Standard Article

Consumer Materialism

Part 3. Consumer Behavior

  1. Marsha L. Richins

Published Online: 15 DEC 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9781444316568.wiem03001

Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing

Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing

How to Cite

Richins, M. L. 2010. Consumer Materialism. Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing. 3.

Author Information

  1. University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2010


Consumer materialism is a personal value that reflects the importance a consumer places on the acquisition and possession of material objects. In the consumer-behavior literature, three elements are typically recognized as constituting materialism: the belief that acquisition is necessary for happiness, the tendency to judge the success of one's self and others by their possessions, and the centrality of acquisition and possessions in one's life. Materialism is distinct from conspicuous consumption, a behavioral variable that involves the ownership and display of status objects to enhance one's relative standing and inspire envy.

Materialism has important implications for society as a driver of personal consumption, and thus the economy. It also has personal implications because of its negative association with well-being and other desirable personal outcomes. Research into causes of individual differences in materialism has investigated the role of media exposure, early family environment, and peer influences, among others.

Materialism is associated with many variables of interest to marketers, including preference for status goods and unique products, the centrality of visual aesthetics when making a product choice, willingness to purchase counterfeit products, and other decision variables.


  • materialism;
  • personal values;
  • material values;
  • consumption;
  • status