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About Materialism Studies

Materialism: concepts and measurement

Our research was based on two scales that are widely used in the literature:

  1. Richins and Dawson’s (1992) Material Values Scale and
  2. Goldberg et al.’s (2003) Youth Materialism Scale.

In the following we’ll explain what they are. We’ll also discuss two other measures of materialism.

  1. Richins and Dawson’s (1992) Material Values Scale

    Richins and Dawson (1992) considered materialism as personal values. Their Material Values Scale consists of three subscales and 18 items as follows.

      Success subscale

    1. I admire people who own expensive homes, cars, and clothes.
    2. Some of the most important achievements in life include acquiring material possessions.
    3. I don’t place much emphasis on the amount of material objects people own as a sign of success.*
    4. The things I own say a lot about how well I’m doing in life.
    5. I like to own things that impress people.
    6. I don't pay much attention to the material objects other people own.*
    7. Centrality subscale

    8. I usually buy only the things I need.
    9. I try to keep my life simple, as far as possessions are concerned.*
    10. The things I own aren’t all that important to me.*
    11. I enjoy spending money on things that aren’t practical.
    12. Buying things gives me a lot of pleasure.
    13. I like a lot of luxury in my life.
    14. I put less emphasis on material things than most people I know.*
    15. Happiness subscale

    16. I have all the things I really need to enjoy life.*
    17. My life would be better if I owned certain things I don’t have.
    18. I wouldn’t be any happier if I owned nicer things.*
    19. I’d be happier if I could afford to buy more things.
    20. It sometimes bothers me quite a bit that I can’t afford to buy all the things I’d like.
    21. *item reversely coded (high score of agreement means less materialistic)

      Taking smaller and smaller subsets of the three subscales, Richins (2004) proposed the following four shortened versions of the Material Values Scale.

    Table 1. Shortened Material Values Scales (The numbers are those in the original scale.)

    Success Centrality Happiness
    15-item scale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 8, 9, 11, 12, 13 14, 15, 16, 17, 18
    9-item scale 1, 4, 5 8, 11, 12 15, 17, 18
    6-item scale 1, 4 11, 12 15, 17
    3-item scale 1 12 17

    The following diagram describes the concepts in each of the sub-scale of materialism proposed by Richins and Dawson (1992).

    • Judge a person's success by the number and quality of their possessions.
    • Evaluate others according to their consumer lifestyles.
    • Material well-being as evidence of success.
    • Possessions help to project a high-status image.
    • Place possessions and their acquisition at the center of a person's life.
    • Set a goal and plan to attain a high level of material consumption.
    • Possessions give meaning to life.
    • The pursuit of possessions sucks up time and energy.
    • Pursuit of happiness through acquisition rather than other means (such as relationships or experiences).
    • High consumption levels lead to high pleasure and self-satisfaction.
  2. Goldberg et al.’s (2003) Youth Materialism Scale

    Goldberg et al.’s (2003) Youth Materialism Scale consists of the following 10 items:

    1. I’d rather spend time buying things than doing almost anything else.
    2. I would be happier if I had more money to buy more things for myself.
    3. I have fun just thinking of all the things I own.
    4. I really enjoy going shopping.
    5. I like to buy things my friends have.
    6. When you grow up, the more money you have, the happier you are.
    7. I’d rather not share my snacks with others if it means I’ll have less for myself.
    8. I would love to be able to buy things that cost lots of money.
    9. I really like the kids that have very special games or clothes.
    10. The only kind of job I want when I grow up is one that gets me a lot of money.

    The Youth Materialism Scale is considered to be more appropriate for youths than Richins and Dawkin’s scale and its subscales.


  3. A materialism scale for young children

    Heerey et al. (2002) developed a materialism scale for young children. It consists of 14 items:

    1. It’s better to have more allowance.
    2. I like celebrating my birthday because I can get a lot of presents.
    3. I want to have things that other kids like.
    4. I like to own the newest things.
    5. I like to own the best things.
    6. It would not make me happier if I owned nicer things*.
    7. My best friends have lot of good stuff.
    8. I like to own a lot of things so that my friends will envy me.
    9. More allowance would not make me happier*.
    10. I like to compare myself with my friends to see who got more toys.
    11. When I want something, I usually get it.
    12. I like my friends because they own a lot of good stuff.
    13. I would be upset if my best friend had the toy I most wanted.
    14. My friends like me because I have cool toys.


  4. Other measures of materialism that are indirect

    Some studies measure respondents’ perception of people with or without material possessions, using quantitative methods such as surveys or qualitative methods such as drawings. However, it is difficult to translate a measure of perceptions toward material possessions into a measure of materialism, because there is no one-to-one correspondence between a specific perception and a definite score on a materialism scale.