ACR Fellow's Address Awards, Rewards, Prizes, and Punishments


Russell W. Belk (1995) ,"ACR Fellow's Address Awards, Rewards, Prizes, and Punishments", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, eds. Frank R. Kardes and Mita Sujan, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 9-15.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, 1995      Pages 9-15



Russell W. Belk, University of Utah

In the year I have had to reflect on the honor of the ACR Fellow's Award, I have come to realize that awards are a very special type of consumer good. Not only are awards rare and momentous, but we can neither purchase them nor plan their acquisition. In one view awards are a ritual distinction bestowed by an organization that seeks to convey honor and prestige to selected individuals and by so-doing gain a certain prestige and legitimacy from the honorees who accept these distinctions (Goode 1973). As an alternative to such reciprocal exchange, awards may also be more one-sided agapic gifts of love and respect. By choosing to analyze such awards and related phenomena in this address, I do not mean to behave ungraciously like the teacher played by Sidney Portier in the film To Sir With Love (Clavell 1967) who receives a love note from a student, only to pedantically and dispassionately correct its grammar and return it to the love struck but now shattered young girl who had penned it. Therefore please allow me to begin by saying "thank you!". This is a profound honor for which I am deeply grateful.

Having said that in all sincerity, I should also share with you the fact that the title I initially had in mind was "Awards and Why I Hate Them." The impetus for this investigation was my curiosity about my own behavior; specifically the certain knowledge that once I get the award plaque home, no one will see it again. It will instead enter the recesses of a filing cabinet where it will join a small number of miscellaneous trophies I have been fortunate enough to receive as an adult. For some time this resting place has seemed natural and right to me, but until the last few years I have not known why. Now I think I can understand my uneasiness with awards at several different levels. By exploring the roots of my uneasiness in the following analysis of awards, rewards, prizes, and punishments, perhaps I may stimulate other consumer researchers to take an interest in these significant but largely neglected aspects of consumption.


Rewards and Punishments

In behavioral learning theory rewards and punishments are positive and negative reinforcements used for shaping behavior. A behavior may also automatically bring it's own rewards and punishments as when we try a new food and learn that it tastes good or bad. But I am concerned here with rewards and punishments actively used to achieve a purpose. I am most interested in the macro impacts of material reinforcers including self-rewards and self-punishments.

A reward or punishment is always contingent; it is provided, promised, or threatened contingent upon the performance of a behavior someone deems desirable or undesirable. Prominent consumer behavior examples include giving or denying treats to our pets, children, students, and other small animals over whom we exercise authority. Generally the reward or punishment follows or is concurrent with the behavior. If the behavior is instead in the future, the reward is offered as an incentive or bribe (Noonan 1984). A promise or threat of a future reward or punishment may be used as an incentive or disincentive to mold behaviors, as when children are told that they had better be "good" or else Santa Claus will not bring them gifts or will even punish them instead.

Some reinforcers are inherently positive or negative, but in many cases their valence is socially constructed. Thus Tom Sawyer (Twain 1958) was able to frame whitewashing a fence as desirable by promising it as a reward for those friends who first did favors for Tom or gave him their valuables. Similarly, in the Frederick Pohl (1983) story, "The Midas Plague," in a future world of abundance, consuming becomes a punishment so that those who are "poor" are forced to consume more opulently and lavishly. One of the inadvertent consumer socialization outcomes of using rewards is the valorization of the reward and depreciation of the behavior required to achieve it. For instance, if we insist that our children finish studying before they can watch television, we disparage studying as onerous and venerate television viewing as desirable. Similarly, if we tell children they cannot have dessert unless they eat their vegetables, this valorizes desserts as something good and denigrates vegetables as a necessary evil.

Prizes and Awards

We can reward or punish ourselves as well as those who are dependent on us, but prizes and awards can only be conferred by others. We don't generally compete with others for rewards and punishments, but we do so for prizes and awards. For most of us prizes and rewards are also received less frequently than rewards and punishments. If a reward or punishment is generally deserved, a prize or an award may or may not be, with the selection of the recipients sometimes being determined by chance. Prize is a more generic term that brackets awards in this respect and may range from winning a lottery or sweepstakes that is totally subject to chance, to winning a competition where the outcome is based strictly on performance. Falling between these extremes, awards tend to have elements of both chance and performance. This is because award recipients are usually selected by judges based on subjective performance criteria.

