Who Likes Bling? The Answer Relates to Social Status

Medical Xpress, December 17, 2012

A desire for expensive, high-status goods is related to feelings of social status—which helps explain why minorities are attracted to bling, a new study suggests.

Previous research had shown that racial minorities spend a larger portion of their incomes than do whites on conspicuous consumption—buying products that suggest high status.

But a new study showed that whites could be induced to crave expensive, high-status products if they imagined themselves in a low-status position.

These findings cast doubt on the notion that urban minorities have developed a corrosive “bling culture” that is unique to them, said Philip Mazzocco, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus.

“Minorities don’t buy high-status products because of some ‘bling culture.’ It is a basic psychological tendency that we all share when we’re feeling inferior in some part of our life,” Mazzocco said.

“Anyone who is feeling low in status is going to try to compensate. And in our capitalistic, consumption-oriented society, one way to compensate is to buy high-status products.”

{snip}

In the first experiment, 146 American adults—about half white and half black—were told they would be participating in a study of consumer preferences. They were asked to rate how positively or negatively they viewed 10 products on a nine-point scale from “extremely negative” to “extremely positive.”

Five of the products had been rated by a separate group of people as high in status (fur coat, cuff links, caviar, an Italian suit and Italian loafers), while five were rated as relatively low in status (vacuum cleaner, sofa, refrigerator, washing machine and an unbranded shirt).

The study found that, overall, blacks had more positive evaluations of the high-status products than did whites. But more importantly, blacks who considered their race to be an important part of their identity rated high-status goods higher than did blacks who had lower racial identification.

There was no such difference among whites in the study.

“Because African Americans are seen as lower in status in our society, those who identify more strongly with being black are more likely to compensate by seeking high-status goods,” Mazzocco said.

A second study provided more evidence of the role that status plays in conspicuous consumption. In this experiment, 117 white college students were asked to write a story in which they imagined themselves as a character with certain demographic characteristics.

In all cases, the demographic characteristics—including income—remained the same. But half of the students were asked to imagine their character was white, and half were told their character was black.

Afterward, the participants were asked to rate the desirability of high-status and low-status products. Findings showed that the white students who imagined themselves as a black character rated the high-status products as more desirable than did the white students who imagined themselves as white characters.

“We called this vicarious conspicuous consumption. White students who temporarily identified with a low-status racial group showed an increased desire for high-status products,” Mazzocco said.

The findings don’t relate only to race, he said. Another study showed that other situations involving status can affect how people feel about conspicuous consumption.

In this experiment, 50 white adults were again asked to write a story imagining themselves as a specific character. In this case, the character was always described as being white. But in half the cases the character was a janitor (a low-status job) and in the other half the character was a brain surgeon (a high-status job).

The findings were clear. Participants who imagined themselves as a janitor had more positive evaluations of high-status products than did the participants who imagined themselves as brain surgeons.

In a final experiment, 69 white adults wrote a story in which they imagined themselves as a white or black character. In this case, they rated their desire to own or purchase specific high- and low-status products. They were then asked to rate the level of social status of the character they wrote about, on a scale of 1 to 10.

In this case, the participants who wrote about the black character were more likely to say they wanted to purchase the high-status products, similar to findings in the earlier studies. And they also rated their character as having lower social status than did the participants who wrote about a white character.

{snip}

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  • Francis Galton

    The great irony about the “bling culture” (yes, Virginia, it DOES exist…) is that nearly everyone associates the culture and its accoutrements with low-status ghetto blacks. Wearing a lot of bling therefore marks the wearer as tacky, low class, and even potentially criminal. Blacks would actually seem higher class to most Whites if they simply wore mainstream, middle-class clothing–proper-fitting jeans or slacks, proper fitting t-shirt or polo shirt, understated shoes or sandals, and perhaps a simple necklace.

    Most blacks do not have the wherewithal to realize that truly high-class items are often subtle and nuanced, not gaudy and in-your-face. Then again, blacks with ridiculous rims, low riders, rainbow-colored basketball shoes, 4XL t-shirts, and ghetto stereo systems are signaling to the working-poor and welfare-class blacks, so perhaps they’re high-class within their subculture?

