Consumption Junction: The Pursuit of Happiness

by Lana Lynne on 7.3.11

Complicity hath reached a new level, dear patriots. A recent study published in the journal Psychology and Marketing looked at the practice of retail therapy, whereby advertisers promote the happiness quotient of products, and consumers buy things to make themselves feel better. Through surveys and diary-keeping, the study found that the negative mood that prompts a therapeutic retail excursion is indeed improved -- whether from the subject having followed through with a purchase or from the subject having exercised restraint from purchasing (the strategy for mood-lifting depended on the individual's rules for him- or herself).

The widespread recognition and exploitation of the therapeutic value of material consumption dates back to the early days of national advertising at the turn of the last century. Advertisements became suffused with health and anxiety, and consumerism usurped the non-material values of religion. With consumer-capitalism as our only moral compass, we find ourselves in today's hyper-anxious culture of consumption, where advertisers no longer need to convince people of retail therapy. We've become complicit in our own marketing.

No less depressing is the idea that the study will be touted as a cure for the ailing economy, much like George W. Bush's urging to "go shopping" after 9/11. The Daily Mail's somewhat desperate headline (is it the "really does"?) says it all: "Feeling Sad? Go Shopping Because it Really Does Make You Happier, say Psychologists." It doth appear we have internalized those advertising gimmicks of yesteryear.

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  1. Now we proof that the new globalization (i.e. the spread of capitalist consumerism) is going to be good for everyone all over the world!

  2. And to think I laughed and thought George W's suggestion was the most ridiculous thing ever. Turns out that that is exactly what some people do to beat the blues. My heart goes out to them...


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