A core theme surrounding consumption is that people do not consume products and services based solely on their functionality and for utilitarian purposes (Belk et al. 1982). One’s home, car, clothes, and music often hold additional psychological value to the consumer. As elegantly detailed throughout the book, such consumption opportunities serve as a reflecting pool for the self and one’s identity (Chapter 8 and Chapter 9, this volume). In addition, consumption is also a stage on which individuals signal their identity to others as well as indicate their connections to groups and other individuals in society (Chapter 27, this volume).
In the present chapter we focus on a particular use of consumption: the reliance on consumption as a tool to ward off psychological threats. Specifically, we discuss the idea that consumption can be motivated in an effort to assuage a broad range of psychological threats from one's intellectual ability to a sense of one's environment. The aim of the chapter is to familiarize the reader with the concept of compensatory consumption, provide a sample of the type of threats that are compensated, discuss representative moderators of consumers' engagement in compensatory consumption, and speak to the psychological value of consumption in response to threats.