The "contest system" (Gouldner 1965) in which prizes and awards are the payoff for success in competition with others, might be thought of as the dominant motivational model in Western society. But it is not the only one. One alternative is a cooperative system in which we jointly help each other rather than compete. The family is based on these principles as is the ideal of academia as a community of scholars. A second alternative motivational system included in McClelland's (McClelland, Atkinson, Clark, and Lowell 1953) conception of achievement motivation is competition against a self-imposed standard of excellence. In this case we compete, but only against ourselves and our internal standards. And a third alternative is competition against an external standard in a system that Ernest Thompson Seton called honor by standards (Mechling 1987). The President's fitness award to all children who qualify is an example. Unlike the contest system, none of these alternatives sets up a zero sum game in which one person's gain is another's loss.


1. Instrumentalism

Behind awards, rewards, prizes, and punishments, the underlying model of human behavior is generally instrumental, egoistic, controlling, patriarchal, and positivistic. We behave as we do in order to increase chances for awards, rewards, and prizes and in order to decrease chances for punishments. We compete with others to win awards and prizes, and winning matters a great deal. According to this paradigm the key behavioral motives are seeking pleasure and avoiding pain; the pleasure principle tempered by the reality principle; an hedonic calculus seeking to maximize net pleasure. And the key to altering the behaviors of others who are so-motivated is selectively administered reinforcement. Osborne (1985) summarizes concerns with such reinforcement:

One concern is that, if people are frequently rewarded, they will behave appropriately only when they are paid to do so. Some believe that reinforcing practices may interfere with the development of spontaneity, creativity, intrinsic motivational systems, and other highly valued self-determining personality characteristics. Others even consider the deliberate use of reinforcement as deceptive, manipulative, and an insult to the personal integrity of human beings (p. 988).

Therefore rewarding students for good grades with money, treats, food, or other perks, as is done by some school systems, local businesses, teachers, and parents, may kill interest in learning rather than encourage it (Kohn 1993). Moreover, resentment and reactance may result when others try to alter our behavior. An illustration is seen in foreign aid payments that, far from generating good will and gratitude, stimulate feelings of helplessness, dependency, and anger (Dillon 1968). These criticisms most clearly involve consumers in individualistic and materialistic cultures in which material rewards and punishments are employed to mold behavior. Besides elevating or lowering the esteem in which we hold the consumer goods used as reinforcers, the common use of material and monetary reinforcers has a secondary effect of reinforcing materialism and endorsing the view that happiness is something that can be purchased in stores. DeLong (1991) and Holbrook (1993) suggest that in celebrating the merchandize given as prizes, television game shows also stimulate and reinforce consumer culture.

Because awards are less directly contingent than rewards, their effect in reinforcing behavior is also less direct. Rather than strengthening the behavior that is thought to have led to the award, the recipient may instead celebrate by indulging in self-rewards. Furthermore, there may be an over-justification effect such that what was once done spontaneously for the sheer internal joy of doing it, comes to be seen as work done for external awards and as therefore contemptible (Deci 1971). We may also experience attention and envy that we neither sought nor desire. Or we may feel undeserving of the award; we are instead guilty impostors who, more sincerely than Wayne and Garth, believe that "we are not worthy" (Spheeris 1992). Future productivity, risk-taking, and creativity may also be impaired because, in symbolic self completion terms, we now enjoy the self-esteem connoted by having the award and feel that it is therefore less necessary to pursue self-esteem by doing the things that led to the award. There may be an accompanying feeling that our goals have been accomplished and that now there is nothing left to achieve. Accordingly, Wicklund and Gollwitzer (1982) report that the receipt of a Nobel prize typically signals the decline of the recipient's productivity. In all of these cases the gift of an award may be a Trojan horse that destroys our initiative for further achievements.

The award may also fail to benefit and may even harm the conferring organization. Like high value merchandise coupons given as purchase incentives, we may become less rather than more loyal to the organization that makes the award, since we can now rationalize that we only participated in the organization is for its awards or prizes. Furthermore, awards can sometimes be corrupt, unfair, or a mere mutual admiration society distributing awards among an in-group in control of the organization. Poor selection of award recipients or too many such rewards may devaluate the organization rather than increase it's prestige and legitimacy. Following a race without beginning, end, or fixed course, and in this respect like most academic award competitions, the Dodo in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Carol 1930, p. 34) announced that "Everybody has won, and all must have prizes." Yet, if awards are to remain symbols of achievement in competition against others, this clearly can't be the case. Awards must be scarce to be valuable (Lynn 1992; Thierry 1992), even if that scarcity must be invented (Xenos 1989). As Klapp (1991) notes, the inflation of symbols, like the inflation of money, lessens these symbols' worth, sometimes to nothing.

