Kasser, Timothy 1966-

views updated

KASSER, Timothy 1966-


PERSONAL: Born 1966; children: two sons. Education: Vanderbilt University, B.A. (psychology; summa cum laude), 1988; University of Rochester, M.A., 1990, Ph.D. (psychology), 1994. Hobbies and other interests: Hiking, working with trees, and playing the piano.


ADDRESSES: Offıce—Knox College, 2 East South St., Galesburg, IL 61401-4999. E-mail—[email protected] edu.


CAREER: Educator, psychologist, and writer. Knox College, Galesburg, IL, professor of psychology, 1995—.


AWARDS, HONORS: Choice Outstanding Academic Book, American Library Association, 2002, for The High Price of Materialism.


WRITINGS:


The High Price of Materialism, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.

(Editor, with A. D. Kanner) Psychology and Consumer Culture: The Struggle for a Good Life in a Materialistic World, American Psychological Association Press (Washington, DC), 2003.

Contributor to journals, including Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Science, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, and Journal of Applied Social Psychology, and to books, including Teaching Well and Liking It: Motivating Faculty to Teach Effectively, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997, and Advances in Quality of Life Theory and Research, edited by E. Diener and D. Rahtz, Kluwar (Dordrecht, Netherlands), 2000.


SIDELIGHTS: Timothy Kasser is a professor of psychology whose research interests include how various goals and values are associated with well being, and how teenagers' values are shaped by those of their parents, their culture, and their peers. Kasser has also studied the subject of values as it applies in different cultures.

Kasser's The High Price of Materialism focuses on consumers, industries, and advertisers—as well as those who study all three groups—and discusses how the accumulation of possessions appears to affect the behavior, satisfaction level, and general well being of individuals. His conclusion, based on a variety of empirical sources, is that people—including teens—who are materialistic fail to achieve the level of psychological growth and happiness that those who are not do. Kasser writes that cross-cultural findings demonstrate that materialism "conflicts with valuing the characteristics of strong relationships (loyalty, helpfulness, love) and with caring about the broader community (peace, justice, equality)."

Kasser includes quotes from people who design and finance ads, particularly those aimed at children who are targeted from "cradle to grave" and who are inundated with marketing metaphors. He also quotes from an article that stresses the desirability of hiring male nannies, because men, supposedly, will be more aggressive in teaching a child to be competitive. Children are themselves seen as assets that must be managed, and in this way, Kasser shows how children are objectified, and how materialistic values contribute to this objectification.

In the chapter titled "Making Change," Kasser suggests that television advertising should carry warnings "that buying products will not really satisfy your psychological needs or make others love you in an authentic way." Gerry McCarthy wrote in a Catholic New Times review of Kasser's book, that "Admittedly, suggesting we should declare advertising-free zones for schools and roadways isn't exactly new. Neither is experimenting with community dollars, co-operatives, local exchange trading systems, community gardens, or alternative economic systems. But when he writes about 'pursuing legal strategies against advertising and media industries,' Kasser is daring and convincing."

Kasser finds that buying into materialism often results in low self-esteem, depression, antisocial behavior, and even minor physical ailments. McCarthy interviewed Kasser for Social Edge online and asked him to elaborate on his feelings about television as an influence. Kasser stated, "What you see on television is generally middle to upper-middle class to very wealthy individuals living a lifestyle, and having the types of possessions that mostly exceed the median of what is available in this nation. Then when you think about the fact that American television is exported all over the world. The fact that people in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East—and places where the median is much lower than the American median—are watching American television. It's way above what their standard is too."

Carlin Romano wrote, in an online Philadelphia Inquirer review, "As Kasser draws on scores of studies to bolster ancillary claims—that poverty spurs materialism, that high materialist success doesn't lead to satisfaction, that materialists watch more television, have worse romances, and turn antisocial—the concrete info often fascinates."

A Publishers Weekly contributor, meanwhile, noted that Kasser "powerfully argues that when we . . . feel more vulnerable, we exhibit more sharply defined materialistic tendencies—a theme particularly resonant in his era of terrorist threats, personal debts, and corporate scandals."


BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:


periodicals


Catholic New Times, October 6, 2002, Gerry McCarthy, review of The High Price of Materialism, p. 18.

Publishers Weekly, July 1, 2002, review of The High Price of Materialism, p. 67.


online


Philadelphia Inquirer Online,http://www.philly.com/ (July 28, 2002), Carlin Romano, review of The High Price of Materialism.

Social Edge,http://www.thesocialedge.com/ (October, 2002), Gerry McCarthy, interview with Kasser.