"An Emerald Green Jaguar, a House on Nantucket, and an African Safari:" Wish Lists and Consumption Dreams in Materialist Society

ABSTRACT - This paper explores a new area of consumer behavior: pre-purchase dreaming. Toward the goal of providing a foundational understanding of pre-consumption dreaming episodes and behaviors, a review of descriptive information on conscious fantasy behavior is first provided. The results of an exploratory survey which investigates general consumption dreaming, planful/ anticipatory versus pure daydreaming styles of activity, and the manifestation of consumption dreams in the form of consumer "wish lists," are then presented. Implications of the findings for the study of materialism are discussed, and ideas for future investigations are offered.


Susan Fournier and Michael Guiry (1993) ,""An Emerald Green Jaguar, a House on Nantucket, and an African Safari:" Wish Lists and Consumption Dreams in Materialist Society", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, eds. Leigh McAlister and Michael L. Rothschild, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 352-358.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, 1993      Pages 352-358


Susan Fournier, University of Florida

Michael Guiry, University of Florida


This paper explores a new area of consumer behavior: pre-purchase dreaming. Toward the goal of providing a foundational understanding of pre-consumption dreaming episodes and behaviors, a review of descriptive information on conscious fantasy behavior is first provided. The results of an exploratory survey which investigates general consumption dreaming, planful/ anticipatory versus pure daydreaming styles of activity, and the manifestation of consumption dreams in the form of consumer "wish lists," are then presented. Implications of the findings for the study of materialism are discussed, and ideas for future investigations are offered.


In the last decade, the scope of consumer research has been expanded beyond choice and decision-making to include the experience of consumption, the meanings of possessions, and processes of product disposition. Some have suggested broadening this range yet further to include important pre-acquisition phenomena such as materialistic aspirations (Fournier and Richins 1991), wish lists (Belk and Zhou 1987), anticipatory consumption experiences (MacInnis and Price 1990), consumption fantasies (Hirschman and Holbrook 1982), and vicarious consumption experiences (MacInnis and Price 1987). Most discussions of consumer states of pre-purchase fantasy remain at the macro-theoretical level; the extent to which consumers dream about products or experiences they have yet to acquire, and the consequences of such activity have only rarely been considered for empirical investigation (MacInnis and Price 1990). The present paper supports the expanded "pre-acquisition" view of consumer behavior, providing descriptive survey data on pre-purchase dreaming activities, especially as they are manifest in consumer "wish lists."


There is reason to believe that pre-purchase dreaming activities flourish in materialistic cultures. The preoccupation with consumption that characterizes these societies encourages cultivation of purchase goals, on-going entertainment of consumption dreams, and eternal search for suitable consumption prospects (Leiss et al. 1986) C activities that occur largely in the imagination. It has been suggested that "longing," the simple act of contemplating possible consumption opportunities, is filled so much with enjoyable states of fantasy that the simple anticipation of consumption comes to serve as a desired end-state in and of itself (Campbell 1987). It has been argued that imaginary consumption activities enjoy superordinate status above actual purchase and usage experiences (Campbell 1987). In fact, the contemplation of future acquisitions has been identified as one of life's fourteen "simple pleasures" in recognition of this positive experience-value (Bentham 1789/1987).

Cultural critics argue that marketing and advertising institutions encourage the imaginative "desiring mode" by actively supporting the dream quality of consumption and purchase (Leiss et al. 1986). This is reflected in popular terms chosen to describe media and marketplace functions: the "dream industry" of advertising, the "dream world" of shopping malls, catalogue "wish books." These institutions, by allowing the consumer to entertain thoughts of ownership without making a commitment to purchase, encourage a pattern of anticipation in consumption. The consumer credit industry further reinforces the dream-like quality of consumption by allowing ownership without payment.

