Why Do People Become Materialistic?

Factors influencing whether someone becomes materialistic include the perceived wealth of people in their locality, parental attitudes and the media. In addition, insecurity and how people perceive their needs can make them materialistic.

Individuals who have a low income but are surrounded by people with high material value are more likely to spend their income on material possessions. Additionally, people with low personal and social well-being are more likely to spend money on goods they do not need than those with high social well-being. When people feel insecure, unsafe or incompetent, they try to compensate by accruing expensive goods. Buying expensive items temporarily helps people boost a poor self-image.

Children who are raised around adults who prize materialism are more likely to become materialistic themselves. Additionally, the more television children watch, the more materialistic they become. When children spend less time watching advertisements and more time having their emotional needs met, they are less likely to strive for material goods. One way to prevent children becoming materialistic is to encourage gratitude, or to help them spend more time around their family. Broader social structures that influence materialism include the government, religion and law, which introduce cultural influences that determine how much a person prizes material goods. For example, Marvin Harris PhD demonstrated that cultural ideologies influence a person's materialism by highlighting how the taboos surrounding cows in Hinduism prevent people striving to eat them.