Materialism is associated with a broad range of negative outcomes for individuals, societies, and the planet. We therefore experimentally tested whether a three-session intervention could cause sustained reductions in materialism.
Employed young adults (aged 18-30) in three European countries (UK, Italy, Hungary) were either encouraged to set intrinsic goals and reflect on self-transcendence values or were assigned to an active control group. We measured materialistic value and goal orientations, and we followed up two months after the completion of the intervention.
Participants in the experimental group significantly decreased in their materialistic goal orientation by the end of the intervention and 2 months later, but showed no significant changes in their materialistic value orientation. Among the active control group, no changes in materialistic goal or value orientations were noted. Findings were independent of the cultures studied, of commitment to, self-concordance with, and progress made on chosen goals, and of engagement in the intervention.
This study demonstrated that encouraging and activating self-transcendence values and intrinsic goals is an effective strategy to reduce a materialistic goal orientation. This result was robust across a range of potential moderating factors, which suggests this intervention may be widely useful to reduce a materialistic goal orientations. We discuss why the intervention may have reduced materialistic goal orientations but not materialistic value orientations.