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Women Carry Designer Bags to Keep Their Men From Straying, Study

Update Date: Sep 10, 2013 02:29 PM EDT

Why do ladies love expensive purses? Scientists say it might be because designer handbags act as a repellant by discouraging other women from stealing their partners.

New research reveals that women are unconsciously deterring romantic rivals by buying certain luxury items.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota believe that some women buy luxury items because they want other women to know their mates are spoken for.

"Women at different ages and relationship status inferred that a woman with designer outfits and accessories has a more devoted partner," researchers wrote in a news release. "They also spontaneously inferred the partner financially contributed to these luxurious possessions. Such information is especially valuable when their relationship is threatened by another woman."

To find out what drives women to desire luxury handbags, researchers activated women's motivation to guard their relationships by having them imagine their romantic partners being flirtatious and intimate with another woman at a party. Afterwards, they assessed the women's desires for luxury products.

"In one study, the women participants even physically drew luxury brand logos on handbags, shoes, T-shirts, and cars that were about twice the size compared to those who did not imagine the jealous theme at the party," the authors explain.

The findings also revealed that women were less likely to pursue a man whose partner was wearing a luxury outfit and accessories because they perceived the man to be more devoted.

While men typically flaunt luxury products to the opposite sex, women often display expensive possessions to the same sex.

"Regardless of who actually purchased the items, other women inferred that the man had something to do with it and is thus more devoted to her," study author Yajin Wang told the Daily News.

Since women are the primary audiences of women's luxury consumption, researchers believe the latest findings might be interesting to luxury brand practitioners and managers.

"Mate guarding is, of course, not the only function of women's conspicuous consumption," researchers noted.  Previous studies revealed that luxury items also make women happy or signal status and taste.

"The feeling that a relationship is being threatened by another woman automatically triggers women to want to flash Gucci, Chanel and Fendi to other women," Wang said. "A designer handbag or a pair of expensive shoes seems to work like a shield, where wielding a Fendi handbag successfully fends off romantic rivals."

The findings will be published in the February 2014 Journal of Consumer Research edition.

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