Materialism Makes Bad Situations Worse, Reduces Resiliency

Materialism Makes Bad Events Even Worse, Lowers Resiliency

Dr. John Schinnerer

The holiday season is upon us with all it’s gift-giving glory…an interesting backdrop to new research that shows new damaging effects of materialism on our well-being.

 

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Materialism seems to undermine resiliency

Some of us are more prone to deal with negative emotions and stressors with shop therapy – buying more stuff.  A new study out of the University of Illinois sheds a new light on the negative effect of materialism on how well we deal with a negative event. Having a materialistic approach to life when things go badly, appears to make bad situations worse.

 

Materialistic people tend to cope with trauma, difficulty and tragedy with impulsive buying and compulsive spending. For many, spending is a salve that soothes our inner wounds.

 

However, researcher Aric Rindfleisch states that a high degree of materialism is not only detrimental to our individual well-being, it also appears to amplify the inner emotional distress associated with stressful events. Stressful situations, such as robbery, car accidents, cancer and job loss, are more difficult to bounce back from when you are more materialistic.

 

Why does materialism matter?

 

“If you’re a materialistic individual and life suddenly takes a wrong turn, you’re going to have a tougher time recovering from that setback than someone who is less materialistic,” said Rindfleisch, the John M. Jones Professor of Marketing in the College of Business. “The research is novel in that an event that’s unrelated to materialism will have a stronger impact on someone because of their materialistic values. In other words, materialism has a multiplier effect. It’s a finding that I think is especially interesting given our consumer-driven economy.”

 

The research looked at the connection between traumatic stress and compulsive consumption using an Israeli field study and a U.S. national survey.

 

When confronted with a life-threatening terrorist attack, the study showed that highly materialistic individuals in Israel reported higher degrees of post-traumatic stress (PTSD), compulsive and impulsive purchases than less-materialistic individuals.

 

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Materialism Makes Bad Situations Worse

“Materialistic people cope with bad events through materialistic mechanisms,” stated Rindfleisch. “When there’s a terrorist attack in Israel, people who are materialistic suffer higher levels of distress and are more likely to compensate for that through higher levels of compulsive and impulsive purchasing.”

 

One of the theories is that these effects are due to lower self-esteem in materialistic individuals which reduces their resiliency in dealing with traumatic events.

 

“You can think of terrorist attacks as a mortal threat to your life,” Rindfleisch said. “To replicate the study in the U.S., as a corollary, we asked people to tell us about their level of death anxiety. Those who had more anxiety toward death were very similar to the groups who were under terrorist attacks in Israel.”

 

“Both components of the study provide converging evidence that in times of extreme stress, highly materialistic individuals seek comfort in compulsive and impulsive consumption,” Rindfleisch reported.

 

“At its core, materialism is a value-based response to insecurity in one’s life,” he said. “Our research more broadly suggests that it’s also about existential insecurity. This idea that we’re all aware of our mortality and focusing on that can be almost debilitating.”

 

And traumatic experiences may be broadly defined as any event that one perceives as traumatic, not solely terrorism-related events.

 

Traumatic events “…could be about a broad range of stressful life events, including serious illness, an automobile accident or a natural disaster,” he said. “So the scope is broader than a terrorist attack. It’s more like a traumatic event that leads to this insecure sense of self. Thus, our research uncovers a hidden yet potentially quite expansive domain of consequences that have largely gone unnoticed in prior research.”

 

According to Rindfleisch, it’s a good reminder prior to the holiday shopping season heading into full tilt.

 

“In times of stress, people often seek solace through shopping,” he said. “The idea here is that we need some form of a cultural-based coping mechanism, because the research suggests that there is actually a short-term fix with retail therapy. Soon after purchasing something, there is a reduction of anxiety. But it doesn’t last very long. It’s fleeting. Materialists seek that as one of their coping mechanisms. And Black Friday and the holiday shopping season play into that.”

 

Resiliency, the ability to bounce back quickly following adversity, is a learnable skill.  My suggestion is to learn more adaptive ways to deal with and manage the negative emotions associated with trauma….tools such as mindfulness, forgiveness, gratitude, conscious cultivation of positive emotions, physical exercise, self-compassion and more.

 

All the best,

 

Dr. John Schinnerer

Positive Psychology Coach

Anger Management Specialist

Award-winning author of Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion & Thought

Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.

913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280

Danville CA 94526

Positive psychology blog: http://DrJohnBlog.GuideToSelf.com 

Anger management blog:

http://WebAngerManagement.com

Twitter: @johnschin

 

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Materialistic values reduce resiliency

Journal Reference:

  1. Ayalla Ruvio, Eli Somer, Aric Rindfleisch. When bad gets worse: the amplifying effect of materialism on traumatic stress and maladaptive consumption. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1007/s11747-013-0345-6

A New Era for Emotion and Communication – Digital, Talking, Emoting Heads

Meet Zoe…

Mar. 19, 2013 — This is Zoe – a digital talking head which can express human emotions on demand with “unprecedented realism” and ushers in a new period of human-computer interaction.

Zoe can express a nearly complete spectrum of human emotions and may be used as a digital personal assistant, or even could help replace texting with “face messaging.”

Whereas texting suffers from a lack of emotionality, Zoe can display emotions such as happiness, anger, and fear, and modifies its voice to suit the emotion the user wants it to communicate. Users can type in any message, specifying the requisite emotion as well, and the face recites the text. According to its designers, it is the most expressive controllable avatar ever created, replicating human emotions with unprecedented realism.

