How Jealousy Could Put a Dent in Your Bank Account

A new study says that the feeling makes people more likely to buy attention-getting items.

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How Jealousy Could Put a Dent in Your Bank Account
Image credit: JGI/Jamie Grill | Getty Images
Entrepreneur Staff
Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.
2 min read

Jealousy is never a good look on anyone, but according to a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, giving into the green-eyed monster can actually affect your shopping habits.

Researchers Xun Huang, Ping Dong and Robert S. Wyer found that “jealousy increases people's preferences for attention-grabbing products and this is true even when the public display of the products could bring negative attention.” This kind of behavior can crop up in particular when the person in question is concerned that a “romantic partner's attention to them is being usurped.”

The study was clear to distinguish between jealousy and envy. “Envy typically emerges when people find that another person is superior to themselves or has a possession that they do not,” the researchers explain. “This contrasts with jealousy, which results from the loss of something that one already has.”

Related: 3 Positive Ways to Harness Career Envy

Huang, Dong and Wyer ran a series of tests that asked the study participants to recall times in their lives when they felt jealous before having them make a choice about the kind of items they would want to purchase.

In one experiment, 77 college students were randomly given one of two assignments -- one group was asked to write about a time when they were jealous. The other group, the control, wrote about a typical day. Then they were asked to choose between an item with a big brand logo and small one. The people who recalled feeling jealous were more likely to select the more conspicuously attention-seeking item.

Related: The 10 Steps to Help You Overcome Jealousy

Ultimately, the researchers found that even when participants were asked to recall times when they felt envious or powerless, the people who had those jealous feelings at the surface were still more likely to to go for the higher-end product on offer -- whether it was a coat, a lamp or a pair of sunglasses.

“Jealous individuals prefer to use eye-catching products even if the attention they elicit is likely to hurt their social image rather than enhancing it,” the researchers wrote.

So if you find yourself feeling jealous, maybe put your credit card away until that feeling passes.

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