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Getting things like a new car or 60-inch flat-screen are goals many of us work toward. Unfortunately, these pursuits have the opposite effect we intend: Instead of making us happier, getting more stuff drags us down. In a new paper published in the journal Motivation and Emotion, Knox College psychology professor Tim Kasser shows, through a series of experiments spanning from six months to 12 years, that when people become more materialistic, their emotional well-being takes a dive…
When a part of life gets turbulent, possessions look like a pretty sturdy thing to hang onto until the storm passes. “It would be likely that the economic recession would increase materialistic values… [putting] a higher priority on having money and possessions,” Kasser says.
The problem is, this is really just a coping mechanism. “Part of why we survived as a species is we’re wonderful users of stuff,” he says. Our ancestors might not have had teeth and claws or hard shells, but we could make weapons and armor to protect ourselves. “When we’re feeling insecure we orient towards materialistic solutions,” he says. “And we live in a culture that continually tells us our worth as people is based on our bank account.”