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UBC Theses and Dissertations

To have or to do? Two essays on material and experiential purchases Shim, Yoonji


Consumer researchers have documented that experiential purchases (i.e., those made with the primary intention of acquiring an experience) ultimately make consumers happier than do material purchases (i.e., those made with the primary intention of acquiring a tangible good or material possession; Van Boven and Gilovich 2003). Much of this research has focused on identifying the systematic differences between experiential and material purchases to understand why people drive greater benefits from acquiring an experience over a material possession (Caprariello and Reis 2013; Carter and Gilovich 2010; 2012; Van Boven and Gilovich 2003). However, less is known about when consumers tend to shift preferences toward experiential as opposed to material purchases, and how consumers make choices when choosing among options that are viewed as being more experiential versus material in nature. This dissertation is aimed at understanding situations in which consumers are particularly motivated to seek out experiential rather than material purchases and identifying a key factor that influences consumer choices between experiential and material purchases. Essay 1 investigates how thinking about one’s own death (i.e., mortality salience) influences consumer preferences for experiential versus material consumption. Specifically, I demonstrate that reminders of one’s own mortality lead consumers to seek to imbue their lives with a sense of meaning and to engage in more experiential than material consumption to fulfill their activated desire for meaning in response to mortality salience. In essay 2, I demonstrate that experiential (vs. material) consumption has the unique consequence of making consumers more attuned to the potential future affective consequences of their choice and more likely select options that are congruent with their ideal affective states (i.e., the qualitative type of positive affect that they would ideally like to feel, such as excitement or peacefulness). This tendency is enhanced when consumers are particularly motivated to regulate their affective states in ways that are consistent with ideal affect. Further, I show that consumers are more satisfied with their purchases over time when their choices are made in accordance with their ideal affect when the choice domain is experiential (vs. material).

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