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  • Richins, M. L. 1994. Valuing things- The public and private meanings of possessions. Journal of Consumer Research- An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 21 (3)-504-21

Richins, M. L. 1994. Valuing things- The public and private meanings of possessions. Journal of Consumer Research- An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 21 (3)-504-21

To summarise the journal, it was all about the different theories on the public and private creation of meanings, and that people don’t just purchase things for their social [public] meanings but for their private meanings as well. Firstly it took the reader through why we purchase goods; we purchase and use goods to… 1) give ourselves an identity / find our sense of identity 2) to fit in to our culture’s social communication system 3) because we give possessions a meaning which is what gives them a value… Then the journal explains that we don’t possess things because they hold economic value, but that often goods that we keep can not be bought or sold because they have sentimental value to us. Such as a photograph of a loved one. The next part of the article takes you through how we give meanings to items, such as through semiotics – as a sign for others to interpret who we are (but this, of course, is subjective to the person who is seeing the item and interpreting it!) The fourth element of the journal teaches the reader ‘how’ we perceive things: due to our culture, we interpret goods pretty much the same as others, because we are similar in our subgroups – but there may be slight differencees sometimes, depending on the private meanings we give to our possessions. Additionally, it tells us how repetitive use of a product helps to derive more meaning and association to that product. Further to that is the fact that, cultural ‘fashions’ can determine what we possess and how we interpret possessions. Perceptions of certain products can develop and change over time, for example, the minute you may see a celeb sporting a particular item, the item is then perceived differently.   The journal then categorises the meanings that are given to possessions and why: Utilitarian Value, Representation/Personal Ties, Identity and Self Expression and Enjoyment.   The middle part of the journal details the research carried out and the conclusion is that the private meanings of possessions are based partially on an object’s public meanings and partially on the owner’s personal experiences with the object. What would be interesting to investigate, is why people assign private meanings to certain products and not to others…

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PROMOTIONAL CULTURES & COMMUNICATION CENTRE
PROMOTIONAL CULTURES & COMMUNICATION CENTRE
Faculty of Media & Communication, Bournemouth University