Consumer Culture, Identity and Well-Being: The Search for the 'Good Life' and the 'Body Perfect', 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Consumer Culture, Identity and Well-Being

The Search for the 'Good Life' and the 'Body Perfect', 1st Edition

By Helga Dittmar

Psychology Press

296 pages

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Advertising, materialism and consumption are central aspects of contemporary Western culture. We are bombarded with idealised images of the perfect body, desirable consumer goods, and affluent lifestyles, yet psychology is only just beginning to take account of the profound influence these consumer culture ideals have on individuals’ sense of identity and worth.

Consumer Culture, Identity, and Well-Being documents the negative psychological impact consumer culture can have on how individuals view themselves and on their emotional welfare. It looks at the social psychological dimensions of having, buying and wanting material goods, as well as the pursuit of media-hyped appearance ideals. In particular, it focuses on:

  • the purchasing of material goods as a means of expressing and seeking identity, and the negative consequences of this
  • psychological buying motivations in conventional buying environments and on the Internet
  • the unrealistic socio-cultural beauty ideals embodied by idealized models.

Throughout, different approaches from social psychology are integrated, such as self-completion, self-discrepancy and value theory, to create a comprehensive theoretical framework for understanding the impact of internalising core consumer culture ideals on how individuals see themselves and the implications this has for their psychological and physical health.

This book is of interest to anybody who wants to find out more about the psychological effects of living in modern consumer societies on children, adolescents, and adults. More specifically, it will be of interest to students and researchers in social psychology, sociology, media studies, communication and other social sciences, as well as to psychologists, health workers, and practitioners interested in the topics of identity, consumption pathologies, body image, and body-related behaviours.


"Dr. Dittmar has done us a great service by writing a book on the importance of 'consuming' to society and to individual identity and well-being that is both scholarly and accessible. The book tackles some tough questions regarding who and what people want to be, how they go about constructing their 'selves', and just what is it that people want from life and why. I wish more research psychologists were writing books like this." - James E. Maddux, George Mason University, Washington, USA

"Dittmar's book provides a valuable review of her ground-breaking psychological studies of consumer culture. In my mind, the book's strongest contribution is its explication of how identity-related processes help explain the damage that occurs when individuals take on the materialistic values and unhealthy body images encouraged in our contemporary world." - Tim Kasser, Knox College, USA

"[This book] discusses an important and timely issue - the psychological impact of mass consumption that visibly pervades our consumer culture. … The author makes a contribution by focusing on identity." - Candice R. Hollenbeck & George M. Zinkhan, PsycCRITIQUES

Table of Contents

1. Understanding the Impact of Consumer Culture. 2. To Have is to Be? Psychological Functions of Material Possessions. 3. Consuming Passions? Psychological Motives for Buying Consumer Goods. 4. Is this as Good as it Gets? Materialistic Values and Well-Being. 5. I Shop Therefore I Am? Compulsive Buying and Identity-Seeking. 6. Does Size Matter? The Impact of Ultra-Thin Media Models on Women's Body Image and on Advertising Effectiveness. 7. Think 'Ideal' and Feel Bad? Using Self-Discrepancies to Understand Negative Media Effects. 8. What is Beautiful and Who is 'Cool'? Consumer Culture and Socialisation. 9. What is the Price of Consumer Culture? Consequences, Implications, and the Cage Within.

About the Author/Editor

Helga Dittmar, D.Phil, is Reader in Psychology at the University of Sussex in England, where she completed her undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications, after beginning her studies in psychology at the University of Frankfurt in Germany. Her research focuses on mass consumer society and how this has an impact on people’s sense of who they are and their well-being. Her work has received strong media interest (TV, radio) and includes: psychological functions of material possessions, buying motivations, compulsive buying, materialism, as well as the influence of the mass media on the body image of girls, women and men.

About the Series

European Monographs in Social Psychology

The European Monographs in Social Psychology series is published in conjunction with the European Association of Social Psychology, to support authored books for advanced students covering social topics that promote a European intellectual perspective to the rest of the world.

The aim of this series is to publish and promote the highest quality of writing in European social psychology, and provide an outlet for new research in the field. At a time when cultural and political frontiers in Europe are being redrawn, there could hardly be a more appropriate time to promote a distinctively European intellectual perspective to the rest of the world. The editor and the editorial board encourage publications which approach social psychology from a wide range of theoretical perspectives and whose content may be applied, theoretical or empirical.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Social Psychology