Cultural attitudes and practices are highly supportive of pre-consumption dreaming activities. Surveys consistently reveal highly positive opinions toward and frequent engagement of consumption-related daydreams (Caughey 1984; MacInnis and Price 1990; Singer 1966). "Wish list" activity is overtly encouraged among cultural members, and examples of situations which demand the generation and availability of wish lists abound. The cultural practice of gift-giving and the commoditization of the Christmas holiday virtually guarantee preparation of wish lists. Wish lists also commonly guide self-gift reward behavior (Mick and DeMoss 1990). Similarly, the tradition of bridal registration at department stores, in which detailed lists of purchase desires are complied, requires wish list formulation. Lastly, the question of lottery winning disbursement commonly entertained in day-to-day fantasy activities (Caughey 1984; Singer and McCraven 1961) cultivates wish list generation. Considering that training in wish list construction begins at an early age with the compilation of lists for Santa, one enters an environment wherein pre-acquisition dreaming is not only accepted, but highly encouraged as well.


The present study proceeds along the assumption that entertaining ideas about consumption, as expressed through a variety of pre-purchase dreaming activities, is a very real form of consumer behavior. The study explores the status of pre-purchase dreaming activities as acts of consumption, investigating their popularity, content and structure, underlying motivations, and process dynamics. The purpose of the research is to provide a descriptive, sociological account of a variety of pre-purchase consumption dreaming activities including wish list construction, anticipatory consumption planning, and fantastical entertainment of consumption possibilities. The impact of consumer well-being and materialist orientation upon the incidence and form of pre-purchase dreaming activities is investigated in detail.

Two contributions are offered. First, the study broadens the scope of research on fantasy-related consumer behaviors. Rather than focussing on post-acquisition fantasies sparked by the consumption of hedonic products or fantasy-reflective goods and experiences (Holbrook et al. 1984; Rook 1985), the study concerns the neglected pre-acquisition phase of consumption fantasy. In this sense, the study contributes to our understanding of consumption-related fantasy behaviors in particular, and to the operation of materialist culture in general. Second, the study moves beyond the conceptual comments that have largely characterized interest in this area to date, providing much-needed foundational data on the extent and patterning of pre-consumption dreaming activities. The study thus helps to establish a base of factual information that can support the development of theory related to consumption fantasy.


This section presents a selective review of the literature on daydreaming and conscious fantasy behavior, focussing on descriptive information that can illuminate the current research goals. In light of current objectives, the unconscious aspects of the fantasy experience are not considered.

Forms and Functions of Daydreaming and Fantasy

Fantasy has been defined as "an imagined sequence of events or mental images that serves to express unconscious conflicts, to gratify unconscious wishes, or to prepare for anticipated future events" (APA 1975, p.55). It is recognized that a continuum of the realistic to the fantastical exists such that two basic forms of fantasy behavior can be discussed. On one extreme are "creative fantasies," planful forms of daydreaming grounded in future experiences (Singer and Antrobus 1963). Planful fantasies include the anticipation of probable future actions (MacInnis and Price 1990), as well as the entertainment of alternative possibilities for likely future actions (Singer and McCraven 1961). Planful fantasy activities serve preparatory and exploratory functions. On the other extreme are "pure daydreaming" fantasies in which highly improbable events or fanciful wishes are entertained. Such activities are undertaken for purposes of vicarious consumption (MacInnis and Price 1987), or for the positively-reinforcing experience the fantasy offers (Klinger 1971; Singer 1966). With both planful and pure daydreaming fantasies, the gratification and stimulation can be so positive that the fantasy serves as a surrogate experience (Singer 1966), allowing the delay of gratification where situational contingencies block goals, or motivating future behaviors where no barriers exist (MacInnis and Price 1987).

The Content and Character of Daydreams and Fantasies

Psychologists have generally argued for the idiosyncratic character of fantasies in recognition of their service of selfish wishes and private desires. Singer and McCraven (1961) measured the frequency of daydreams in 93 specific categories including passion, death, personal/career aspiration, aggression, consumption experience, monetary wealth, and material possession, and found the specific content of dreams to be highly individualistic.

