Materialism has often been considered as a means of attaining a more positive sense of self within a consumer culture. In two undergraduate samples (N = 248, 183), the current study assessed the extent to which various forms of insecurity (i.e., low self-esteem, public self-consciousness, relative deprivation, anxious attachment, fear of death) mediate the relationship between the Buddhist construct of nonattachment and materialism. In line with expectations, greater nonattachment was directly associated with reduced materialism in both samples. Nonattachment was also found to be indirectly associated with reduced materialism via reduced public selfconsciousness and relative deprivation. Self-esteem, anxious attachment, and fear of death did not mediate the relationship between nonattachment and materialism. The findings therefore indicate that the acceptance and non-contingent sense of self typical of nonattachment may play an important role in minimising the experience or impact of insecurity that can contribute to materialism, as well as minimising the importance placed on material goals.
Materialism (i.e., the pursuit of material possessions or wealth for reasons associated with status and image; Dittmar, Bond, Hurst, & Kasser, 2014) has been frequently associated with reduced wellbeing (Dittmar et al., 2014; see also Kasser, Ryan, Couchman, & Sheldon, 2004) and environmentally destructive behaviours and cognitions (Hurst, Dittmar, Bond, & Kasser, 2013). An apparent generational increase in psychopathology also appears to coincide with an increase in materialism (Twenge et al., 2010). It is therefore important to identify the underlying reasons why people may place importance on materialistic goals. Recent research has provided the first indication that higher scores on the Buddhist concept of nonattachment are associated with reduced materialism (Sahdra, Shaver, & Brown, 2010). Nonattachment is about having a reduced tendency to ‘cling to’ or ‘push away’ ideas, objects, relationships, or experiences on the basis that they are considered to be desirable or undesirable (Sahdra et al., 2010; Whitehead, Bates, Elphinstone, Yang, & Murray, 2018). A growing body of literature has shown that nonattachment is associated with greater wellbeing (Ju & Lee, 2015; Sahdra et al., 2010; Sahdra, Ciarrochi, & Parker, 2016; Whitehead, Bates, & Elphinstone, 2018), reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression (Feliu-Soler et al., 2016), increased self-esteem, empathy, and prosociality (Sahdra, Ciarrochi, Parker, Marshall, & Heaven, 2015), relational harmony (Wang, Wong, & Yeh, 2016), and wisdom, self-actualization, and self-transcendence (Whitehead, Bates, & Elphinstone, 2019). Nonattachment therefore appears to have a range of personal and interpersonal benefits and is worthy of additional research, including in relation to materialism.