Here’s a compilation of fascinating studies on why people spend on expensive things. While I belief in the benefits of some minimalism, I don’t subscribe to the minimalist idea that all conspicuous or excessive spending is bad. Clearly, there’s a strong evolutionary reason for why we do it. However, as Dr. Geoffrey Miller says, there’s likely better ways accomplish the same goals of standing out than brute force spending. Take a look.
Conspicuous Consumption, Relationships, and Rivals: Women’s Luxury Products as Signals to Other Women
The Rival Wears Prada: Luxury Consumption as a Female Competition Strategy
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Previous studies on luxury consumption demonstrated that men spend large sums of money on luxury brands to signal their mate value to women and, thus, increase their reproductive success. Although women also spend copious amounts of money on luxuries, research focusing on women’s motives for luxury consumption is rather scarce. Relying on costly signaling and intrasexual competition theory, the goal of the current study was to test whether female intrasexual competition in a mate attraction context triggers women’s spending on luxuries. The results of the first experiment reveal that an intrasexual competition context enhances women’s preferences for attractiveness enhancing, but not for non-attractiveness related luxuries such as a smartphone. This finding indicates that women may use luxury consumption as a self-promotion strategy during within-sex competitions, as these luxuries improve their advantages against same-sex rivals for mates. A follow-up study shows that compared to women who do not consume luxuries, women who do so are perceived as more attractive, flirty, young, ambitious, sexy, and less loyal, mature and smart by other women. These results suggest that luxury consumption may provide information about a women’s willingness to engage in sex, as well as her views about other women, and consequently, her success in intrasexual competitions.
What If the Rival Drives a Porsche?: Luxury Car Spending as a Costly Signal in Male Intrasexual Competition
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Different impacts of resources on opposite sex ratings of physical attractiveness by males and females
Previous research found that men conspicuously consume luxury products to attract a mate and to signal their mate value. However, these studies have yet neglected to investigate the function of male conspicuous consumption in same-sex competition. Given that intersexual selection and intrasexual selection are closely related processes, it stands to reason that a further function of male conspicuous consumption could be to impress and deter same-sex rivals. An 2 (intrasexual competition context vs. control) × 2 (conspicuous luxury vs. inconspicuous nonluxury) between-subjects experimental study conducted with an Amazon Mechanical Turk sample (N = 160) revealed that men reported both higher liking of and an intent to purchase a conspicuous luxury car compared to an inconspicuous nonluxury car due to increased feelings of social status. This effect was stronger in the intrasexual competition than in the control context. An additional perception study using a single-factor between-subjects design (conspicuous luxury vs. inconspicuous nonluxury car) among German men (N = 405) indicated that male participants rated a man who displayed a conspicuous luxury car more as a rival and mate poacher and less as a friend. They further perceived him to be superior on various mate value characteristics (i.e., attractiveness, intelligence, ambition, and status) and rated him as more oriented toward short-term mating. In sum, our findings add to previous research in the field of evolutionary consumer psychology by suggesting that male conspicuous consumption of luxuries may also serve a function in male–male competition.
Peacocks, Porsches, and Thorstein Veblen: Conspicuous consumption as a sexual signaling system.
Summing It All Up
It seems men generally spend on luxury products to attract women. Women spend on luxury products to compete against other women, primarily to discourage other women from competing for the same man or steal their man. However, it gets more complicated than that since there can be multiple motives and benefits. Luxury spending can also signal a woman’s personality and nature to a man, including how sexual she is.
Another study pointed to costs to lavish spending and flexing that people don’t realize or emphasize. Men who spend more conspicuously tend to be seen as more interested in short-term sexual relationships, less attractive, a less reliable parent, and interested in long-term committed relationships than someone spending frugally.
Some of the studies touch on familiar themes in pop culture. Women care more about money than men.
If a man is interested in long-term relationships, spending conspicuously will have little to no positive effect in attracting women. If he’s interested in short-term mating, it’ll be worthwhile.
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