The Social Psychology of Material Possessions: To Have is to be
Individual ownership of material possessions is deeply rooted in Western culture, yet psychology has tended either to overlook its role entirely or to be concerned only with the functions it fulfils intra-individually and interpersonally. This book addresses the sorely neglected subject of the social psychological meanings and functions of possessions and property. Their significance is examined in reviews of relevant research and discussion of theoretical perspectives. Instinctual and functional explanations of the relationship between people and their 'things' are considered, and a social constructionist approach is introduced which argues that the symbolic nature of material objects plays an important role for the owner's social and personal identity. The author draws upon sources from diverse fields, including consumer research, sociology, anthropology and psychology, to explore the link between identity and possessions. These materials are supplemented by her own original research. The emerging 'identity through possessions' model is related to the contemporary Western notion of identity as wealth-unrelated individuality, and implications of the proposition that material symbols constitute a pervasive context of social psychological processes are discussed. The Social Psychology of Material Possessions will serve both as a supplementary textbook for undergraduate psychology students and as an intriguing essay for social psychologists.
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