Do Our Values Predict What We Buy?

Every day more and more people are trying to understand the relationship between money and happiness. Lately I have been thinking about, what seems like, a simple question: do our values predict what we buy? Allen and Ng (see citation below) proposed that the influence of values on product evaluation will be different for utilitarian and symbolic products. First, some background.

Consumer values theories suggest that individual attributes of a product will be evaluated positively or negatively and through a process of abstraction, these evaluations will collectively form a product attitude. These attitudes will then be generalized to other similar products and product classes, eventually creating a value by which future product evaluations will be influenced. This is called the value-attitude-behavior hierarchy. Previous research distinguishes between utilitarian product meaning, which results from a sequential evaluation of tangible product attributes, and symbolic product meaning, which comes from a holistic, affective reaction to a culturally defined entity which is separate from the physical product form.

Allen and Ng (1999) hypothesized that human values exert a direct influence on symbolic products (e.g., sunglasses), but only an indirect influence on utilitarian products (e.g., cars), via tangible attributes. So what did they find? Using a very complex series of regressions analyses, their main hypothesis was supported for both product classes–though the effects were rather weak. The weak influence of values on product choice may be due to the fact that values are a very general construct, while ownership of two particular products is a very specific behavior.

So, what are the guiding principles in your life? Take the Schwartz Value Scale and compare your values on 10 dimensions from hedonism to benevolence? This online survey takes about 5 minutes. When your take this survey, you will learn which values are most important to you and how your value priorities influence your ideologies, attitudes, and actions in political, religious, environmental, and other domains. You will also see how your values compare to others.

Take the Schwartz Value Scale now!

At BeyondThePurchase.Org we help people make the connection between their values and spending habits – how do you spend your money and who do you spend it on – and their happiness. To learn about what might be influencing how you think about and spend your money, Login or Register with Beyond The Purchase, then take a few of our spending habits quizzes:

How do your current priorities impact what you buy? Take our Life Goals and Buying Choices and on your feedback page you will learn you will learn how current priorities impact what you buy.

How materialistic are you? Find out by taking the Materialistic Values Scale.

Are you a compulsive buyer? Take the Compulsive Buying Scale and learn about your spending habits.

With these insights, you can better understand the ways in which your financial decisions affect your happiness.

Allen, M.W., & Ng, S.H. (1999). The direct and indirect influences of human values on product ownership. Journal of Economic Psychology (20), 5–39.

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