Plenty of us spend hours using our laptops, smartphones, gaming consoles and other gadgets. They come with us everywhere, and when they malfunction or break, it’s often hard to go on without replacing them immediately. But can you actually be in love with a possession? Researchers at Arizona State University say it’s possible.
It’s normal for people to become attached to objects that they believe convey their sense of self. But after conducting interviews with car owners, gun owners and computer owners, the researchers described a phenomenon they dubbed “material possession love,” in which a person “becomes emotionally attached to possessions as real substitutes in what resembles a human relationship.”
The researchers found that those who exhibited this kind of love for their material possessions spent significantly more time and money nurturing and lavishing them with add-ons and extra services. In fact, they found that gun owners on average spent six times more money on their weapons than on others, while computer owners spent about twice as much on their gadgets as they did on others.
But the study did more than just equate love with the amount of money spent on a person or thing. Extensive interviews with participants at a car show revealed that many of them treated their cars like people and fashioned real, emotional relationships with them. For example, one car show participant named his car “Maybelline” and said he spends more time with the car than with people. Another participant knew everything about his beloved car–he knew by heart her date and place of manufacturing, vehicle identification number and a timeline of all her previous owners. Another car owner described the day he bought it in “love-at-first-sight terms”– he spent all the money he had on the car and even asked to borrow money from his dad.
But what makes the study so interesting is that this kind of possession love spanned a variety of interests. “We went into this just looking at automobiles, but found it was a generalizable phenomenon,” said John Lastovicka, the primary author of the study,which was published online in the Journal of Consumer Research. “We were surprised to find people lavishing love on bicycles, computers and guns. Also, this wasn’t love for a brand – this was simply a love for the specific possession owned by the consumer.”
So next time you see a sleek and sexy new tablet, you might be starting a completely different kind of love affair than you thought.
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