From a societal perspective, awards reinforce competition. Even though awards are essentially nontangible, the pursuit of such honors is very much a part of the competitive distinction seeking found in materialism (Kassiola 1990). Although there have been attempts to develop non-competitive games (e.g., Mechling 1987; Orlick 1978) most societies prefer masculine games with winners and losers (Gilligan 1982). But this can breed envy, resentment, and discontent, especially where the awards are thought to be distributed unfairly. The possibility of discrimination, the sapping of initiative, and the precipitation of performance geared only to those criteria used in selecting award recipients, are other potential negative social consequences of awards. And to the extent that awards increase competition both the quality of research and scholarship and feelings of cooperation and communitas within a community of scholars may be harmed (Axelrod 1984; Hyde 1983). These are some, but not all, of the reasons why I dislike awards.

2. Self-Reinforcement

This second model is most germane to self-reward and punishment. Self reinforcement is demonstrated in some experiments by an animal that repeatedly pecks at a key or pushes a bar to produce pleasurable sensations in the brain. As Clement (1985) notes, human consumption areas potentially involving self-reinforcement include alcoholism, drug abuse, dating, impulse control disorders, physical exercise, and smoking. We might add to this list compulsive buying (O'Guinn and Faber 1989), gambling (Burns, Gillett, Rubinstein, and Gentry 1990), impulsive buying (Rook 1987), eating disorders (Grunert 1993), therapeutic self-gifts (Mick and DeMoss 1990), collecting (Belk forthcoming), and conspicuous consumption (Mason 1981). All of these behaviors involve dosing ourselves with self-administered consumption-based sources of anticipated pleasure and thereby reinforcing and learning associated behavioral patterns. As virtual reality becomes more of a reality, we are reminded of Nozick's (1974, pp. 42-45) question of whether we would indefinitely plug in to a hypothetical machine capable of giving us any experience we wished. Hopefully not, for if we do we will become the button-pecking lab animals of learning studies.

Besides positive self-reinforcement, we may occasionally also use negative self-reinforcement. We may chastise ourselves or do mild penance for "bad" behavior. The day after we over-eat or over-drink, we may fast, abstain, exercise vigorously, or complain that our body is suffering the consequences of our overindulgence. We may also try to reduce our excessive consumption through a rhetoric of self-control (Ainslee 1985; Hoch and Lowenstein 1991). The rhetoric of self-control versus self-indulgence appears to be a pervasive one in consumption, regardless of whether we focus on sexual consumption (Laqueur 1992), food consumption (Bordo 1990), or the various consumption habits and patterns perceived to affect our health (Crawford 1984). In each case we frame indulging or denying ourselves rewards as a battle for self-control. If controlling others has sinister connotations, controlling self is seen as virtuous in many cultures.

3. A Balance Sheet Model

Although the precedents go back farther in time and the practice is more universal, I once suggested that when we learn as children that there is no Santa Claus, we become our own Santa Claus and begin to reward ourselves (Belk 1987a). This tendency is recognized in recent work on reward self gifts (Mick and DeMoss 1990; Mick forthcoming; Sherry, McGrath, and Levy forthcoming). While rewards are not the only type of self-gift, we use things from the small rewards of a soft drink if we finish grading five more papers, to a new car if we graduate from college, in order to delay gratifications and give ourselves an additional reason for accomplishing something. This parallels the Puritanical achievement-oriented view of the way the world works: good things come to those who persevere and put work before pleasure. Thus when we eat dessert, we believe not only that we are getting the last course of the meal, but also our just desertCthat which we deserve for eating the healthy but less sweet foods that preceded it. The longer postponement of Christmas gift-opening in higher social class households, supports the assumption that there are class differences in this tendency to delay gratifications, at least in Western cultures (L÷fgren 1993; Searle-Chatterjee 1993).

