Luxury purchases may spark impostor syndrome among consumers: Study


PTI, Dec 22, 2019, 12:08 PM IST

Boston: Luxury purchases can spark feelings of inauthenticity for some people, fuelling what researchers have labelled “impostor syndrome” among consumers, according to a study.

While purchasing fancy cars or fine jewellery can affirm buyers’ sense of status and enjoyment, the researchers, including those from Boston College in the US, said such “luxury can be a double-edged sword.”

The study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, revealed that many consumers perceive luxury products as a privilege which they don’t deserve.

“While luxury consumption holds the promise of elevated status, it can backfire and make consumers feel inauthentic, producing what we call the ‘impostor syndrome from luxury consumption,'” the researchers said in a press statement.

They said the current research is a review of nine earlier studies, encompassing surveys and observations of patrons of the Metropolitan Opera and shoppers at Louis Vuitton in New York City, vacationers on Martha’s Vineyard, and other luxury consumers in the US.

According to the current study, some consumers feel inauthentic while wearing or using these products, and they actually act less confident than if they were sporting non-luxury items.

Citing an example, they said, “one participant said she felt very shy when she wore a gold necklace with diamonds that she owned because it is not in her character to wear luxurious jewellery,” even when she could afford it.

However, the researchers said this effect is mitigated among consumers who have an inherently high sense of entitlement.

Additionally, non-entitled-feeling consumers did not feel like impostors while using these products on occasions when they felt special, such as their birthday.

“Luxury marketers and shoppers need to be aware of this psychological cost of luxury, as impostor feelings resulting from purchases reduce consumer enjoyment and happiness,” said study co-author Nailya Ordabayeva from Boston College.

She said boosting consumers’ feelings of deservingness through sales tactics and marketing messages can help.

“Ultimately, in today’s age that prioritizes authenticity and authentic living, creating experiences and narratives that boost people’s personal connection with products and possessions can yield lasting benefits for consumers and marketers alike,” Ordabayeva said.

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