Those with an anthropological perspective regard fantasy as a cultural phenomena that reflects individual desires, but only as they have been shaped and structured by societal forces (Caughey 1984). Through his ethnographic interviews, Caughey discovered strikingly similar patterns in the thematic content of American fantasies, identifying three basic components in what he termed the "American fantasy set." The set reflects access to, living of, and having "The Good Life," and includes dreams of career success, imaginings of exotic experiences, and the acquisition of great wealth or possessions. In a similar vein, Riesman and Roseborough's (1964) concept of the "standard package of aspirational goods" suggests homogenization of possessions and experiences entertained in the imagination. Even in developing consumer societies, wish lists have been found to exhibit marked similarity across cultural members (Belk and Zhou 1987), evidence for the standardization of imaginary consumption desires toward the American ideal.

Fantasy Behaviors, Consequences, and Correlates

Investigations have shown that daydreaming and fantasy behaviors are remarkably widespread. Over 96% of U.S. adults report some form of conscious daydreaming daily (Singer and McCraven 1961), with fantasy behaviors serving anticipatory or planning functions especially prevalent (MacInnis and Price 1990). In general, fantasy behaviors are met with positive public opinion; they are openly embraced for the enjoyment and stimulation they offer, and often serve positive, adaptive functions such as motivation, exploration, compensation, delay of gratification, and escape (Caughey 1984; MacInnis and Price 1990; Singer and McCraven 1961). Some potential negative consequences of fantasizing about the unattainable have been identified, however, including the development of anger, frustration, and negative self-regard (Rhue 1987).

Certain demographic factors have been associated with the propensity to engage in dreaming activities. Upwardly-mobile socio-economic groups have been shown to demonstrate a tendency toward increased fantasy activity, perhaps for the imaginary exploration it affords (Singer and McCraven 1961). It has also been suggested that groups experiencing some form of relative deprivation rely on fantasy behaviors for the compensatory, adaptive functions they provide (Singer 1966). Persons plagued by compulsion or anxiety are also prone to increased fantasy activity for the escape it offers (O'Guinn and Faber 1989; Rhue 1987). As could be expected, the tendency to daydream or fantasize declines with age. The narrowing of possibilities typically associated with maturity suggests a lessened need for planful fantasy behaviors (Singer and McCraven 1961). Alternatively, this pattern could be tied to more general trends in materialistic values. As detailed in the introduction, much of the positive reception to consumption daydreaming is driven by materialist beliefs. As materialist values decline with age, engagement in consumption fantasies may likewise decline.

This selective research review has highlighted issues that bear upon the design and analysis of the present research. The discussion now turns to the methodological details of the study.



In line with stated objectives of this preliminary investigation, the survey method has been chosen. Prior work (MacInnis and Price 1990; Singer 1966) has proven questionnaire data both illuminating and relatively free of social desirability bias, supporting the utility of the method in studies of fantasy behavior:

"It seems reasonable to conclude that a fairly direct approach by questionnaire can be fruitful. The range of responses suggests that people responding to a questionnaire will reveal considerable material concerning their private daydreams and admit to some thoughts that one might expect only a clinical relationship could elicit." (Singer and McCraven 1961, p.162)

Pre-Purchase Dreaming Activity Measures

Four classes of pre-purchase dreaming activity were explored in the present study. First, the frequency of general consumption-related dreaming activities was included as a dependent variable of interest. Respondents indicated "how often they dream about things that they do not have" on a 5-point scale from (5) very often to (1) never. Singer (1966) and MacInnis and Price (1990) report the use of similar dream frequency measures.

The planful versus pure daydreaming functions of fantasy referenced earlier were also measured. A review of the literature suggested seven attitudinal statements to tap this range of possible pre-consumptive fantasy activities [See Table 1]. A factor analysis with varimax rotation of the seven items confirmed the two dreaming forms. Regression analyses sought to identify variables associated with each type of dreaming.



