Date of Award

Summer 1993

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration-Marketing

Committee Director

John B. Ford

Committee Member

Edward Markowski

Committee Member

Scott D. Roberts

Committee Member

William H. Wallace


Materialism has been called the most significant macro development in modern consumer behavior. Despite its importance, research about the construct is rather new. Two scales have been developed to measure materialism, one proposed by Belk, the other by Richins and Dawson.

The purpose of this dissertation is threefold. First, it extends the materialism research program by investigating the relationship between materialism and one's self concept. Hypotheses which drive the research posit that people who are more materialistic have lower self-esteem, are less likely to be self-actualized, are extrinsically rather than intrinsically motivated, and are likely to be high self-monitors. The second purpose is to assess the reliability and validity of the two scales. Third, the definition of materialism itself is addressed.

Data were collected via a questionnaire distributed to adults. Hypotheses were investigated with correlation analysis. The reliability of the two scales was assessed by calculating Coefficient Alphas and item-to-total statistics. Confirmatory factor analysis and the hypothesis tests were used in assessing validity. A profile of materialists was developed by analyzing the top and bottom terciles formed from scores on the Richins and Dawson scale.

All hypotheses were confirmed. People scoring high on the materialism scales were found to be less self-confident and to rely on the opinions of others. While materialism was equally distributed across categories of gender and ethnic background, materialists tended to be younger, to not have a college degree, and to have either relatively high or relatively low household incomes.

The Richins and Dawson scale was found to be the more reliable scale. Validity assessment also suggested that it may be superior to the Belk scale.

Finally, a distinction was drawn between materialism and other constructs such as consumerism and conspicuous consumption. The importance of the self-concept to an understanding of materialism and the resulting implications for the definition of materialism were explored.


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