Cornell University The Johnson School at Cornell University

August 14-17, 2008
Ithaca, NY
Sage Hall

The Meaning of Consumption


From Adam Smith to Marx to Veblen to Bourdieu and beyond, consumption has been seen as a system of symbolic indicators, carriers, and causes of meaning. We consume to create and express identities—personal, social, and cultural—to both ourselves and to others. We consume to belong and to differentiate, to unite and to divide, to blend in and to stick out. This conference will bring together behavioral scientists from economics, psychology, sociology, marketing, and other fields, who are doing research to unravel the meaning of consumption.

Tentative schedule:
Thursday 8/14

Stella's6:30-8:00Welcome Reception

Friday 8/15

Ramin Parlor
(Sage Hall)
9:00-10:30Opening Remarks
Judith Donath: Far from frivolous: Fashion as a risky signal of social information access
Sage 14111:00-12:30Wilfred Amaldoss: Strategic implications of social influences on consumption
Dan Ariely: Expectations and (maybe) fashion
Banfi's (Statler)12:45Lunch
Sage 1412:30-4:00Russell Belk: Yours, mine, and ours: Owning, extended self, and sharing
Jonah Berger: Divergence in cultural practices: Identity, signaling, and the success of culture
Ramin Parlor4:30-6:00Panel Discussion

Saturday 8/16

Ramin Parlor
(Sage Hall)
9:00-10:30Robert Frank: Thorstein Veblen: Still misunderstood, but more important than ever
Thomas Gilovich: The relative relativity of material and experiential purchases
Ramin Parlor11:00-12:30Ori Heffetz: Symbolic consumption in economics: Applications and implications
Benjamin Ho: Signaling identity in social networks: A model of symbolic consumption
Banfi's (Statler)12:45Lunch
Ramin Parlor2:30-4:00Sam Gosling: A room with a cue: Self-expression in physical spaces
Leaf Van Boven: Stigmatizing materialism: On stereotypes and impressions of materialistic versus experiential consumers
Off-campus5:00Discussion + Dinner

Sunday 8/17

Sage 1418:00-9:00Breakfast
Sage 1419:00-10:30Geoffrey Miller: Conspicuous consumption as trait-display: How human instincts for showing off intelligence, personality traits, and moral virtues, influence consumer behavior
Ulrich Witt: Where attention goes: Consumption and the role of unintentional agenda effects
Sage 14111:00-12:30Concluding Session
Off-campus12:30-5:30The Great Ithaca Wine Tour

The objectives of the conference are—like those of other such conferences—to further a cross-disciplinary dialog between people who, although working on the same subject, approach it from different perspectives; to expose ourselves to a broader body of work than the literatures each of us routinely reads and contributes to; and to get to know better what each other is currently working on.
The tentative plan is for each of the participants to present for 30 minutes followed by another 15 minutes of discussion and Q&A. The format of presentations is relatively open: while some might choose to present a paper and get comments, others might choose to overview a research agenda, introducing participants to some of the ideas they have been pursuing.
Finally, as Ithaca is beautiful in the summer, the time we plan to spend on Cayuga Lake after the sessions will surely inspire some for new projects and new collaborations.

For further details contact Ori Heffetz, Benjamin Ho, or Leaf Van Boven.