Contingent self-esteem, materialism and well-being : the mediating effects of need for autonomy
Date of Issue2017
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
While there is evidence from the self-determination perspective for the mediation of basic psychological needs satisfaction in the materialism-well-being link, to date, no research has attempted to examine the relative contribution of the three needs to the mediating effect. Given that, the predictive value of psychological needs on well-being depends upon the match between the need and the life domain, the first two studies investigated the differential mediating role of all three needs in the negative relationship between materialism and well-being. In study 1, 231 adults self-reported their materialistic attitudes, basic needs satisfaction and well-being indicators and a multiple mediation model was tested. Results indicated that materialism diminishes well-being through lower satisfaction of the psychological need for autonomy only. In study 2 (82 undergraduates), experimentally activated materialistic thoughts and their effects on need satisfaction and well-being as compared to a neutral control condition was examined. Results showed that activated materialism, leads to lower satisfaction of the need for autonomy, which in turn produces higher negative affect. The findings point towards the importance of considering the specific role of the psychological need of autonomy in the materialism-well-being link. Further, majority of previous research examined the materialism-well-being link and antecedent factors that lead to the development of materialistic values separately. The current research aims to integrate causes and consequences of materialism in a single explanatory framework of self-determination theory. An important psychological antecedent of materialism documented in previous research is feelings of low self-worth/self-doubt. However, the exact nature of the domains from which such self-doubt (that breeds materialism) emanates, has remained unexplored. Self- determination theory posits that contingent self-esteem is domain specific, fragile, requires perpetual validation and is fundamentally different from true self-esteem that is contingent, but on intrinsic factors such as personal growth, authenticity and autonomy. The present study investigates contingent self-esteem in extrinsic domains such as appearance and competition as antecedents of materialism. It is shown that extrinsic and intrinsic forms of contingent self-esteem relate differently with materialism such that intrinsically contingent self-esteem is incompatible with materialistic attitudes. These core proposals were tested in three studies, which included two surveys and one experiment. Study 3 (247 adults) furnished cross-sectional evidence that extrinsically oriented contingent self-esteem predicts materialism. Study 4 (206 undergraduates) found that intrinsically oriented contingent self-esteem is negatively related to materialism. Study 5 (106 participants) showed that experimental induction of extrinsic and intrinsic contingent self-esteem, leads to higher and lower materialism respectively. The findings advance understanding on the self-esteem-materialism link by showing how the domain-specific view of self-esteem, has the potential to promote or discourage materialism based on whether self-esteem is anchored to external or internal domains. The current study makes a valuable attempt at integrating the antecedents and mediating mechanisms in the materialism well-being link in a single theoretical framework, thereby facilitating a more comprehensive understanding of materialism and its correlates. Recommendations for intervention researchers and practitioners are proposed.