To Have or To Learn? Relationships between Materialism and Learning among Children in the UK and Hong Kong

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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
Stream: Equity, Social Justice and Social Change; Community, Culture, Globalisation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Lisbeth Ho-Kwan Ku

Teaching Fellow, Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Lingnan
Hong Kong

I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology, University of Sussex, UK. I am also working as a teaching fellow in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Lingnan, Hong Kong. I have presented conference papers in psychology conferences in both Europe and Asia. I have also organized and co-chaired the symposium on ‘Living in the Material World’: Materialism, identity, and well-being in children, adolescents and adults from different cultures, in the British Psychology Society Social Psychology Section Conference, September 2007, University of Kent, U.K. My current research interests centre on the relationship between materialism and learning motivation. I am interested in testing hypotheses linking children and teenagers’ learning motivation with their endorsement of materialistic values. Furthermore, I seek to examine sociocultural influences on these associations by assessing pupils from two cultures: Hong Kong and the UK.

Ref: L09P1182