Disposable coffee cup filled with money
Cognition and perception

Are you what you have?

Helga Dittmar on consumer society and its effects on our sense of identity.

18 April 2004

magine I gave you a list of attributes that describe a person – friendly, unique, assertive, self-reliant – and then asked you to judge whether having each of these qualities is either intrinsic to a person or in any way related to material factors, such as what they own and how they dress. You would probably tell me that these are all aspects of a person’s identity that are not influenced by material context – and thus find yourself in agreement with respondents in one of my studies (Dittmar, 1992b). But you would be wrong.

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