Psychologists, mathematicians and statisticians in Australia have investigated the factors behind object choice, and object attachment. They published their work in early January 2020 and so this is hot off the press.
The group wanted to know the extent that priming conditions would influence object choice and retention. They made an important contribution to ongoing research into what triggers hoarding, and the choice of objects accumulated.
Prior Research as Background to the Study
Earlier research has demonstrated how compulsive buying associates with financial, emotional, and social difficulties. Approximately half the population with compulsive buying disorder also self-report hoarding problems.
Other studies have shown how compulsive buying helps reduce anxiety brought on by poor family communication and isolation. Compulsive buyers often report feeling lonely before a shopping spree, with some actively seeking interpersonal contact in the retail environment.
There is also evidence that some hoarders acquire excessive possessions to satisfy unrequited needs to belong. This may be due to them having interpersonal problems, difficulties in relationships, and less social support than their non-hoarding counterparts.
Broad Background and Study Aims
The researchers wondered if individuals with buying-shopping and / or hoarding disorder acquire possessions to compensate for unmet belonging needs. There are however differences:
1… Those with hoarding disorder may acquire objects they believe achieve their belonging needs
2… Those with buying-shopping disorder are more likely to acquire objects that soften the pain of not belonging
This particular study examined whether a belonging-ness threat would cause the subject to choose a human-like object in the form of a person-shaped tea-holder. Or whether they would prefer a comfort item, in this case it was a box of chamomile tea.
Choice of Subjects and Pre-Research
There were 175 participants. Of these consenting adults:
1… 57 voluntarily reported excessive acquiring
2… 118 voluntarily reported excessive acquiring and difficulty discarding
The subjects were confidentially asked to recall a time when they either felt supported or unsupported by a significant other, before choosing an object to take home with them. They also rated how human-like and comforting the objects were, and how attached they became to their choice.
Main Finding of the Study
Subjects who reported an unsupported situation by a significant other were more likely to choose the comfort item, namely the box of chamomile tea.
However, those who described a supportive situation were more likely to choose the human-like object if they had both acquiring and discarding problems.
Statistical regression theory suggests individuals who were primed to feel unsupported during research interviews were more likely to choose the comfort chamomile tea.
This study suggests people estranged from society acquire items to comfort them, as opposed to those with human associations. This confirms the wisdom of the peer-group therapy approach to hoarding, and the need to reach out to hoarders, not to reject and isolate them.