    • Joseph

      Perception is reality when it comes to accessing mates and warning off potential mating rivals. This is fascinatingly annoying. Old mid to upper class white guys do it by driving a red Porsche convertible. Low-brow midwest white guys do it by having a diesel “four-by” two feet off of the ground with a 5-inch dia. compensatory exhaust tip and lightbar across the top. Mexican punks do it by having a Civic or some other “ricer” with a fart-pipe, covered with various stickers and 40-series tires with “Hector” in gothic letters on the back window. It seems clear that each is advertising their “fitness” toward distinctive mating populations. You simply will NOT see a black guy driving the truck I described above nor a white guy from the trailer park driving the beanermobile, though the financial burdens would be similar.

      • MBlanc46

        Excellent examples.

  • Fighting_Northern_Spirit

    Is this the level of proof acceptable in the social sciences: “imagine yourself as X”? I knew they were pathetic non-sciences, but not this pathetic.

  • Puggg

    Stupid study. Just because quantum mechanics gives me the ability to walk through a brick wall once every trillion trillion years doesn’t mean I’m going to be able to walk through a brick wall. There’s a big difference between theoretical desires and esteem of products and an actual bling culture in practice.

    BTW, the black bling culture is actually a quasi religious animist talisman culture.

    • Michael_C_Scott

      Yes, think “cargo cult”.

      • Puggg

        Jared Taylor has said it in the past…blacks think the college degree makes them smart, as if the piece of paper has some magic quality to it. Ergo, just get the degree, get the piece of paper, and presto, you’re smart.

        I have heard blacks say that the only reason doctors are doctors is because they are able to convince enough people that they’re doctors, so their task is to do the same: Convince enough people that they’re doctors, and therefore, they will be. In other words, run a good enough scam.

        • Joseph

          A college degree is just another form of “bling”. Education is intangible.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/NQHEAYZCMBOERHG2VZRDQ3YUSQ Felix

            Good luck with that.
            I’ll wager 9 out of 10 youfs have never even heard the word intangible.

          • Joseph

            Make no mistake; it’s not a project I intend to undertake.

        • Tom_in_Miami

          You’ve got to admit, however, “just get the degree, get the piece of paper, and presto, you’re” hired or admitted to medical school, if you’re black.

          • Puggg

            I thought of that just after I posted it. For today’s blacks, they’re not crazy to have the talisman mentality about degrees, because affirmative action gives them reason to.

      • Tom_in_Miami

        I think you’re right about the “cargo cults.” Those natives have no idea that the gods are not fooled by the coconut shells they strung together with vines any more than the Bantus think they are fooling people with their high class fake gold chains and cheap tuxedos. Ever notice that almost every black guy owns a tuxedo?

        • Michael_C_Scott

          At age 46, I’ve never even worn a tux, let alone owned one. I have one suit (wool, charcoal grey, single-breasted), one blue blazer, one grey herringbone tweed jacket, one vest, three pairs of good slacks, ten dress shirts, seven neckties, one pair of dress shoes and one pair of dress boots (this IS Colorado, after all).

          A tuxedo is something a normal man would wear so infrequently that the price of a good one would be an absurd waste, and a cheap one would just look silly.

  • Howard W. Campbell

    You can drive through a lot of black neighborhoods and see houses in disrepair, but boy do they have tricked out cars. The kids have the latest gear and many of the people are dressed like peacocks for church or the club. My poor kids had hand me downs from their cousins but were also able to read before kindergarten. I personally think that my house is a much higher status good than my car. However, my house doesn’t move anywhere. While there are jobs where you are expected to have a nice car; that is not the case with me. My need is for reliability over bling.

    Even though I am not black, I’m sure I would get put with this category. A little responsibility is a lot like kryptonite.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bt73TC9xRz8

    “Five of the products had been rated by a separate group of people as high in status (fur coat, cuff links, caviar, an Italian suit and Italian loafers), while five were rated as relatively low in status (vacuum cleaner, sofa, refrigerator, washing machine and an unbranded shirt).” More often than not, your sub performers will dump money into the first five items when they desperately need (most of) the last five. The only one of the first five I have ever owned were cuff links. We paid cash for our appliances; they did not come from the rent to own store.

    “If you’re in a store and find yourself craving an expensive 60-inch flat-screen TV, think about why you want it. It may not be because of the positive attributes of the TV, but because you have a feeling of low status in some part of your life at that time.” This is exactly why the bottom feeder businesses tend to be predominantly in the poor areas of town. I have had occasions to rent furniture (for a short period), but have never pawned anything to a pawn shop. On black Friday, I didn’t sit outside waiting to buy one of these behemoths for 50% off. I guess I will forever struggle with my white privilege.