A 7-item semantic differential scale reflecting overall attitudes toward pre-consumption dreaming (a=.84) was also administered. The scale included dimensions of productivity, health, encouragement, enjoyment, motivation, and normality in addition to overall goodness/badness.

The final class of measures concerned one particular manifestation of pre-purchase consumption dreaming activities: consumer "wish lists." For purposes of the present study, the wish list was defined as a hierarchical set of yet unacquired products or experiences that reflect materialistic desires, consumption dreams, and life aspirations and that serve as objects of contemplation in pre-acquisitive consumption dreaming activities. The wish list serves an organizing function for its user, prioritizing the options available in the consumption universe upon which "extra money" could be spent or against which gift solicitations could be applied. The wish list thus serves as a broad "consideration set," a restricted list of alternatives that have satisfied some criterion of desirability. Whether these items are actually intended for future purchase is open to question; the list includes products of both planful consumption dreams and pure daydreams.

In line with previously discussed cultural evidence for the validity of consumer wish lists, the construct was measured with a direct open-ended question: "What is on your list of things that you would like to own or do someday?" Responses were content-coded in terms of number of wishes, type of wish (i.e., material possessions versus consumption experiences versus ideals versus money), vividness or detail of item description, and shared, cultural character. Additional diagnostic categories suggested by the literature or inspired by the data included complementarity among individual wish list items, reference to status, reflection of trade-up in consumption level, reflection of "basic" and "complete" consumption packages, and indication of consumption excess. Two judges coded the data; all disagreements were resolved through discussion. Regression analyses focussed on the scope (i.e., total number of wish list ideas) and character (i.e., distribution of possessions versus experiences versus ideals) of the lists. Other content categories were explored for their descriptive value.

To tap the fanciful character of lists, respondents also provided estimates of the "percentage of items they believed they would realistically attain someday." Regression analyses identified factors associated with more and less realism.

Independent Variables and Correlates

Informed by the literature, eight potential correlates of consumption dreaming activities were investigated. Life satisfaction was measured with a 5-item scale (a=.81) that tapped overall happiness, general life satisfaction, and satisfaction with specific life domains. A scale of (1) people who are really poor to (6) people who have really made it was used to measure both aspirational group and relative standard of living, with the latter reflecting the gap between ratings of current living standard and the perception of the average American level of living. Materialistic value orientation (Richins and Dawson 1990) was measured with a 15-item scale (a=.78). Sex, age, income, and education were also measured.

Sample and Data Collection

One hundred twenty respondents completed the survey. Data were collected using a three-step purposive strategy. First, 47 business and non-business undergrads at a major university completed the questionnaire in exchange for extra course credit. The students provided a sample of consumers with presumably unmet consumption desires. Older, more full-fledged members of consumer culture were the targets of the next two data collection phases. A total of 83 surveys were distributed by the authors at an outlet mall. Thirty-three surveys from predominantly upper middle/middle class respondents representing 5 different southeastern states were returned. In the third wave, 51 surveys were mailed (40 returned) to selected contacts, including a working-class Boston bar and secretarial offices in ID, NY, and PA. The sample included a range of age, education, income, and social class groups.




Content analysis of the wish list question is presented in Table 2. Table 3 contains regression results for the four groups of dependent measures.

Wish List Content

An average of 5.3 ideas were listed in response to the open-ended wish list generation question (SD=2.9, range 1 to 12). There was strong agreement among respondents in the type of items put on their lists. Generally speaking, lists were dominated by desires for material possessions. Over three-quarters (80%) of the sample listed at least one possession on their wish lists; 43% of total items listed were consumer products. The most popular wish item (17% of total items, mentioned by 71% of sample) was the desire for a new, bigger, or more beautifully-situated home. Almost half the sample (44%) also mentioned desires for new cars. Over one in four (29%) listed luxury items such as yachts, antiques, jewelry, and designer clothes.