A total model of individual justice would also demand that we punish ourselves when we are "bad." In many societies unearned rewards are seen as tainted with evil, just as the blame-the-victim phenomenon helps to preserve the myth that people always "get what's coming to them." If we don't get our deserved rewards and punishments now, we may believe we'll get them later in heaven, hell (multiple hells in Buddhism), or a future life (McDannell and Lang 1988; Tiger 1992). In the West, these beliefs are based on an Old Testament patriarchal God who rewards and punishes, as Garrison Keillor (1990) illustrates:

It's a primitive sense of justice: you do bad, and your Creator smacks you oneCbut there it is. One day you're daydreaming at the wheel, you smash into someone's rear end. She gets out of her car, looks at the busted taillight, and smiles. She's relieved; she says, "Well it could've been a lot worse." You've just run into a guilty person. She did something in the past twenty-four hours that made her think the universe would land on her with both feet. She'd be covered with boils, wrapped in burlap, sitting in the ashes, flies on her, and lightning coming closer and closer, but all it is is a taillight. Not bad. She smiles and drives away. Now you start to feel guilty (pp. 104-105).

The perspective Keillor illustrates is that of sin and guilt. While not all cultures agree on what is sinful, all of the world's major organized religions invoke a notion of sin that precipitates either guilt or more collective shame (Fnrer-Haimendorf 1974). And although sin has lost some of its power in a secular age (Menninger 1973), it has not disappeared (Capps 1993). But the contemporary Western God and Santa Claus have lost their earlier punitive characters (Belk 1993), and we too shy away from punishing ourselves, at least by willingly engaging in aversive behaviors in order to suffer. We may sometimes give to charities out of feelings that we have more than we deserve, but it is more common that we only delay or deny self-rewards. In one characterization, self-punishment is neurotic or even psychotic masochism (Johnson 1987). Moreover, as a part of a society that has learned the deficit spending pattern of consumer debt, we may be more inclined to pay for our self-rewards with future "good" behavior. Thus the rationalization that an ice cream sundae is something I deserve, because I'm going to start dieting tomorrow. Pre-Lenten celebrations of Mardi Gras and Carnival invoke this principle as well. Similarly, we tend through prayers and entreaties to make bargains with God that "I will be good or do penance or give to the poor or make a sacrifice IF God will first grant my wish."

We may either self-administer anticipated pleasures when we feel we need them (the self-reinforcement model) or when we feel we deserve them (the balance sheet model). As with receiving awards, rewards, prizes, and punishments doled out by others, an alternative regulating theoretical principle to that of self-administered need-based pleasure is that of deservingness or justice: do we experience positive and negative outcomes in a way or with a result that is perceived as deserved or fair? A variety of related psychological perspectives have been advanced to predict interpersonal behaviors based on such perceptions. These include distributive justice, equity theory, belief in a just world, procedural justice, social comparison, relative deprivation, and entitlements (see Cohen 1979 and Furby 1986). While these theoretical perspectives have generally been applied to an array of interpersonal problems including relative income satisfaction, attitudes toward welfare, and prejudice against AIDS victims (e.g., Easterlin 1973; Furnham and Lewis 1986; Murphy Berman and Berman 1991), there is no reason why their underlying notion of fairness might not be employed intrapersonally in what might be thought of as a balance sheet model of self-reward based on perceptions of our own deservingness. The important difference is that intrapersonal deservingness does not depend upon a comparison to others (see Kassiola 1990). The principle of deservingness is a consistent theme in research on self-gifts as rewards. Some likely reasons are considered in what follows.

Self-rewards based on a subjective personal balance sheet are not self-reinforcements but rather self-compensations in order to restore perceptual equity between rewards received and rewards deserved. Thus we might see the compensatory consumption (Gr°nmo 1984) of status mobility-blocked blue collar workers (Chinoy 1955) or yuppies (Belk 1986), and affection-blocked food consumers (Grunert 1993) or collectors (Muensterberger 1994), as involving consumption-based efforts to redress perceived imbalances between our own deservingness and the total externally administered rewards and punishments we receive. For example, when we have raised and educated our children we may feel we deserve a luxury automobile or a foreign vacation. We are likely to feel freer and more absolved of guilt for spending money on ourselves when we feel we lack the rewards we deserve. When we have worked hard or achieved a goal we may feel we deserve a break today at McDonalds. We may more readily accede to the biblical-sounding Chivas Regal injunction to "Reward Thyself." In the art world we sometimes ask ourselves, "Am I good enough to own this painting?" (Greenspan 1988). And when we feel we have been unjustly abused by the world, we may feel that we owe ourselves a drunk (Spradley 1970) or a looted television (Fiske 1994). We may disguise self gifts as gifts to our house, our car, or, as with Alice in Wonderland promising to buy her feet new boots every Christmas, even as gifts to our own anthropomorphized body partsCwhich after all deserve rewards even if we don't. Successful male executives sometimes "trade-up" to the so-called trophy wives they feel they deserve. In popular love stories, women are often found to expect material luxury to be bestowed upon them for being "good" partners (Perebinossoff 1974). Some conspicuous consumers and collectors appear to be compensating for reward deprivations experienced traumatically during childhood (e.g., Muensterberger 1994).

