London - Women buy designer handbags and expensive accessories to stop love rivals stealing their men, a study suggests.
Luxury goods signal the owner is spoken for, according to a series of experiments on hundreds of married and unmarried women.
It emerged that the more a woman feels threatened by competition the more she spends on accessories.
Vladas Griskevicius, the psychology professor behind the research, said it could explain why the average woman buys three handbags a year.
“Women at different ages and relationship status inferred that a woman with designer outfits and accessories had a more devoted partner,” he said. “They also spontaneously inferred the partner financially contributed to these luxurious possessions.
“Such information is especially valuable when their relationship is threatened by another woman.”
The study found that women often automatically assume a woman's designer bag was purchased by her boyfriend or husband, even if she bought it herself.
The study looked at the shopping habits of nearly 650 women, and determined that when a woman feels her romantic relationship is being threatened, she will often turn to designer labels - and not necessarily for a simple pick-me-up.
Yajin Wang, the professor’s assistant, said the feeling that a partnership is at risk automatically triggers women to want to flash the likes of Gucci, Chanel and Fendi.
She said a designer handbag or a pair of expensive shoes seemed to work like a shield.
“In essence Fendi handbags fend off romantic rivals and flaunting designer products says ‘Back off’,” added the Phd student.
The US researchers, who are based at Minnesota University, said: “Whereas men often display luxury products to the opposite sex, women often seek to flaunt expensive possessions to the same sex.
“This might be particularly interesting to luxury brand practitioners and managers to understand women are the primary audiences of women’s luxury consumption.”
But they added: “Mate guarding is of course not the only function of conspicuous consumption.”
Past research shows luxury goods make women happy and signal status and taste.
The latest study was published in the Journal of Consumer Research. - Daily Mail