The system, called “Zoe,” is the result of a collaboration between researchers at Toshiba’s Cambridge Research Lab and the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering. Students have already spotted a striking resemblance between the disembodied head and Holly, the ship’s computer in the British sci-fi comedy, Red Dwarf.

Appropriately enough, the face is actually that of Zoe Lister, an actress perhaps best-known as Zoe Carpenter in the Channel 4 series, Hollyoaks. To recreate her face and voice, researchers spent several days recording Zoe’s speech and facial expressions. The result is a system that is light enough to work in mobile technology, and could be used as a personal assistant in smartphones, or to “face message” friends.

The framework behind “Zoe” is also a template that, before long, could enable people to upload their own faces and voices — but in a matter of seconds, rather than days. That means that in the future, users will be able to customise and personalise their own, emotionally realistic, digital assistants.

If this can be developed, then a user could, for example, text the message “I’m going to be late” and ask it to set the emotion to “frustrated.” Their friend would then receive a “face message” that looked like the sender, repeating the message in a frustrated way.

The team who created Zoe are currently looking for applications, and are also working with a school for autistic and deaf children, where the technology could be used to help pupils to “read” emotions and lip-read. Ultimately, the system could have multiple uses — including in gaming, in audio-visual books, as a means of delivering online lectures, and in other user interfaces.

“This technology could be the start of a whole new generation of interfaces which make interacting with a computer much more like talking to another human being,” Professor Roberto Cipolla, from the Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, said.

“It took us days to create Zoe, because we had to start from scratch and teach the system to understand language and expression. Now that it already understands those things, it shouldn’t be too hard to transfer the same blueprint to a different voice and face.”

As well as being more expressive than any previous system, Zoe is also remarkably data-light. The program used to run her is just tens of megabytes in size, which means that it can be easily incorporated into even the smallest computer devices, including tablets and smartphones.

It works by using a set of fundamental, “primary colour” emotions. Zoe’s voice, for example, has six basic settings — Happy, Sad, Tender, Angry, Afraid and Neutral. The user can adjust these settings to different levels, as well as altering the pitch, speed and depth of the voice itself.

By combining these levels, it becomes possible to pre-set or create almost infinite emotional combinations. For instance, combining happiness with tenderness and slightly increasing the speed and depth of the voice makes it sound friendly and welcoming. A combination of speed, anger and fear makes Zoe sound as if she is panicking. This allows for a level of emotional subtlety which, the designers say, has not been possible in other avatars like Zoe until now.

To make the system as realistic as possible, the research team collected a dataset of thousands of sentences, which they used to train the speech model with the help of real-life actress, Zoe Lister. They also tracked Lister’s face while she was speaking using computer vision software. This was converted into voice and face-modelling, mathematical algorithms which gave them the voice and image data they needed to recreate expressions on a digital face, directly from the text alone.

The effectiveness of the system was tested with volunteers via a crowd-sourcing website. The participants were each given either a video, or audio clip of a single sentence from the test set and asked to identify which of the six basic emotions it was replicating. Ten sentences were evaluated, each by 20 different people.

Volunteers who only had video and no sound only successfully recognised the emotion in 52% of cases. When they only had audio, the success rate was 68%. The two together, however, produced a successful recognition rate of 77% — slightly higher than the recognition rate for the real-life Zoe, which was 73%! This higher rate of success compared with real life is probably because the synthetic talking head is deliberately more stylised in its manner.

As well as finding applications for their new creation, the research team will now work on creating a version of the system which can be personalised by users themselves.

“Present day human-computer interaction still revolves around typing at a keyboard or moving and pointing with a mouse.” Cipolla added. “For a lot of people, that makes computers difficult and frustrating to use. In the future, we will be able to open up computing to far more people if they can speak and gesture to machines in a more natural way. That is why we created Zoe — a more expressive, emotionally responsive face that human beings can actually have a conversation with.”

To life, love and laughter,

 

 

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Executive Coach

Author of the award-winning Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion & Thought

Guide To Self, Inc.

913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280

Danville CA 94526

GuideToSelf.com – Web site

WebAngerManagement.com – 10-week online anger management course

DrJohnBlog.GuideToSelf.com –  Awarded #1 Blog in Positive Psychology by PostRank, Top 100 Blog by Daily Reviewer

@johnschin – Twitter


Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Cambridge. The original story is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

University of Cambridge (2013, March 19). Face of the future rears its head: Digital talking head expresses human emotions on demand. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 20, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2013/03/130319160046.htm

 

Ads Targeted At How You Feel – Beware the Next Level of Marketing!

June 15, 2012

Microsoft has applied for a patent for  targeting ads to users based on their emotional state, using a Kinect type device, GeekWire reports.

Do you look happy? You’ll see ads for vacation packages and consumer electronics, but not weight-loss programs or self-help products. Do you look sad? You won’t see that over-the-top animated ad for children’s birthday parties at the local bowling alley. Feeling frustrated? It’s PC support ads for you.

Those are actual examples from the patent application, which incorporates some of the same ideas as the earlier filing for deducing the user’s mood — including scanning messages and social media postings.

Also included: audio and video capture devices (to detect facial expressions and tone of voice) in addition to the company’s Kinect sensor, which would be used to analyze body movements as another input for the emotion-detecting algorithm.

Protect your mind. It’s the only one you get!

Peace,
John

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Positive Psychology Coach

Author of the award-winning Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion & Thought

Guide To Self, Inc.

913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280

Danville CA 94526

GuideToSelf.comWeb site

WebAngerManagement.com – 10-week online anger management course

DrJohnBlog.GuideToSelf.com –  Awarded #1 Blog in Positive Psychology by PostRank, Top 100 Blog by Daily Reviewer

@johnschinTwitter