Travel and consumption experiences were also popular among consumption dreamers. Three-in-four respondents (74%) put some form of experience on their wish lists, with experiences representing 26% of total items listed. A majority (59%) expressed a desire for travel throughout the US or Europe, or for vacations to exotic places. A third (32%) added other forms of consumption experience to their list of desires, including cultural experiences such as learning a foreign language or attending sporting/art events, and more particularistic adventures (e.g., rafting and safaris).

Interestingly, 69% of the respondents listed at least one idealistic goal in their wish list. The number of ideals listed (26% of total items) matches total experiential ambitions. Four types of ideals were identified (i.e., career, family/society, health/happiness, and charity), with career goals most commonly (48%) mentioned. A fifth (22%) of the sample covered all consumption possibilities by stating a wish for unlimited funds.

Wish lists also varied in terms of specificity and uniqueness. Three-quarters of respondents embellished at least one item with specific details; 42% of all items were vividly described. Individuality was expressed through dream-like stories in which the particulars of a "fairy-tale" life were recounted. This level of detail and elaboration could reflect that consumers have "perfect things" in mind when they formulate wish lists.

There was also evidence of a culturally-motivated, shared quality in wish lists. One-quarter (24%) of respondents elicited items in the "American fantasy set" (Caughey 1984), and 23% recounted a "basic package" of consumption items (i.e., a car, house, and travel). Desires for the same quintessential wish list items (e.g., the emerald green Jaguar) and luxury goods (e.g., Lear jet, estate home, yacht) were also reflected.

Lists also varied along a dimension of complementarity. While the majority (62%) of registers took the form of simple itemized shopping lists, others (38%) included possessions, experiences, and ideals intertwined in a meaningful pattern and reflective of respondents' proposed life paths.

Some interesting findings related to the materialist character of lists also emerged. The theme of consumption excess was reflected (30% want at least two houses, cars or vacations), as was consumption escalation and trade-up (22% state wishes for newer/bigger/better possessions and experiences).



Factors Influencing the Scope and Content of Wish Lists

Certain socio-demographic factors were associated with the total number of wish list items generated as well as distribution of those items across classes. Life satisfaction was negatively related to the total number of ideas generated (b=-.32, p=.005) and to the number of possessions listed (b=-.24, p=.04). That dissatisfaction is associated with increased, possession-focussed dreaming may reflect a hope that the road to happiness is paved with currently-unrealized consumption desires, or a tendency to revert to fantasy for escape. Consumers with greater levels of satisfaction may have garnered many of their desires, become more selective in constructing their lists, or learned the negative effects of wishing for unattainable goals. Reflecting the ability to fulfill wishes, the number of ideas generated was positively related to income (b=.29, p=.01) and education (b=.18, p=.05). Interestingly, age was not significant (b=-.15, p=.14). Two factors were associated with the tendency to cite experiential consumption items over possessions or ideals. Materialism was negatively correlated with the dominance of experience items (b=-.26, p=.01) reflecting a preference for tangible possessions over fleeting experiences. Age was positively related to the tendency to cite invigorating consumption experiences over possessions or ideals (b=.31, p=.003). The number of ideals listed was fairly constant across demographic groups, as reflected in a non-significant regression model.

Issues of Wish List Attainment

Respondents felt they would attain most of the goals stated in their lists; the average anticipated attainment was 68%. Surprisingly, over half the respondents (56%) believed that they would fulfill at least 75% of their wishes, and one in three (29%) stated that they would realize a full 90% or more of their consumption goals. The high level of anticipated attainment suggests that for a number of consumers, "wish lists" are more appropriately regarded as "want lists" or prioritized plans for likely future consumption.

Attainment expectations were negatively associated with age (b=-.49, p=.0001). It appears that consumers become more realistic in their consumption goals over time; fledgling consumers on the verge of promising careers foresee no obstacles to proposed consumption paths. Another factor affecting attainment estimates was item specificity. More specific lists were associated with lower levels of expected attainment (b=-.24, p=.009), a reflection that more specifically-identified items are often harder to realize.