People have long recognized that it is not a totally just world, prompting concepts like original sin to reconcile bad things happening to good people (e.g., Kushner 1983). One way to attempt reconciliation in a materialistic, individualistic society is to take matters into our own hands and try to provide self-compensation through consumption. If God is dead and Santa is a fiction, we'll reward ourselves. Because the balance sheet view of self-reward is intrapersonal, it is not appropriately modeled as the zero sum game characteristic of the interpersonal models. Even with resources shared among family and friends, rather than allocating rewards to others versus self, we may be embrace an ethic of care (Gilligan 1982) when we view these others as parts of our aggregate extended selves (Belk 1988). When we want our children to have more than we had, or when we enjoy our friend's and spouse's success, this too may be seen as a compensatory self-reward that is vicariously enjoyed. And if someone from our department, institution, or research paradigm receives an award, we too may share in this award's compensatory benefits.

Some objections might be raised to the balance sheet model. Research by Prentice and Crosby (1987) suggests that the notion of deservingness is seen by consumers as highly relevant in a work context, but not very relevant in the contexts of home and family. The same is true of Fine's (1980) research on the allocation of food within poor families in India, in which deservingness also was not found to be very relevant. But these involve interpersonal rather than intrapersonal deservingness. However, if over time we become more narcissistic or more cynical about the correspondence between external rewards and deservingness (e.g., Gamson 1992; Martindale 1982), we may become less insistent upon applying these principles through self-administered rewards and punishments. There are also likely cultural, temporal, class, and gender biases in our concepts of justice (Furby 1986). And it may be that self-administered rewards cannot fulfill what is perceived as due from the parental source of childhood deprivations (Shabad 1993). Thus research needs to assess the applicability of such a balance sheet model intrapersonally across different time periods, cultures, people, and injustices.

One clue to the viability of the balance sheet model as a cultural ideal for consumer behavior comes from stories about the attainment of wealth, riches, and consumer goods. Consistently these stories tell a similar moral tale, whether they derive from Aesop's Fables, Grimms' Fairy Tales, Jewish folktales (Drory 1977; Jason 1988), comic books (Baker 1975; Belk 1987b), the Bible (Brams 1989; Gieze 1992), buried treasure legends (e.g., Foster 1964; Hurley 1951; Lindow 1982), or the stories of Horatio Alger, Jr. (e.g., Coad 1972; Lindberg 1979; Scharnhorst 1976). Collectively these moral tales tell us that rewards in the form of wealth, treasures, possessions, and happiness will be ours if we follow a few basic rules:

Don't be greedy or miserly                Do good deeds

Don't be immodest                            Do suffer in silence

Don't cheat                                       Do keep promises

Don't yield to temptation                   Do work hard

Don't be unkind or seek revenge      Do care for others and be generous.

Many such stories involve siblings or a husband and wife who show opposite regard for these rules. When the rules are broken, rather than reward, punishment invariably results and the one who ruthlessly seeks riches by any means available ends with less than he or she began and possibly loses his or her life. The tales are resolved by creating a more just material world in which being a moral person leads eventually to material rewards and being an immoral person leads to material calamity. However, it should be noted that deservingness is rewarded and undeservingness punished by external forces: spirits, magic, or GodCmore morally principled forces than Adam Smith's invisible hand of the market or Charles Darwin's survival of the fittest. While Mick (forthcoming) calls reward self-gifts Puritanical, the Puritans too saw rewards as signs of God's blessing. Ironically in moral tales, those who consistently try to internally reward themselves rather than give to others, lose all and are punished for their greed. This may seem to suggest that the balance sheet model may be problematic at the individual consumer level of action. But what is punished is not using self-rewards to bring about justice as balance sheet theory requires, but rather using self-rewards in spite of undeservingness in order to solely pursue self-interests.

