你为什么会买奢侈品呢？自我感觉良好？身份象征？吸引眼球？人们大多觉得，全身上下挂满奢侈品的土豪肯定不缺人抱大腿，来找他做朋友。实则不然，奢侈品并不能让你摇身一变成为社交达人。因为现代人好像越来越不认为奢侈品是身份象征，反倒开始追求文化方面的标志，比如读过多少书，上了什么大学。物质丰富还是精神丰富？一个好像“To be or not to be”一样永恒的问题。虽然两者并不冲突，但好像人们总会选择阵营站定，那你会选什么呢？
Why luxury goods don’t impress, but repel
In 1899, a brilliant but stubborn economist named Thorstein Veblen coined a term that proved quite useful in the following century and beyond. His theory of “conspicuous consumption“—basically, purchasing certain goods in order to show off—introduced a way of thinking about why people buy things that are expensive and unnecessary.
1899年，一位杰出却又固执的经济学家托斯丹·韦伯伦创造了一个术语。在那以后的二十乃至二十一世纪，这个发明派上了很好的用场。人为什么要买一些华而不实的东西？他的“炫富消费”论 —— 大致来说，就是为了炫耀而购买某些商品 —— 为这个问题提供了一个新思路。
coin [kɒɪn] v. invent or devise( a new word or phrase) 创造（新词）
conspicuous consumption: 炫富消费，指的是富裕的上层阶级通过对物品的超出实用和生存所必需的浪费性、奢侈性和铺张浪费，向他人炫耀和展示自己的金钱财力和社会地位，以及这种地位所带来的荣耀、声望和名誉。
Veblen established the basics of the concept, but, even nearly 120 years later, researchers are still making sense of how people practice it. And what they’re finding is that people tell themselves all sorts of stories—some true and some less so—about whether owning visibly luxurious things (like cars, watches, or electronics) will serve them well.
韦伯伦奠定了这一概念的基础，但即便在近120年以后，研究人员还在试图理解人们是如何实践这一概念的。他们发现，对于拥有明显可见的奢侈品（比如汽车、手表或者电子产品）是否会让自己感觉良好，人们会用各种故事来说服自己 —— 其中有些是真的，有些则不然。
One story that’s true: Acquiring something luxurious can temporarily increase one’s self-esteem. One story that’s not: Acquiring something luxurious can impress potential friends.
A recent study by Stephen Garcia at the University of Michigan explores that second myth. He and his co-authors set up a variety of hypothetical scenarios and asked subjects what they’d choose to do in one of two roles—either as someone trying to make friends or as someone evaluating potential friends. They found that there’s an imbalance in how the people in the latter position perceive those in the former. “People think … that status is going to attract new friends,” he told me. “However, it actually has the opposite effect—that is, people would rather befriend, in a conversation or in an interaction, someone who doesn’t display [high-]status, but rather more neutral markers,” like a Timex instead of a Rolex.
密歇根大学的史蒂芬·加西亚最近的一项研究探讨了上述第二种错误的认识。他和其他参与著述的研究者假设了各种不同的场景，在场景中设置两个角色，一个是想要交朋友的人，一个是评判他人是否可能和自己成为朋友的人，然后让被试扮演其中一个角色，看他们会做出怎样的选择。他们发现，扮演后一个角色的人对前一个角色的看法，跟前一个角色的自我认知是错位的。“人们认为……地位能吸引新朋友，”加西亚对我说。“然而， 这样做实际上只会产生反效果—— 在交谈或互动的过程中，人们更愿意跟那些不显摆（高大上的）身份地位，而是不露声色、平淡低调的人做朋友。”比如说，手上戴着天美时而不是劳力士手表的人。
hypothetical [,haɪpə’θɛtɪkl] adj. If something is hypothetical, it is based on possible ideas or situations rather than actual ones. 假设的
In one of the researchers’ experiments, subjects—recruited from the main street of an unnamed upscale suburb—were asked how they’d get to a wedding party if they were trying to make new friends: in a luxury car or a more basic one? About 65 percent of respondents picked the luxury car. Another group of subjects, though, was asked who at the party they might want to befriend, and the luxury-car owners were on average rated as much less socially appealing than were the basic-car owners.
In another experiment, college students were asked to pick who they’d like to have a conversation with after being presented with two profiles of imaginary participants that included their hobbies, their home state, the type of car they drive, and the brand of winter coat they wear. The fancier peer—the one who drove a 2017 BMW and wore a Canada Goose jacket—was picked less than a quarter of the time.
Garcia told me that one way to explain these findings is that people, when looking for friends, don’t like feeling inadequate; there’s research showing that people get uncomfortable when their friends outperform them and that they’re less okay with a friend’s success than with a stranger’s. (Another interpretation—and this one’s mine—is that people might mistrust rich people, or at least those who flaunt their wealth.)
Of course, no one would like to admit that they’re buying something to win friends or seem cool, so many people rationalize their purchases in other sorts of ways. In a 2016 paper, the Harvard Business School professor Anat Keinan and her co-authors studied what they call “functional alibis“—the excuses people make for expensive purchases that play up a product’s function. For example, they might justify buying a Range Rover because it can handle extreme conditions, or justify buying a high-end handbag because it has a useful protective pocket for a laptop. “When people indulge, they want to feel like there’s some sort of rational excuse for their behavior,” Keinan told me.
当然，没人会承认自己购物是为了赢得朋友或装酷，所以很多人会用其他方法将自己的消费合理化。在2016年的一篇论文中，哈佛商学院教授安娜特·凯南和其他合著者研究了人们为购买昂贵物品而编造的借口 —— 他们称之为“功能性借口” —— 而这些借口也是商品功能的一部分。比如说，买一辆路虎的理由是这种车能在极端路况下行驶，买高端手包则是因为它有一个用来放置手提电脑的防护内袋。凯南告诉我：“人们纵容自己时，总想让自己感觉这种行为是有这样那样的理性解释作为借口的。”
alibis [ˈæləˌbaɪ] n. the proof that you were somewhere else when a crime was committed. You can say that someone has an alibi when they can prove that something was not their fault. 不在犯罪现场的证明；辩解，借口，托辞
Marketers, Keinan says, are aware of how consumers rationalize these types of purchases—hence ads for high-end pens and watches that emphasize the products’ precision and performance. “You want to feel that you’re rational, that you’re a smart shopper, that you’re not wasting your money, that you’re not perceived as the kind of person who buys things just to impress others,” she says, and ads can encourage those narratives.
One of the reasons that status symbols inspire such ambivalence is that they are wasteful, which is how Silvia Bellezza, a professor of marketing at Columbia Business School, put it when describing to me the way they work. “Because we are social animals, as soon as you have more than others, you want others to know that you do,” she says. “How do you display that? By wasting stuff.”
Veblen wrote that conspicuous consumption has been around since the time of cavemen. In his time, one common example of wasting in the name of status was studying Latin or Greek—languages that require, in Bellezza’s words, “a lot of time in which you didn’t have to worry about what you were going to eat next.” So, money can be wasted, but so can time and other resources. “The common denominator is waste,” she says. “The what and how changes with time.”
Lately, in certain circles, the what and the how have changed—moving away from items like luxury cars and toward cultural markers like the college one attended or the books one has read. Bellezza says that many high-end goods have lost some of their signaling value because they are, like less pricey items, now mass-produced too, and thus available to a global middle class that is wealthier than it used to be.
Of course, a nice car still remains a powerful status signal—but that doesn’t mean it always sends the messages its driver wants it to.