Consumption Dreaming Activity

The discussion now turns from the content of consumption dreaming to the extent of consumer engagement in such activity. Survey results suggest that consumption dreaming is an essential part of consumer culture. Three-quarters (76%) of the sample report at least occasionally dreaming about things they do not own; 27% admit to doing so very often. As dreaming increases in frequency, the number of wishes generated goes up (b=.74, p=.01). Interestingly, dreaming frequency is not related to estimates of attainment, suggesting that frequent dreamers engage in both planful dreaming targeted towards realistic consumption aspirations and pure daydreaming without intention to buy.

Materialism was positively related to dream frequency (b=.30, p=.0001), suggesting that pre-acquisitive imagination is an important materialistic hobby. Age was negatively related to consumption dream frequency (b=-.27, p=.003). As consumers move through life and acquire consumption packages, the range of possibilities remaining open becomes limited, which reduces the need for consumption dreaming. Moreover, older consumers are not as future-oriented as their counterparts, a trait that by definition lessens the role played by dreaming. Lastly, age is negatively related to materialism (r=-.41, p<.05), an orientation that encourages dreaming.

While not significant in the regression model, both aspirational group and relative standing were positively correlated with increased dream frequency (r=.20 and r=.21, respectively; p<.05). Thus, Singer's (1966) idea that consumers aspiring to move up the social ladder dream about the symbols of their target groups, and his hypothesis that those who feel disadvantaged dream about unfulfilled acquisitions as a means of escape receive only partial support in the data. In a similar vein, life satisfaction was not significantly related to dream frequency, although it was negatively correlated with the dependent measure (r=-.23, p<.05).

Planful Dreaming and Pure Daydreaming

The strongest regression results were obtained for the prediction of planful dreaming [R2=.41, p=.0001]. Engagement in planful dreaming was positively related to the magnitude of respondents' group aspirations (b=.17, p=.06), an indication that the path of upward mobility is associated with the formulation of specific acquisition goals. Planful activity was also negatively associated with current education levels (b=-.19, p=.02), perhaps a reflection of this same phenomenon. Planful dreaming was positively associated with the trait of materialism (b=.51, p=.0001), mirroring the central role that future acquisitions play in the materialists' life.

The relationship between materialism and consumption dreaming was not restricted to that of planful dreaming, however. Materialism was also positively associated with the engagement in more fanciful consumption dreaming (b=.18, p=.07). In addition, females were more likely to participate in playful daydreaming than males (b=.18, p=.05). Lastly, lower levels of education were associated with increased levels of playful dreaming (b=-.29, p=.002), perhaps reflecting the escape functions of this activity form.

Attitudes Toward Consumption Dreaming

Survey results indicate that dreaming about things not owned is considered a normal endeavor that is motivating, encouraging, healthy, and enjoyable. Age, education, and income were negatively related to favorable attitudes; the magnitude of group aspirations was positively related to favorable attitudes. As might be expected, consumers' attitudes towards dreaming are positively associated with dreaming frequency (b=.42, p=.0001). Attitudes are not related to attainment estimates, however. This suggests that realistic and fanciful dreams are regarded as equally beneficial and stimulating.


The research reported herein gives important insight into a popular yet neglected cultural phenomenonCpre-acquisition dreaming. The data suggest that pre-acquisitive dreaming plays a viable role in consumer culture. Consumers entertain dreams of yet unacquired products and experiences for purposes of anticipatory consumption and purchase prioritization, as well as for speculation and intrinsic enjoyment of the experience. Several implications for the study of imaginary consumption and the conceptualization of materialism are suggested in the present findings.

