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Luxury purchases may fuel impostor syndrome

Luxury purchases may fuel impostor syndrome

Purchasing luxury goods can affirm buyers' sense of status and enjoyment of items like fancy cars or fine jewellery, but it can also spark feelings of inauthenticity for some people, fuelling what researchers have labelled 'impostor syndrome' among consumers, a new study suggests.

"Luxury can be a double-edged sword. While luxury consumption holds the promise of elevated status, it can backfire and make consumers feel inauthentic, producing what we call the 'impostor syndrome from luxury consumption," said the study researchers from Boston University in the US.

Accrording to the study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, The research team draw their conclusions based on nine studies, encompassing surveys and observations of patrons of the Metropolitan Opera and shoppers at Louis Vuitton in New York City, vacationers on Martha's Vineyard, and other luxury consumers.

In contrast to previous studies in this area, "we find that many consumers perceive luxury products as a privilege which is undue and undeserved," said study researcher Nailya Ordabayeva, Associate Professor at the Boston University.

As a result, consumers feel inauthentic while wearing or using these products, and they actually act less confident than if they were sporting non-luxury items. For example, "one participant said she felt very shy when she wore a gold necklace with diamonds that she owned because it is not in her character to wear luxurious jewelry," even though she could afford it, said the researchers.

According to the study, this effect is mitigated among consumers who have an inherently high sense of entitlement, and also among non-entitled-feeling consumers on occasions that make them feel special, such as their birthday.

"Luxury marketers and shoppers need to be aware of this psychological cost of luxury, as impostor feelings resulting from purchases reduce consumer enjoyment and happiness," said Ordabayeva.

"But boosting consumers' feelings of deservingness through sales tactics and marketing messages can help," she said.

"Ultimately, in today's age that prioritises authenticity and authentic living, creating experiences and narratives that boost people's personal connection with products and possessions can yield lasting benefits for consumers and marketers alike," Ordabayeva concluded.

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