    • Michael_C_Scott

      A 60-inch TV with surround sound does not improve the quality of the programming.

    • The__Bobster

      Rent-to-own businesses love people who can’t delay their desires no matter how much it costs them in the long run.

      • Michael_C_Scott

        I’ve never rented furniture or appliances, but I’m a merciless scrounger of things, especially computer parts. I also scrounged a pair of walnut chairs 8 years ago that looked great after I had sanded and refinished them. We still have them in the den. The current vacuum cleaner is one some renters door put out as trash when they moved that same year; it replaced a 1970-vintage Hoover my mother gave me when I moved out of her house. Shelves for CR-ROMs in the den were a wrought-iron baker’s rack someone tossed, the glass shelves for which were broken. I made new oak shelves for it.

        As far as I can tell, leasing automobiles is an even bigger racket than the furniture/appliance RTO places.

        • http://twitter.com/LavMenace Crystal Lee Evans

          True. Because you get charged when you turned in the car at the end of the lease for such things as high mileage, car is not as clean as the car lot would like it to be. It makes more sense to just buy the car outright the first time. Because you may end up refinancing the car if you want to keep the leased vehicle.

          • Bon, From the Land of Babble

            I listen to a legal show on Saturdays and I swear 1/2 the questions have to do with car leases — someone turned in a car and the dealer found a zillion things wrong with it — small dings, damage to the interior carpets,etc. — and presents the lesee with a bill for $1500.

            Advice is ALWAYS the same: DO NOT LEASE CARS!!

            Get a GOOD reliable car — like a Toyota (mine was built in the USA) that goes for 250,000 miles. Mine has 150,000 on it — my family tells me it’s just broken in.

            Bon

          • Joseph

            Should be called “car fleecing”.

        • MawellAxel

          I’ve rented an air compressor for a day on a couple of occasions. Oh yeah, and the rug cleaner. The rig cleaner(the wet kind) is kind of big, who wants to store that when it is used once a year.

          • Michael_C_Scott

            I wouldn’t rent tools, either. One of my old friends advised me against it in 1999 when he rented an engine hoist the second time, and then realized he had just paid for an engine hoist with the two rentals. I got a nice oil-free air compressor with a three-gallon tank new for $40, and I made fittings to use old, empty five-gallon propane tanks as as spare reservoirs.

    • http://twitter.com/LavMenace Crystal Lee Evans

      No, My living room could not accomodate a 60″ flat screen. My 42″ model is just fine. Besides, I would rather buy the vaccuum cleaner, sofa, refrigerator, washing machine and unbranded shirt anytime over bling. The advantage for bling is that if you find yourself low on cash, you can always pawn it.

      • IstvanIN

        My 20″ still has a tube. Works fine.

        • Joseph

          Oh, but the carbon footprint!

      • Michael_C_Scott

        Never needed to pawn anything, though I did once sell off over a hundred Hotchkiss machinegun feed strips to a militaria dealer, so I know what the paperwork looks like. I’ve never bought a vacuum cleaner, but did buy a washing machine, drier and refrigerator, all on the same day, at Sears in 1996 when I bought my house. My credit card company called the store to have them put me on the line so they could be sure it was OK (good for Citibank!)

        The sofa was one of my favorite bargains. It got it on Denver’s “furniture row” at a seconds clearance place. It was produced and intended for a nice hotel lobby: bomber jacket brown and very heavy, wonderful leather. The hotel cut back their order for this model sofa by one, and nobody could get rid of the damned thing for what it was worth. I took it off their hands for 2/3 of what they wanted, and since I’d looked up the brand online, I knew. They delivered it from Denver to Colorado Springs. I had to take the front door off the hinges and then the hinges off the frame. so we could get it in. They weren’t losing money on the deal. It’s been here 13 years, and is still beautiful; stuff for five-star hotel lobbies is made to last.

        My mother’s TV died several years ago, and we did pretty much the same thorough research job to get her a replacement. Consumer Reports, pricing, more C.R., more pricing, and we got her a good deal.

        I checked, and I’m wearing an Eddie Bauer watch, but I’ve had it over 15 years. Wrangler jeans, Norwest Bank (anyone remember them) t-shirt, heavy hunting shirt over that, and jika-tabi (split-toed Japanese boots). No bling here.

