Overcoming The Diderot Effect

Have you ever purchased something new and shortly after felt dissatisfied with other belongings? If so, you’re not alone. The Diderot Effect affects all of us. So what is it, and what do we do about it? 

What is the Diderot Effect?

The Diderot Effect was first described almost 300 years ago by French philosopher, Denis Diderot, and an anthropologist later coined the term while studying human consumption patterns. The Diderot Effect is when you buy a new item and you become dissatisfied with your current possessions, which leads to a process of spiraling consumption. To put it simply, buying one item leads to the buying of another––usually replacing something old with something new.


You buy a new dress for a wedding. Then you want to purchase new shoes and earrings to make it pop.

You buy a new sofa. Then you decide you don’t love your current rug and purchase a new one.

We express ourselves through our possessions and that in and of itself isn’t good or bad, but we don’t want our possessions to define who we are. 

What Do We Do About The Diderot Effect? 

  1. Be aware of it
    • When you decide to make a purchase, know that you may feel inclined to replace other items that don’t actually need replacing. 
  2. Consider the whole cost of a new purchase
    • Be honest with yourself about how much you are most likely going to spend, and decide if you’re comfortable with that amount. It’s easiest to see The Diderot Effect occur with the purchase of a new home. We tell ourselves we’ll take it slow, but before we know it, we’ve replaced all of our furniture.
  3. Avoid the comparison trap.
    • One of the quickest ways to become dissatisfied with our possessions is to compare what we have to others. There will always be someone with something newer, pricier, or prettier. Tune in to your needs, your wants, and what fits within your budget. 
  4. Focus on purpose and longevity.
    • The Diderot Effect can result in a lot of impulsive purchases. By getting intentional with how you spend your money, you’ll start to focus on the purpose of an item, making sure it suits your needs. You’re also likely to value the longevity an item has. Quality over quantity becomes more important. 

Next time you’re about to make a large purchase, remind yourself of the Diderot Effect and the four ways to combat it.

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