The rival wears Prada: luxury consumption as a female competition strategy.

By Seriously Science | October 13, 2014 6:00 am
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Photo: flickr/mell242

Have you been coveting the latest Manolo Blahnik heels or Prada bag? If so, have you ever stopped to think about why? Well, according to this study, it might be related to competition with other women. Here, the researchers had women read different scenarios related or not related to mate competition (see below) and then later asked how interested they were in buying different luxury products (a designer dress or a smartphone). The women who read the scenarios related to competition with other women for a man were more likely to be interested in the designer dress. Not only that, but in a second experiment, the scientists found that women who wear designer clothes/shoes/etc. were perceived as “more attractive, flirty, young, ambitious, sexy, and less loyal, mature and smart” by other women. Pretty much sums up Sex and the City… amirite?

The rival wears Prada: Luxury consumption as a female competition strategy.

“Previous studies on luxury consumption demonstrated that men spend large sums of money on luxury brands to signal their mate value to women and, thus, increase their reproductive success. Although women also spend copious amounts of money on luxuries, research focusing on women’s motives for luxury consumption is rather scarce.

Relying on costly signaling and intrasexual competition theory, the goal of the current study was to test whether female intrasexual competition in a mate attraction context triggers women’s spending on luxuries. The results of the first experiment reveal that an intrasexual competition context enhances women’s preferences for attractiveness enhancing, but not for non-attractiveness related luxuries such as a smartphone.

This finding indicates that women may use luxury consumption as a self-promotion strategy during within-sex competitions, as these luxuries improve their advantages against same-sex rivals for mates. A follow-up study shows that compared to women who do not consume luxuries, women who do so are perceived as more attractive, flirty, young, ambitious, sexy, and less loyal, mature and smart by other women. These results suggest that luxury consumption may provide information about a women’s willingness to engage in sex, as well as her views about other women, and consequently, her success in intrasexual competitions.”

Bonus excerpt from the full text:

“Respondents in the intrasexual competition context were exposed to four pictures of attractive women, and they indicated which of the women was the most attractive. Next, they read a scenario and were instructed to keep that woman in mind. In the scenario,participants were told to imagine that they went to a class reunion where they met an attractive, smart, funny, intelligent man with an engaging personality.

However, the woman they saw in the picture also showed interest in this man and she initiated a conversation with him when the participant went to get a drink. The scenario ended when the participant came back with the drinks and tried to join the conversation. Respondents in the noncompetitive context were exposed to four pictures of landscapes and they indicated which of the landscapes was most attractive. Next, they read a scenario, keeping that landscape in mind. In the scenario, participants were told to imagine that they walked through the landscape they chose and enjoyed the environment, weather and views.”

Related content:
NCBI ROFL: How other women view your sexy outfit.
NCBI ROFL: Mating competitors increase religious beliefs.
NCBI ROFL: Why women like men in red cars.

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  • Bruce Draken

    Sociobiology is a pseudoscience. There is no “scientific study” that demonstrates whether or not some social trend has its roots in any evolutionary benefit. This is all speculation, and while it may be intriguing (while selling product to rubes who believe anything that claims to be “scientific” actually is, and not just some marketing strategy), there is no scientific basis for any such conclusions

    Discover is not a science website or magazine. It is a marketing tool which uses “sciencey” sounding stuff to sell product to rubes. But thanks for sharing

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