Social comparison, personal relative deprivation, and materialism

Hyunji Kim, Mitchell J. Callan, Ana I. Gheorghiu, William J. Matthews

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Across five studies, we found consistent evidence for the idea that personal relative deprivation (PRD), which refers to resentment stemming from the belief that one is deprived of deserved outcomes compared to others, uniquely contributes to materialism. In Study 1, self-reports of PRD positively predicted materialistic values over and above socioeconomic status, personal power, self-esteem, and emotional uncertainty. The experience of PRD starts with social comparison, and Studies 2 and 3 found that PRD mediated the positive relation between a tendency to make social comparisons of abilities and materialism. In Study 4, participants who learned that they had less (vs. similar) discretionary income than people like them reported a stronger desire for more money relative to donating more to charity. In Study 5, during a windfall-spending task, participants higher in PRD spent more on things they wanted relative to other spending categories (e.g., paying off debts).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-392
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • consumer behaviour
  • materialism
  • personal relative deprivation
  • social comparison
  • social status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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