        If it helps, eating out can become a major expense, even if it doesn’t seem like very much at any given time. You can save a bundle on home heating if you decide you can tolerate 55 or 60 Farenheit instead of 65; certainly turn your heat down while nobody is home. There’s scrounging; we have five extra monitors for the four computers we use here. I have a complete spare Saturn SL-2 sedan I’ve been stripping out for spares; it’s been rolled, so the body’s toast. Things aren’t what they used to be in the US, and might not ever be again, but it is manageable.

        • Axelmax

          Ebay is the new pawn shop for those who want to be rid of the item

          • Joseph

            Pawn shop for whites. Takes too much waiting and planning for some “others”.

    • MawellAxel

      Deh gots da 60 inch, but da cable beez shut off

  • http://twitter.com/LavMenace Crystal Lee Evans

    This reminds me of when I worked as a paralegal, I had a client who thought that his 1979 Mercedes was worth more than a new Hyundai.

  • Michael_C_Scott

    As an unemployed convicted federal felon on the Terrorist Watch List, I strongly suspect my position is in fact low class, without even imagining very hard. It still doesn’t make me want a bunch of overpriced “bling” garbage.

    In other words, “No, I don’t gots to be haben dat, gnome sayin?”

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/NQHEAYZCMBOERHG2VZRDQ3YUSQ Felix

      That’s because you’re smart enough to recognize that often between appearance and reality lies an unbridgeable chasm.

      However, you know which other people consistently confuse appearance with reality? Small children.

  • The__Bobster

    Why has this disgusting ghetto slang made its way into the general vocabulary? I, for one, refuse to use it.

    • Michael_C_Scott

      I use “bling” as a pejorative. Enough of us using the term to mean goofy, tasteless, and overpriced will eventually redefine the term. Since we outnumber them, we could make this happen. Of course it’ll happen eventually anyway, but with our deliberate assistance, it’ll happen faster.

      Another ghetto slang noun we could usefully rebrand is “afawete”, which really means someone who wears designer athletic clothing in a forlorn attempt to look fit, while in fact most closely resembling a circus clown.

    • Joseph

      Whites refuse to use the word n****r (censored for the moderator) but it doesn’t change the definition nor descriptive value.

      We noze whachalls tawkin’ ’bout any damm way.

  • bigone4u

    When I’m feeling inferior I get to work. I do not buy useless shiny baubles and trinkets as a band aid. I’ll bet most whites are like me.

    • http://twitter.com/LavMenace Crystal Lee Evans

      True. Besides, too much bling would make you look like a fool.

  • Puggg

    Here’s another issue with this phony two bit study.

    True, white people might like some “bling-y” items just like black people, but by and large, most white people won’t ditch a utility bill to buy bling or foist other forms of poverty on themselves to have bling. With a lot of ghetto blacks, I wonder how they get the money for a lot of the ridiculous bling they have. Some sets of chrome spinner wheels are more expensive than the used cars they put ‘em on.

    • Tim

      “White people won`t ditch a utility bill to buy bling” I once ditched a water bill to help buy an Alfa-Romero. My room mate was asleep when I saw the cut -off truck pull up. I woke him up and he was really really miffed. But he saw the Water worker and saw the Sports Car he jumped in the shower and was done with about 90 seconds to spare. We spent the rest of the day driving to Corpus -Christi Texas with the top down…

      • Michael_C_Scott

        Lots of areas do not allow habitation of a residence to which the water has been shut off. One of my college housemates let the water bill go because she spent the money eating dinner out. The other four of us were singularly unamused.

  • IstvanIN

    I wonder how old the adults were? I would have a hard time passing up the washing machine depending on the narrative.

  • Anonymous

    But whites have their own version of ‘sophisticated’ bling such as overpriced Louis Vuitton or Burberry junk.

    • MawellAxel

      you’re talking about female stuff there. The difference is that the white people that can but that can afford to buy it. They are still paying their bills.

    • GeneticsareDestiny

      This is true, but rarely do whites take out payday loans and the like to buy these things. Even though they are stupid purchases, whites who buy them can usually afford them.

