Tue 28 Sep 2010
The article, “The Safety of Objects: Materialism, Existential Insecurity, and Brand Connection,” (Rindfleisch et al. 2008) roots itself in Terror Management Theory (TMT; Greenberg et al. 1990; Greenberg et al. 1986). In particular, this theory is based on research in social and clinical psychology that posits self-esteem and cultural tendencies are susceptible to fears of death and other tragic uncertainties. Rindfleisch et al. use TMT in part as the motivational factor of their particular research, employing it as the synthetic framework for their new discovery. It achieves this by exposing extant marketing research on materialism and brand connections to the new framework and then conducting empirical research to validate the new proposition.
The logical explanation provided by the research presented in Rindfleisch et al. can be assessed by the positivist model presented by Hempel and Oppenheim (1948). This model assumes that there are both antecedent conditions to a phenomenon and general laws (a universal affirmative or generally accepted principle). By the power of deductive reasoning and logic, if there is a series of valid antecedent conditions and general laws, the explanation of the phenomenon must also be valid and sufficiently explained.
Hempel and Oppenheim describe the explanation of a phenomenon as having two parts: the explanans and the explanandum. The explanans (predictor) is the set of antecedent conditions and general laws; the explanandum is the description of the phenomenon to be explained. Therefore the explanadum is the consequence of the explanans. According to Hempel and Oppenheim, the soundness of an explanation relies on 1) general laws that serve as a necessary condition for a sound explanation and, 2) empiricism that tests whether or not the general laws predict the explanandum.
The Rindfleisch et al. article follows the Hempel and Oppenheim view of scientific explanation by using TMT (derived in part from death anxiety, mortality salience, and self-esteem) to drive the empirical work bridging the gap between materialism and brand connections. First, it proposes a conceptualization of materialism, a conceptualization of brand connections, and a conceptualization of how insecurity leads to materialism as a result of insecurity. TMT explains “why materialistic individuals employ brand connections as a means of assuaging existential insecurity” (p.2). From these general laws provided as part of the explanans, Rindfleisch et al. thereby deduce the article’s fundamental proposition that materialism is associated with high materialism when existential insecurity is high and low materialism when existential insecurity is low.
Empirical measurement is used to test this proposition in a two-study process; these measurements can be treated as antecedent conditions in the explanans. In the first study, a sampling frame is given a survey with items from various scales measuring the proposition’s key concepts. Using high-low blocking conditions for the measure of existential insecurity, they form regression interactions to estimate the effect of materialism on the two conditions, the theoretical proposition is affirmed; brand connections provide materialistic individuals with a coping mechanism for existential insecurity.
The second study is an experimental study, designed to cross-validate and extend the results of the first study, making the central thesis more robust. This experimental manipulation adds another antecedent condition that provides further support for the explanandum. The high-low median split blocking technique is then used on the results of the manipulation, ensuring the robustness of the empirical testing. Thus, using propositional logic, the Hempel & Oppenheim model applied to Rindflesich et al. would appear as such:
1. Materialism –> Increased Connections
2. Brands –> Connections
3. Increased Connections –> Higher Self-Esteem
4. Higher Self-Esteem –> Lower Existential Insecurity
5. Therefore, Materialism –> Brand Connections –> Lower Existential Insecurity
where 1-4 serve as general laws, 3 and 4 explain TMT, and the high-low median split blocking technique serves as an antecedent condition; together, these comprise the explanans, while 5 is the explanandum.