Buying to blunt negative feelings: Materialistic escape from the self

Grant E. Donnelly, Masha Ksendzova, Ryan T. Howell, Kathleen D. Vohs, Roy F. Baumeister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


We propose that escape theory, which describes how individuals seek to free themselves from aversive states of self-awareness, helps explain key patterns of materialistic people's behavior. As predicted by escape theory, materialistic individuals may feel dissatisfied with their standard of living, cope with failed expectations and life stressors less effectively than others, suffer from aversive self-awareness, and experience negative emotions as a result. To cope with negative, self-directed emotions, materialistic people may enter a narrow, cognitively deconstructed mindset in order to temporarily blunt the capacity for self-reflection. Cognitive narrowing decreases inhibitions thereby engendering impulsivity, passivity, irrational thought, and disinhibited behaviors, including maladaptive consumption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-316
Number of pages45
JournalReview of General Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Psychological Association.


  • Escape
  • Materialism
  • Negative emotions
  • Self
  • Self-awareness


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