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Boycotts And Buycotts: How We Use Money To Express Ourselves

Nov 28, 2017
Originally published on November 28, 2017 12:21 pm

Americans have long expressed their political views with their wallets, but in recent months, this phenomenon has made national news. A campaign called #grabyourwallet has targeted brands affiliated with Donald Trump. And the Trump camp has responded in kind, with one of his closest aides encouraging people to support his daughter Ivanka's brand.

Neeru Paharia is a researcher at Georgetown University, and she says this kind of economic activity can make us feel powerful.

"It seems like people are a little fed up and disillusioned with conventional political channels," Paharia says. "In the absence of that legitimacy there has been sort of a rise in political consumerism."

We might think that we use money mostly to satisfy economic needs, but Paharia has found in her research that we often aim to satisfy psychological ones — whether that means driving a fancy car to show off our social status, or buying coffee at the local shop instead of a chain to express our moral values.

But while we do use money to support causes we believe in, we are often selective about when we express those beliefs — and when we ignore them.

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