The data suggest the existence of two different forms and functions of consumer wish lists. The high level of anticipated attainment attached to some lists suggests that they are reflective of anticipated purchase goals, while others are manifestations of consumption dreams in the purest sense. Lists therefore range from "want lists" of true consumption priorities to "wish lists" of fanciful desires. The differential effects of these list types on well-being should be investigated. It is important also to consider consumers' estimates of attainment for individual items in future research.

A broadening of perspective on the materialistic ethos is also suggested. While possessions dominated consumer wish lists, a significant experiential component was also in evidence. The popularity of experiences may signify their place as new symbols of status for the 1990s, a move away from the conspicuous product consumption of the 1980s. In a mass-produced world where everyone can buy almost everything, exotic travel and consumption experiences seem more privileged, thus replacing possessions as wish list targets. Wish lists also had an equally-strong idealistic flavor; they did not take the form of simple, self-centered shopping lists. The inclusion of ideals suggests value in broadening the boundaries of materialistic consumption yet further to include the enhancement of self, family, and society in addition to the consumption of products and experiences.

The most significant predictor of consumption dreaming activities to emerge from the study was that of materialism. Materialist values were strongly related to frequency of consumption dreaming, both in general and for specific planful and entertainment-driven forms of dreaming as well. This finding supports the reconceptualization of materialism proposed by Fournier and Richins (1991) in which the materialist's domain is expanded beyond the acquisition of possessions to include pre-acquisition states of fantasy in support of future purchase. However, the present data suggest an even broader view of the materialist's experience, one that includes the inherent enjoyment and satisfaction of product-related thought. It suggests a renewed definition of materialism that is organized by the simple enjoyment of products, in action and in thought, whether accompanied by future purchase intentions or not. This is in sharp contrast to popular existing definitions that focus on acquired possessions as sources of satisfaction.


By design, this preliminary investigation has provided only foundational background material on pre-acquisition fantasy behaviors, leaving open several avenues for future research. Several methodological refinements are suggested to more fully explore the range of pre-acquisition fantasy behaviors. Within the survey context, refinement of scale measures and development of multi-item indicators for dream activity will greatly improve reliability. The use of reaction time measures to assess spontaneity of response to questions regarding fantasy behaviors could also prove helpful. The posing of a general question for wish list elicitation has also been limiting. This tactic implies that the wish list itself is collective when in fact, wish lists may be situation-specific (e.g. self-gift reward lists). This possibility also deserves investigation. Lastly, the restrictions of the operational definition of the wish list employed herein are also noted. Requirements for verbalization in the survey context demand that the wish list reflect only those items in the conscious register of consumption dreams. The possibility that subconscious desires lie at the heart of pre-acquisition fantasies suggests promise in applying psychoanalytic approaches to study (e.g., TAT).

Future research should also be directed toward understanding the positive and negative effects of pre-consumption dreaming. While fantasy activity may be so pleasurable that a great variety of improbable thoughts are tolerated without consequence to well-being, others may be caught in the cycle of anticipatory consumption dreaming (Campbell 1987). The very act of engaging in fantasy can create systematic biases in expectations. Imagining an event positively biases the perceived likelihood of attaining that event (Carroll 1978). In fantasy, the person also envisions positively biased outcomes (MacInnis and Price 1987), imagining a world characterized by perfection, quintessence, and the absence of negatives (Caughey 1984). Since reality rarely unfolds as conceived in the imagination, disappointment and frustration in connection with anticipatory fantasy behaviors are expected (MacInnis and Price 1987). However, research has shown that the experience of anticipatory fantasy can actually enhance feelings of satisfaction, regardless of whether expectations are met or not (MacInnis and Price 1990). The potential moderating influence of aspirational levels, life satisfaction, item specificity, and estimates of attainment on the consequences of fantasy behavior should be considered. Carefully designed research can delineate situations in which dreaming leads to frustration, and those in which the experience is positive and motivating.


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Susan Fournier, University of Florida, USA
Michael Guiry, University of Florida, USA


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20 | 1993

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