To Have or To Learn? Relationships between Materialism and Learning among Children in the UK and Hong Kong
Recently, a growing body of research shows that materialism is related to a number of societal and psychological health problems such as lower subjective well being and higher tendency for compulsive buying. However, very few studies, if any, look at the effects of materialism on children’s learning. The paper present three studies that examine the associations of materialism with achievement goals and actual exam performance in a cross-cultural context with groups of primary school children aged between 9 and 11. Adopting a multi-methodological approach, the studies gathered systematic evidences that show materialism discourages intrinsic learning, fosters extrinsic achievement goals, and leads to lower exam results in both the UK and Hong Kong, two culturally diverse countries.
The paper encompasses three empirical studies. The first study tested the theoretically driven model of associations among materialism, achievement goals and school performance. The findings lend full support to the model and indicate materialism is negatively linked to both intrinsic learning goals and actual exam performance in both countries. These are supported by results from a one-year longitudinal study in Hong Kong (Study 2), which provides further evidences that the endorsement of materialistic values discourages intrinsic learning goals and promotes extrinsic achievement goals preference. The last study tested UK children’s achievement goals and persistence by experimentally priming a momentary orientation towards materialistic values. Results show that when materialistic values are made salient, children tend to choose performance orientated task over mastery orientated task. Their persistence in the face of a difficult task is also adversely affected.
Keywords: Materialism, Achievement Goals, Learning Motivation, Children, UK, Hong Kong
Lisbeth Ho-Kwan Ku
Teaching Fellow, Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Lingnan