Date of Award

5-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management

Major Professor

Ann Fairhurst

Committee Members

Youn-Kyung Kim, Kiwon Lee, Daniel Flint

Abstract

This qualitative study draws on the philosophical concept of hermeneutics and theories of the self and self-regulation to investigate the underlying meanings expressed and experienced by the self and the other in the behavior of excessive acquisition. In accordance with the methods outlined by the phenomenological and grounded theory traditions, data were collected from 15 persons afflicted with excessive acquisition, defined as the self and 12 persons afflicted by excessive acquisition, defined as the other. The data content collected from in-depth interviews, field notes, observations, and electronic messages formulated the emergent Parent Themes of Emotion, Space, Economics, and Time. These four themes were supported by 10 Intermediate Categories and detailed by 72 Subcategories. The Parent Themes and their internal content described the behavioral process and defined excessive acquisition: the frequently repeated dynamic process of an autonomous act initiated by cues producing a self-unregulated desire to acquire tangible objects of epistemic value for the self through haptic experiences resulting in short-term satisfaction engendering persistent behavior despite adverse consequences.

In addition to defining the behavior and constructing a behavioral process model, the question of “Why tangibles?” was answered. Five pivotal junctures in the data collection process resulted in an all-encompassing Grand Theme. These “eureka” moments extrapolated from within the hundreds of pages of notes and transcripts identified distinguishing behavioral characteristics contributing to the excessive acquisition of tangibles. First, SPs over-obtained objects intrinsically for the self. Second, the excessively acquired objects promoted their self-image through physical adornment and professionally-related possessions. Third, the motivational goal of the excessive acquirer was self-satisfaction through control. Fourth, the behavioral act was consistently and repeatedly conducted autonomously. Fifth, before acquisition satisfaction could be achieved, the haptic experience needed to be fulfilled. Merged with the content of Parent Themes, these findings answered the question of “Why Tangibles?” and re-labeled Excessive Acquisition as Narcissistic Commoditism. The excessive acquirers in this study focused on their own interests to the exclusion of others in the self-directed, frequently repeated selfish pursuit of objects promoting their own self-image.

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