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I (do not) consume; therefore, I am: Investigating materialism and voluntary simplicity through a moderated mediation model

Abstract With the burgeoning of consumer culture and materialism on a global scale, a counter‐culture movement, namely, voluntary simplicity, is slowly gaining currency. Extant research reveals a degree of disparateness in the relationship between materialism and voluntary simplicity. Drawing on the value‐basis theory and anti‐consumption research, the current study attempts at an unorthodox study of the fledgling culture of anti‐consumption in urban India. The paper empirically examines the relationship between materialism and voluntary simplicity in India. This research, through an experimental study followed by a sample survey, conducted among urban Indian consumers, examines how satisfaction with life, self‐efficacy, and individualism interact with materialistic values to eventually influence voluntary simplicity attitudes. In Study 1 (N = 74 working professionals), we experimentally triggered materialistic aspirations and evaluated their effects on voluntary simplicity in comparison to a control condition. In Study 2 (N = 315), individuals self‐rated their materialistic values, satisfaction with life, self‐efficacy, cultural orientation, and voluntary simplicity attitude. Our study, contrary to the suggestions in the existing literature, demonstrates that materialists espouse voluntary simplicity attitudes when environmental degradation around them directly impacts their health, wealth, and well‐being. In addition to the positive direct effect, satisfaction with life and self‐efficacy serially mediate the relationship between materialism and voluntary simplicity, providing a welcome divergence from dark‐sided conceptualizations of materialism. Our results help global marketers, and public policymakers better understand the interaction between materialistic values and sustainable consumption attitudes, in the developing country perspective.

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