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From Publishers Weekly
You've always known that money can't buy happiness, but do you have
the data to prove it? Kasser, a psychology professor at Knox College,
certainly does. Drawing on an impressive range of statistical studies,
including ones that use his own "Aspiration Index," Kasser
argues that a materialistic orientation toward the world contributes
to low self-esteem, depression, antisocial behavior and even a greater
tendency to get "headaches, backaches, sore muscles, and sore throats."
In numerous studies, Kasser shows, people who were paid for completing
a task that they normally found pleasurable (e.g., solving puzzles)
reported the activity to be less fun than those who did the task without
financial compensation. While at first the book seems to retrace the
steps of Juliet B. Schor's The Overspent American and other recent titles
that analyze why many Americans feel driven and unhappy despite success,
Kasser goes beyond this, showing how materialistic values shape an individual's
orientation toward friends, family, work, death and "internal satisfactions."
Of great interest are the studies demonstrating that children of divorce
and people with "less nurturing" mothers are more likely to
hold strong materialistic values (though some readers may protest that
children of divorce simply feel more economically vulnerable than their
peers). Drawing on sources as diverse as dream analysis and game theory,
Kasser powerfully argues that when we as individuals or as a nation
feel more vulnerable, we exhibit more sharply defined materialistic
tendencies - a theme particularly resonant in this era of terrorist
threats, personal debts and corporate scandals.
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