The key plot device in these stories is to set up obvious injustice and right it. When the poor, but honest, caring, hardworking, and generous characters in the stories are ultimately rewarded, they are then able to indulge themselves as they deserve. But no more indulgence than they deserve is tolerated. Nor may they change character-and neglect the traits that made them deserving initially. If they become selfish, lazy, greedy, uncaring, or vengeful, their treasure must also be forfeit in order to restore balance. An illustration of a number of these principles is found in the misogynist Brothers Grimm tale of "The Fisherman and his Wife." A poor but hardworking, modest, and kind fisherman who lived with his wife in a hovel by the sea one day caught a talking flounder who was really an enchanted prince. Hearing the fish talk, the fisherman recognized his uniqueness and let him go. But when the man returned home, his wife demanded that he go back to the sea and ask the flounder to replace their hovel with a pretty cottage. The husband reluctantly did so and returned home to find a beautiful cottage furnished with food, gardens, and farm animals. Nevertheless, his wife was soon dissatisfied and urged her husband to go to the flounder again and ask for a big stone castle. This too was granted with a castle full of beautiful tapestries, rich carpets, crystal chandeliers, delicate foods, and costly wines. But his wife quickly grew dissatisfied again and had her husband demand of the flounder that she be king. Upon returning home the fisherman found that his wife was king, the castle was bigger, and the furnishings were made of marble, gold, and diamonds. Next his wife had him demand that she be Emperor and then Pope. Each time more sumptuous treasures, courtiers, and privileges resulted. At last the fisherman's wife persuaded her reluctant husband to ask the flounder that she be made Lord of the Universe. At this the flounder balked and returned the fisherman and his greedy wife to their hovel. While this tale invokes the sexist stereotype of woman as insatiable consumer, it illustrates the moral that greed, immodesty, and yielding to temptation inevitably lead to ruin. And the misogyny of the story is engagingly debated and redressed by Gnnter Grass (1978) in his inventive novel The Flounder, based on this fairy tale (see also Corbett and Rives 1991). In both stories, while the fisherman's generosity and humility initially result in favors via the deus ex machina of the enchanted fish, ultimately the scale tips too far and fortunes are again reversed. Until that point is reached however, self-reward through magical consumption is granted as something that is deserved. The more people have suffered unjustly, the larger will be their eventual reward. Like the Beatitudes, numerous Cinderella tales invoke a similar deservingness model and promise that justice will ultimately prevail and that indulgent but deserved self-reward is justifiable so long as it does not become over-reward (e.g., Bettelheim 1976; Fohr 1991; Philip 1989). The Platonic and Aristotelian ideal of the golden mean carries a related message of moderation, but it fails to embrace the notion of deservingness or justice. Future consumer research might profitably explore the degree and conditions under which as consumers we tend to behave according to this balance sheet model.


Although some general disadvantages of awards to recipients, awarding organizations, and society have been discussed, they do not reach to the real reason that I hate receiving rewards. It is not out of any false modesty or bitterness or belief that my work is not award-worthy. But it does stem from a balance-sheet-based belief that I do not deserve awards. I believe the reason lies in my childhood. When I was perhaps 14 and my brother 12, we had high ambitions. We were going to be the first college graduates in the family; he wanted to be an architect and I wanted to be a geologist. We had a fairly intense sibling rivalry and because I was older I was usually more successful. Nevertheless we both collected a small array of ribbons from various competitions, which we proudly displayed in little wall frames we each made to show them to best advantage on our bedroom wall. It happened that one of the educational toys we requested and received from our parents about that time was a "black light" kit, complete with powders, crayons, minerals, and paints that were visible only under the appropriate wavelength ultraviolet light. One day, in an unforgivable act, I took one of these crayons and wrote on my brother's ribbons the words "Booby Prize." The captions were not very visible in normal light, but we both knew the words were there. It was a cruel vandalism that had the desired effect of angering my brother and making him cry. Yet I had still not apologized four years later when my brother died in what may or may not have been a suicide. So, you see, I don't deserve this award or any other, no matter how much I may treasure it. Therefore as a small act of contrition, I would like to accept this Fellows Award on behalf of my brother David. It is he who is deserving, not me.

As an addendum, I recall that someone (Otnes 1994) once told me that I have a tendency to cite a lot of references. Mea Culpa (Enigma 1990). But in coming to realize the source of my uneasiness with awards, I think I have also come to realize the source of this citation propensity. I have been careful, overly carefully no doubt, to try to now give credit where credit is due for prior achievements and ideas. In this same spirit, it is only appropriate to end by thanking the many people to whom I have been a son, brother, husband, father, friend, student, teacher, research partner, and colleague. I have learned much from you. Thank you all. I hope that someday I can better balance the scales by giving back as much as I have received.


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Russell W. Belk, University of Utah


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22 | 1995

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