19/03/2011 04:07 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Is Shopping A Substitute For Feeling Loved?

woman-shopping-material-possessions Does shopping fulfill our emotional needs? Photo: Getty Images, Sean Gallup

It goes without saying that there can be few among us who aren't thrilled by the prospect of buying new stuff - whether it's something small and inexpensive or a major lifestyle purchase. When it comes to letting go of our material possessions, however, it may be a lot easier if you feel supported and loved, say US psychologists.

Experts are well aware of the fact that people often buy things because they want to feel comforted - but according to the researchers, whose study is published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, how much you value those possessions also depends on how much you need comfort.

So, for instance, if you're hoarding a wardrobe that's busting full of clothes you haven't worn in years, is the real problem that you're insecure and just don't feel loved enough?

And if material possessions don't mean much to you, does that mean you get so much love and attention from others that you don't need to shop to feel good about yourself?

The researchers' findings suggest that might well be the case. They carried out two studies, both of which asked a group of people to value a certain item they had been given.

Everyone received the same item (in one study it was a blanket and in the other a pen), but the volunteers who were either asked to think about a time when they felt really cared for or those whose survey results showed they had supportive relationships valued their items far lower than the others.

So next time you get the urge to shop, perhaps what you really need is a hug. Well it's worth a try, especially if your credit card is about to max out.

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