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Journal ArticleDOI

Women's Luxury Products as Signals to Other Women

21 Dec 2020-Vol. 4, pp 227-238

AbstractWe present two preregistered replications of the paper by Wang and Griskevicius (2014), which reported that women flaunt luxury products to signal their partners' devotion, thereby guarding their relationships from rivals. In Study 1, which was a conceptual replication with real luxury brands, we did not observe an effect of luxury products on partner devotion but found that women assumed that male partners contribute financial resources to women's luxury possessions. In Study 2, which was a direct replication with designer products, we observed a small-sized effect in the opposite direction, such that perceived partner devotion increased when women used nondesigner products. Similar to Study 1, perceived partner contribution to possessions was higher for designer products. (Less)

Summary (2 min read)

Introduction

  • This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Now Publishers terms and conditions for self-archiving.
  • In Study 2, which was a direct replication with designer products, the authors observed a small-sized effect in the opposite direction, such that perceived partner devotion increased when women used nondesigner products.
  • Similar to Study 1, perceived partner contribution to possessions was higher for designer products.

1. Background

  • The motivational underpinnings of luxury consumption have long been a research area in marketing, and much attention has been directed towards understanding the role of luxury possessions in romantic relationships.
  • Yet, this motive did not explain why women spend on luxury, given that men are not attracted by expensive handbags or designer jewelry.
  • The question of why women spend on luxury was later addressed by Wang and Griskevicius (2014), which showed that the main motivation behind women’s luxury possessions was “mate guarding”, as women used luxury products to signal other women that they had a devoted partner, thereby protecting the mate and the relationship.
  • This study has not only been cited widely (over 300 citations in Google Scholar as of February 2020), but also received substantial coverage in media outlets such as Daily Mail, CBS News, The Atlantic, and Science Daily.
  • The main tenets of this research have not been replicated in the literature.

2.1. Hypotheses

  • In Study 1, their objective was to conceptually replicate and extend the findings presented in Wang and Griskevicius (2014).
  • Luxuriousness of a woman’s possessions will lead other women to perceive her as having a more devoted partner, also known as H1.
  • 1 Study hypotheses and methods were preregistered prior to data collection to ensure that data collection and analyses were conducted as planned.
  • Preregistration, as well as the survey, dataset, and analyses outputs for both experiments are publicly available at the Open Science Framework (see https://osf.io/czvu6/).
  • Benevolent sexism gives rise to beliefs such as women should be cherished by men or women’s financial needs should be satisfied by men; thus, women who score high in this trait might be more likely to link a woman’s luxury products to her partner’s devotion and his resources.

2.2. Sample and Design

  • The authors collected data from 250 participants (original experiment: N = 69) using the online participant pool Prolific (Palan & Schitter, 2018).
  • Participants were randomly assigned to the conditions (nnonluxury = 123, nluxury = 127).
  • He is her date and current relationship partner.

2.3. Procedure and Measures

  • First, all participants responded to six items that gauged benevolent sexism, which were adopted from the short version of the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory (e.g., “Many women have a quality of purity that few men possess”, “Women should be cherished and protected by men”; Glick & Whitehead, 2010).
  • Louis Vuitton® and Tiffany & Co.®, which are among the most desirable luxury brands in the U.S. (Statista, 2018), represented luxury brands; H&M® and ZARA®, which are among the top general apparel brands (Brandirectory, 2019), represented nonluxury brands.
  • Participants read the following description (luxury condition in parentheses): “Imagine you are at a gala party, where you see another woman.
  • The survey ended with demographics questions and debriefing about the aim of the study.

2.4. Results

  • Hypothesis 1 examined whether women perceived other women with luxury possessions to have a more devoted partner.
  • Hypothesis 2 examined the likelihood that women assumed that the target woman’s partner paid for her luxury belongings.
  • The corresponding correlation matrix for these variables is presented in Table 2.
  • Conditional mediation analyses showed that, in the luxury possessions condition, the indirect effect of benevolent sexism on devotion through perceived partner contribution was not significant (B = 0.05, 95%CI [-0.01, 0.11], p = .102).

3.2. Procedure and Measures

  • As in Study 1, participants first read the description of a woman who was at a gala party with her date and had designer possessions: “Imagine you are at a gala party, where you see another woman.
  • He is her date and current relationship partner.
  • She is carrying a luxury designer (an unbranded) handbag.
  • You also notice that she has expensive and impressive (inexpensive and unimpressive) jewelry.”.
  • Next, participant responded to the manipulation check item (“I think this woman is interested in designer products”), followed by the two items measuring devotion (r = 0.86, p < .001; α = 0.92) and one item measuring male partner’s financial contribution to woman’s possessions, which were identical to the items in Study 1.

