A new psychology study shows that people who feel loved and accepted by others place lower monetary values on material possessions than folks who feel insecure and unloved. In other words, the folks who don’t feel valued and appreciated tend to value their stuff more.
The study, conducted by UNH psychology professor Edward Lemay and colleagues at Yale, produced results that might seem like commonsense. When your life is empty of human love, affection, and security, there’s a tendency to want to fill it up with some substitute—namely, stuff. And when you have little else in your life beyond that stuff, you tend to value that stuff more than someone surrounded by the truly valuable intangible stuff—namely, love. The press release related to the study describes the experiments:
In their experiments, the researchers measured how much people valued specific items, such as a blanket and a pen. In some instances, people who did not feel secure placed a value on an item that was five times greater than the value placed on the same item by more secure people.
The head researcher explains further:
“People value possessions, in part, because they afford a sense of protection, insurance, and comfort,” Lemay says. “But what we found was that if people already have a feeling of being loved and accepted by others, which also can provide a sense of protection, insurance, and comfort, those possessions decrease in value.”
Since money can’t buy love, people use it to buy what they view as the second-best option: stuff. But in this case, second-best isn’t really in the same ballpark.