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The real message behind status handbags?

Updated: Sep 14, 2013 09:28 AM
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SATURDAY, Sept. 14 (HealthDay News) -- When women buy fancy purses or certain other luxury items, it may be an attempt to stake a claim on their men, according to a new study.

In a series of experiments, researchers from the University of Minnesota had women imagine their romantic partners flirting and being intimate with another woman at a party.

The researchers than assessed the women's desires for luxury products in light of their motivation to guard their relationships.

In one experiment, the women "drew luxury brand logos on handbags, shoes, T-shirts and cars that were about twice the size compared to those who did not imagine the jealous theme at the party," wrote researchers Yajin Wang and Vladas Griskevicius.

They also found that women said they would be less likely to pursue a man whose partner was wearing a luxury outfit and accessories because they perceived the man to be more devoted.

"Whereas men often display luxury products to the opposite sex, women often seek to flaunt expensive possessions to the same sex," the researchers wrote in the study, which is scheduled for publication in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"In essence, Fendi handbags fend off romantic rivals, and flaunting designer products says, 'Back off!'" the authors said.

They added, however, that "mate guarding" is not the only reason women buy luxury goods. Past research has shown that such products also make women happy or are used to signal status and taste.

More information

The American Psychological Association offers advice on how couples can keep their relationship healthy.

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