The Diderot Effect

By Yasin | HerTelden | 21 Sep 2019


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Catherine the Great, the Empress of Russia, heard about that French writer and philosopher Denis Diderot, one of the 18th century enlightenment thinkers, was in debt and decided to help him. So she bought Diderot's library and paid him 25 years' salary in advance to save him from that difficult situation. 

A friend of Diderot, whose financial situation improves, presents a very elegant velvet dressing gown. Diderot, sitting at his desk with the pleasure of the new dressing gown, realizes that this old table does not fit into the new and flashy dressing gown. He gets a new desk with the amount of money he receives. This time, however, the old carpet on the floor does not suit the dressing gown and table. He gets a new carpet. In this way, old paintings, chairs, tapestries, chairs, completely renews everything in the house.

Eventually he runs out of money and he owes again. Only then does he come to his senses and write an article called "Regrets for my Old Dressing Gown" about how he lost himself to a consumption frenzy. Since he was the first person to talk about this consumption spiral that explains things that are not made with the conscious thought of shopping and that are taken without need, the concept he describes is called “The Diderot Effect”.

Diderot says: "I was the absolute master of my old robe. I have become the slave of the new one."

Diderot makes two assumptions about our shopping habits:

1. A purchased item becomes part of the identity of the buyer and these articles tend to complement each other.

2. If a new item received deviates from said identity, it is possible to enter a consumption spiral with the desire to receive new items to form a harmonious whole.

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