The Myth of Self-Centeredness in Materialism:Reconciling Collectivism and Materialism in Asia

Awanis, Sandra and Schlegelmilch, Bodo B. and Cui, Charles C. (2016) The Myth of Self-Centeredness in Materialism:Reconciling Collectivism and Materialism in Asia. In: Rediscovering the Essentiality of Marketing. Developments in Marketing Science: Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science book series (DMSPAMS) . Springer, Cham, pp. 183-184. ISBN 9783319298764

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Materialism, which is the importance placed on the acquisition and possessions of material objects, is often depicted as a self-prioritizing trait rooted in an individualistic value (Belk 1985; Richins and Dawson 1992). Materialistic consumers are seen as self-centered individuals who prefer to build meaningful relationships with possessions rather than people (Burroughs and Rindfleisch 2002; Kasser and Ryan 1993). However, this theory is incongruent with the reality, as cultural studies routinely find that materialistic consumption manifests strongly among collectivistic Asian consumers (Cleveland and Chang 2009; Ger and Belk 1996). Such contradiction points to an inconsistency between the theories developed primarily in the United States and the realities surrounding non-Western consumers’ attitudes and behavior (Sharma 2010). The present research thus aims to reconcile theory and practice by reassessing the pertinence of self-centeredness as the central domain of materialism among Asian consumers. Extant literatures rarely recognize that individuals may dexterously commit to materialistic and collectivistic values. Rather, materialism is often depicted as opposite of collective values, such as religious commitment, moderation, and self-sacrifice (Bauer et al. 2012; Burroughs and Rindfleisch 2002). Hence, individuals who hold materialistic and collectivistic ideals experience value-conflict, defined as psychological tensions resulting from incongruent values that lead to diminished life satisfaction and reduced psychological welfare (Burroughs and Rindfleisch 2002; Kasser and Ryan 1993). However, cultural studies maintain that collectivist societies are more successful than their individualist counterparts in balancing personal goals and collective interests (Wong and Ahuvia 1998; Ahuvia 2002). Contrary to extant research’s prediction, materialism does not appear to have an adverse effect on well-being among Asian consumers. Instead, these consumers are catching up to those in advanced economies in terms of life satisfaction, which is fuelled largely by their satisfaction towards material well-being (Pew Research 2014). Therefore, consumers from non-Western and less developed countries may not simply emulate the principles of Western-based materialism (de Mooij and Hofstede 2002). As such, our research aims to address the following questions: 1. To what extent do consumers from collectivistic cultures experience personal conflict between material and collective values? 2. What impacts do the interaction between materialism and collective-oriented values have on Asian consumers’ consumption evaluation? We draw from optimal distinctiveness theory (Brewer 1991) to inform how Asian consumers use material consumption to fulfill social goals. This perspective provides an additional vantage point to the dominant collectivist cultural perspective that confounds Asian consumers’ prosocial attitudes towards consumption. Further, we explain how consumers with incongruent values evaluate the attractiveness of material goods to achieve socially desired goals. Our international research draws from a sample of Asian consumers from China, India, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. The research design is twofold. First, we utilized Schwartz’s (1992) circumflex model of human values to examine the perceptual distances between materialism and the larger value system amongst collectivistic Asian consumers. Second, we studied the interaction effect between material and collective-oriented values on Asian consumers’ prepurchase evaluation. Our findings suggest that collectivist Asian consumers are able to balance materialistic and social pressures and as a result, evaluate the social cost of goods more favorably than other competing conspicuous attributes, such as brand and price information.References available upon request.

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04 Sep 2017 11:12
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03 Mar 2020 06:24