Conspicuous Consumption: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:03 Introduction to…
  • 0:50 What Is Conspicuous…
  • 1:22 Conspicuous or Veblen Goods
  • 2:19 Conspicuous…
  • 2:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Brianna Whiting

Brianna has a masters of education in educational leadership, a DBA business management, and a BS in animal science.

In this lesson, we'll learn about conspicuous consumption. We'll look at some examples of luxury goods and what they can say about our real-life buying choices. After the lesson, you'll also have a chance to test your own knowledge of conspicuous consumption with a short quiz.

Introduction to Conspicuous Consumption

Katie and Molly have been the best of friends for many years. They exchange daily phone calls, have lunch at least once a week, and even attend many social events together on the weekends. When it came to money and extravagant possessions, neither Katie nor Molly ever worried about having expensive stuff. However, that changed when Katie met a new friend, Sue, at her child's school.

Sue lived an entirely different life from that of Katie and Molly. In order to score some social points with Sue, Katie started buying pricey jewelry, going on trips, and staying in fancy hotels. Within a few months, Katie even bought a luxury car. Katie was engaging in conspicuous consumption, a type of behavior described by economist and sociologist, Thorstein Veblen, over 100 years ago.

What Is Conspicuous Consumption?

While many of us can relate to the story of Katie and Molly, it's important to define what exactly happened in the example above. Conspicuous consumption is defined as the purchase of goods or services with the intent of broadcasting one's social status and wealth. Conspicuous consumers often buy material goods and services that are too expensive for shoppers of other social classes, or to hide the fact that they are economically disadvantaged or poor. They buy these pricey items to show them off - not because they really need them.

Conspicuous or Veblen Goods

So, what goods are often purchased when someone is involved in conspicuous consumption? Veblen goods are luxury goods that increase in demand as their prices increase. In other words, those who are guilty of conspicuous consumption may buy a good when the price goes up just to show off their spending power. Some other examples of goods that are purchased as status symbols include the following:

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