Managing one’s self-worth after experiencing a psychological threat need not always lead to counterproductive behaviours such as excessive shopping and binge eating. Research by Professors Rishtee Batra and Tanuka Ghoshal shows that high intensity sensory consumption (HISC), which involves heightening the senses via enhanced levels of key sensory properties such as bright colours or loud music, can be a better and less harmful alternative method of managing threats to one’s self-worth.
Researchers have long studied the relationship between self-threat and compensatory consumption and have found that individuals who feel threatened or inadequate frequently demonstrate a tendency to engage in a variety of counterproductive behaviours. For example, when people sense that their socioeconomic identity or status is threatened, they feel the need to demonstrate their earning ability and often react by buying larger-than-life, conspicuously branded goods as if to signal to the world that they “have arrived” (Veblen 1899; Han, Nunes and Dreze 2010). In other instances, when people face threats such as the break-down or end of relationships or problems at work, they shop and consume to distract themselves. Most people can think of a time when they found solace in a tub of ice cream or a bag of potato chips after facing some sort of rejection. These, and other unhealthy behaviours, are very common strategies to cope with and overcome threats in one’s day-to-day life.