  • MawellAxel

    The study is flawed, and built on a flawed premise. The flawed premise is that there is some reason other than their simple minds and simple nature, that blacks crave “bling”. They crave it because their simple minds do not understand abstractions. Virtues such as thrift, economy, and taste are all dependent on the ability to think in abstractions. One such abstraction is time, the ability to plan for the future. The idea of saving money for what is really necessary, instead of spending it on superficial things, is born of the ability to think ahead. When one is able to think ahead and see what behavior is foolish, one does not want to be foolish. When one can think abstractly one also has the ability of self awareness, and one does not want to appear foolish nor foolishly ostentatious. The simple minds of blacks can not comprehend any of this, even when reading these very words. They will not understand what I am saying but they will know that it is a criticism and they will get angered by it. If one asked them to repeat it though, they would not be able to. Their anger will quickly give way to a hatred of white people and from that a mocking of how white people live and act. The study is ridiculous, BUT those that made it are acknowledging there is a big difference in the behavior and values between blacks and whites. Even the kneejerk libs are starting to say black people aren’t like us. The study is just a weak attempt to say “well, but actually, white people can be made to be like black people”so we really aren’t different at all. They failed at proving that but they acknowledge the big difference between the races.

  • MawellAxel

    I can’t even fathom buying a watch, let alone an expensive one.

    • Michael_C_Scott

      I’ve got a Swiss watch you can have for free. It needs a new band and battery.

  • MawellAxel

    I think the people who did this study imagined that they had a valid study with a valid theory and a valid methodology.

  • Maurice

    Black obsession with tooth-plating, large jewelry, and shiny
    hub caps could be attributed to the fact that they evolved in non-metallic
    environments. They may find these objects to be magical. A photograph of Flavor
    Flav can be observed at the link:

    http://www.entertainmentwallpaper.com/images/desktops/celebrity/flavor-flav01.jpg

  • You Are Now Enriched

    White do monkeys and Diversity find shiney things irrestible, as well a dung?

  • odius liberal

    Now they call it bling, in the old days it was being called N—- rich. Nothing changes. Black crave attention like small children.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    One reading of The Millionaire Next Door will put this foolish study and any others like it to rest.

  • Joseph

    This study is interesting from an evolutionary perspective. One of the “rules” of natural selection is that genes “cheat” whenever possible. That is, they often ply some sort of ruse to circumvent the normal signals of fitness to attract a mate. It has been known for several decades in the animal world that birds most heavily infested with parasites often or usually have brighter plumage than those less so. The colorful plumage is an inducement to mating with what is in fact, a more diseased animal. There are several plausible reasons why but it is irrelevant here. I wonder if humans do the same. In this case, we see those who most seem to like all of the artificial adornment (“bling”, tattoos, piercings) are those who for the most part, are those who are most likely to carry disease, be unstable mates, and poor providers of resources to the offspring.

    Hmm…

  • Tim

    Investment Rule No.37- Never buy your gold from a fella that`s wearing all of his…

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/NQHEAYZCMBOERHG2VZRDQ3YUSQ Felix

    It could also believe because these “youfs” have never heard of differed gratification or don’t understand that there are more important things in life than jewelry.

  • rightrightright

    Why do Blacks give their children bling names, though?

    • Pat Kittle

      Like Goldberg, Silverstein, Pearlman, Diamond, Ruby, Sapphire?

  • Tom_in_Miami

    This is my first time to hear the word “bling.”

    • Joseph

      Text to speech?
      : )

  • Frank

    I like to know why is it that the chip on the shoulder crowd love cell phones so much?
    What kind of hoodoo do these devices have on them?
    Do cell phones really qualify as bling that will bring them acres of white poontang?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDWdZFlsP2Y

  • PesachPatriot

    Bling culture certainly isn’t limited to blacks although they are huge defenders and proponents of it. Stupid, shallow people of all races engage in it to no end. I despise the sentiment that “he who dies with the most toys wins” Even if you “win” you’re still dead…In my book he or she who dies with the most knowledge and had the best time on this rock wins. I guess during difficult economic times most people are desperate to appear wealthier than they really are. I take the opposite approach. It is always better to appear poorer than you actually are to deter thieves and greedy people who would try and take advantage of you. The poor have one luxury that the rich can never buy and that is knowing who their real friends are…only true friends hang out with you when your net worth is less than $200…everyone wants to be the rich persons friend as long as he/she is buying drinks.

    I don’t understand why blacks make such an effort to acquire bling when it is usually stolen by someone else in their neighborhood or pawned within a year. If they pursued education as heartily as sneakers and bling they would be a lot better off and so would everyone else.