|Abstract: ||The study presents psychological aspects of the relationship between individuals and their
material possessions. It demonstrates a spectrum of theories and results of empirical research from
the field of psychology of material possession, which shows a complexity and multidimensional
character of this relationship. The relationship is explained mainly by a multitude of meanings
ascribed to the fact of possessing certain goods and by a variety of functions determining their
usefulness in the lives of individuals and social groups.
The utility of material possessions is analysed in its instrumental aspect, when technologically
advanced goods enable and make more effective the fulfilment of everyday tasks associated with
major activities of modem people. However, the technologically advanced instrumentality of
material objects does not constitute the only basis for the acquisition of these objects. On the
contrary — the main reasons why people collect and value certain goods are to be found in the
intra-individual and interpersonal mechanisms of understanding the social world and regulating
their behaviour, and are connected with perceiving these goods as significant symbols engaged in
the process of social communication.
The study shows therefore how material possessions are related to personal identity,
characterised on the one hand by such categories as the stage in the life cycle, gender and
socio-economic status, and on the other, by individualised categories used in the process of
self-perception. Empirical research, conducted by the author and related to these problems,
provides knowledge about preferences towards material goods among men and women from
different stages in the life cycle in Polish social and economic conditions. The results of another
empirical investigation point out how the type of personal identity, characterised by a tendency to
differentiate or to integrate with a social context, influences these preferences.
The phenomenon of materialism is also examined. It is understood as an attachment to
material possessions and the perception of goods as especially important in the life of individuals.
Consequences of the materialistic orientation for psychological well-being are shown, as well as
a theoretical model of materialism created by the author, and a psychometric tool measuring one
of the aspects of materialism.
The next problem presented in the study is related to the importance of possessed goods for
the protection and enhancement of the self and self-esteem. Results of the research conducted by
the author, based on the self-affirmation theory, suggest that material possessions in the face of
self-threat do not have any power to protect self-esteem; on the contrary, they could lower it,
especially in the case of people showing a high level of materialism.
In all analyses of the attachment to material possessions and their utility a cultural aspect of
the problem is strongly stressed. The social reality of modern post-industrial societies is taken into
cosideration as a background for understanding the meaningful relations people have with their material belongings. The cultural theme leads to the search for psychological connections between
materialistic orientation and the functions ascribed to possessed goods and two basic dimensions
of cultural diversity in contemporary societies — individualism and collectivism. The results of
the research, conducted by the author, prove that the importance of material possessions is
greater, so material goods are more significant, in both the lives of individualistically oriented
persons and in individualistic cultures.
In the final chapter the author presents suggestions related to problems which were not
investigated in the presented dissertation, but need to be taken into consideration in future
research in the field of psychology of material possession.|