3.3. Results

  • Hypothesis 1, which stated that women with luxury possession will be perceived as having a more devoted partner, was not supported in Study 1.
  • The authors further conducted internal meta-analyses for the two presented replications.

4. Discussion and Conclusions

  • Wang and Griskevicius (2014) posited that one of the major motives for women to consume luxury is mate guarding, such that women use luxury possessions to signal other women that their partners are devoted to the relationship.
  • Another possibility is that women with luxury possessions were implicitly perceived to have materialistic traits, and the participants did not believe that the partner was devoted to a highly materialistic person.
  • Experimentally manipulating whom the women is with (e.g., friend, mother, husband, etc.) could uncover whether this contribution is linked to the romantic relationship or it is just a demand effect.

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Citations
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Journal Article
Abstract: Conspicuous displays of consumption and benevolence might serve as \"costly signals\" of desirable mate qualities. If so, they should vary strategically with manipulations of mating-related motives. The authors examined this possibility in 4 experiments. Inducing mating goals in men increased their willingness to spend on conspicuous luxuries but not on basic necessities. In women, mating goals boosted public--but not private--helping. Although mating motivation did not generally inspire helping in men, it did induce more helpfulness in contexts in which they could display heroism or dominance. Conversely, although mating motivation did not lead women to conspicuously consume, it did lead women to spend more publicly on helpful causes. Overall, romantic motives seem to produce highly strategic and sex-specific self-presentations best understood within a costly signaling framework.

483 citations


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Abstract: Hypotheses involving mediation are common in the behavioral sciences. Mediation exists when a predictor affects a dependent variable indirectly through at least one intervening variable, or mediator. Methods to assess mediation involving multiple simultaneous mediators have received little attention in the methodological literature despite a clear need. We provide an overview of simple and multiple mediation and explore three approaches that can be used to investigate indirect processes, as well as methods for contrasting two or more mediators within a single model. We present an illustrative example, assessing and contrasting potential mediators of the relationship between the helpfulness of socialization agents and job satisfaction. We also provide SAS and SPSS macros, as well as Mplus and LISREL syntax, to facilitate the use of these methods in applications.

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Abstract: Our possessions are a major contributor to and reflection of our identities A variety of evidence is presented supporting this simple and compelling premise Related streams of research are identified and drawn upon in developing this concept and implications are derived for consumer behavior Because the construct of extended self involves consumer behavior rather than buyer behavior, it appears to be a much richer construct than previous formulations positing a relationship between self-concept and consumer brand choice

7,021 citations


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TL;DR: A contextual-evolutionary theory of human mating strategies is proposed, hypothesized to have evolved distinct psychological mechanisms that underlie short-term and long-term strategies between men and women.
Abstract: This article proposes a contextual-evolutionary theory of human mating strategies. Both men and women are hypothesized to have evolved distinct psychological mechanisms that underlie short-term and long-term strategies. Men and women confront different adaptive problems in short-term as opposed to long-term mating contexts. Consequently, different mate preferences become activated from their strategic repertoires. Nine key hypotheses and 22 predictions from Sexual Strategies Theory are outlined and tested empirically. Adaptive problems sensitive to context include sexual accessibility, fertility assessment, commitment seeking and avoidance, immediate and enduring resource procurement, paternity certainty, assessment of mate value, and parental investment. Discussion summarizes 6 additional sources of behavioral data, outlines adaptive problems common to both sexes, and suggests additional contexts likely to cause shifts in mating strategy.

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Frequently Asked Questions (2)
Q1. What are the contributions mentioned in the paper "Replication note: women's luxury products as signals to other women" ?

The authors present two preregistered replications of the paper by Wang and Griskevicius ( 2014 ), which reported that women flaunt luxury products to signal their partners ’ devotion, thereby guarding their relationships from rivals. 

To eliminate this possibility, the authors conducted Study 2, a direct replication with designer ( vs. nondesigner ) products. One possibility is desirability bias. Another possibility is that women with luxury possessions were implicitly perceived to have materialistic traits, and the participants did not believe that the partner was devoted to a highly materialistic person. Future studies should further scrutinize the boundary conditions of the relationship between luxury products and partner devotion.