Securing the future: Threat to self-image spurs financial saving intentions

Yael Steinhart*, Yuwei Jiang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This research examines when and why a threat to self-image influences saving intentions. Data from a set of seven studies, comprising a large-scale survey and 6 experiments, show that when individuals experience a self-image threat, they generate negative expectations about their future. Consequently, these individuals show a greater propensity to save money compared with nonthreatened individuals. We demonstrate that this effect diverges from the effects of environmental threats (e.g., resource scarcity) on saving, and find that it is more likely to occur among individuals with strong rather than weak beliefs in the instrumentality of money. Finally, we observe that the relationship between self-image threat and saving intentions is attenuated under the following conditions: (a) when individuals are induced to adopt positive future expectations; (b) when individuals perceive themselves as having abundant social connections, a perception that buffers their anxiety about the future; or (c) when individuals' attention is directed, through self-affirmation, to important aspects of their lives that are irrelevant to the threat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)741-757
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2019


FundersFunder number
Asian Center for Branding and Marketing to Yuwei Jiang
Henry Crown Institute of Business Research
Hong Kong Research Grants CouncilPolyU 155046/17B
Jeremy Coller Foundation0612015542


    • Financial decision making
    • Money instrumentality
    • Self-affirmation
    • Self-image threat
    • Social connections


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