes may be the quintessential luxury item to one person, a pint of organic berries may be the ultimate luxury for another. If there is a way to be flexible in your definition of luxury you may be more likely to find some interesting relationships between self-compassion and consumption.

I would also guess that how someone defines luxury depends on a lot of things - for example, the composition of your social network, economic and cultural factors, and maybe personality traits too -- like introversion/extroversion.

Is self-compassion viewed as a fixed trait, or as something that changes over time? Presumably, mindfulness practices allow it to be malleable, which maybe would be linked to changes in consumption?


I like your idea of trying to see what constitutes a luxury item, although given that this student's focus is clothing, we may need to limit it to only that area.

Although psychologists like to talk about personality traits, we also all know that every trait also has states.  That is, although you may be a low anxious person in general, it varies from moment to moment.  I expect this to be true with self-compassion.  There will be an overall level that people generally have, but it can be increased or decreased at a given time based on what's happening right then (the causes and conditions, to move back to Buddhist-speak).  Furthermore, traits are changeable over time, and self-compassion can be increased through practices such as those described by Kristin Neff.

If you want to take a test to see how self-compassionate you are, here is Dr. Neff's scale: http://www.self-compassion.org/test-your-self-compassion-level.html

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