Older consumers' disposition of special possessions

Linda L. Price, Eric J. Arnould, Carolyn Folkman Curasi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

298 Scopus citations


This article explores precipitating events, emotions, and decisions associated with older consumers' disposition of special possessions. Findings are based on analyses of semistructured interviews with 80 older consumers, complemented by depth interviews with seven informants. Cherished possessions and their disposition play a significant role in older consumers' reminiscence and life review. Concerns about disposition of special possessions involve strong and ambivalent emotions. Older consumers voice concern over avoiding intrafamilial conflict, reducing uncertainty, and exercising control over the future life of special possessions. We emphasize the storied nature of the meanings consumers attach to their cherished possessions and the way in which these storied meanings are bundled with life review and disposition concerns. Many older consumers attempt to control meanings transferred with cherished possessions. They seek to pass on personal and familial legacies, achieve symbolic immortality, insure a good home for special objects, and/or influence the future lives of others. We show that there is a porous boundary between ownership and disposition of cherished possessions. And to our knowledge this is the first research to identify tactics and heuristics employed to select recipients for special possessions, time transfers, and effect these transfers. We suggest that future research could explore individual differences in disposition behaviors, the use of possessions by older consumers as external mnemonic props, disposition decision theory, cultural differences in disposition behaviors, or the role of special possessions in the creation of familial legacies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-201
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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