File photo: A model wears a creation for Fendi women's spring-summer 2015 collection, part of the Milan Fashion Week. Picture: AP
File photo: A model wears a creation for Fendi women's spring-summer 2015 collection, part of the Milan Fashion Week. Picture: AP

The devil really does wear Prada if this study is anything to go by

By MAX AITCHISON Time of article published May 4, 2020

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London - It may come with a label and price tag that convey your status as a well-heeled fashion connoisseur.

But that designer handbag or coat you’ve set your heart on is also going to set you apart from the crowd in a rather different way.

For scientists have discovered that women who buy items from high-end fashion houses are more likely to act in a selfish manner – suggesting that when it comes to luxury attire, the devil really does wear Prada.

Academics at the University of Maryland carried out experiments to determine how designer goods alter psychology and behaviour.

In one test involving 72 female students, half received a £1 500 (about R35 000) Prada bag and the remainder were given a non-luxury bag worth £60.

Participants were later asked to answer a questionnaire with one of a range of different pens. They were also asked how they would split a hypothetical cash prize.

Women with the Prada handbags were twice as likely to pick up the last remaining expensive-looking pen, while also awarding themselves a bigger share of the money. But this pattern of behaviour was reversed if the Prada participants had the chance to be generous in front of others. Researchers said this was driven largely by a desire to "enhance one’s reputation" rather than genuine kindness.

Yajin Wang, the university’s assistant professor of marketing, said the "consumption experience" was helping change behaviour rather than it being "a bad person who wears luxury goods".

"Therefore, it’s not necessarily devils who are buying Prada – rather, it’s wearing Prada that changes people’s psychology and behaviour, potentially turning them into devils," said Prof Wang.

Previous research has found women who buy designer brands including Gucci and Burberry are more likely to hold politically conservative views and are less able to resist sweets and chocolate.

The 2006 film 'The Devil Wears Prada' starred Meryl Streep as a despotic magazine boss who tyrannises assistant Anne Hathaway.

Mail On Sunday

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