All of us are victims of the ‘Diderot effect’.

You have been invited to a party. Now, you need to buy a new outfit. You are settled on the black shoes you have back at home on your shoe rack, for the event. You make the purchase.  But now, you realise that your current shoes look drab with this new outfit. So, you decide to buy new shoes to go with it. Then you decide to buy a new jacket to complete your ensemble. No wait! It’s not complete without the new smartwatch that will certainly make you the star of the evening. Whoa! You started with the intention of spending 100 bucks, now you’re about to max out your credit card!  This is the Didero effect in play.


The term Didero effect was proposed by anthropologist and author Grant McCracken and is named after the French philosopher Denis Diderot

Didero effect:

A single purchase of the outfit [needed] snowballed into making several purchases [probably not needed]. This is an example of the classic Didero effect. This phenomenon is largely related to consumer goods and is based on two principles:

  1. We buy goods that complement our sense of identity and because of this they complement each other.
  2. When we possess something new that deviates from our old complementary goods, it can snowball into a string of purchases. (as is evident in our opening example).

Denis Diderot describes this effect in his original essay ‘Regrets sur ma vielle robe de chambrelater translated as ’Regrets for My Old Dressing Gown’ . Here’s a quick summary of his essay:

The philosopher received a scarlet dressing gown as a gift for his writings. As we all do, he discarded his old dressing gown and replaced it with the new one. He quickly realised that his surroundings were not in sync with this new acquisition. Therefore, he replaced everything in his study – bookshelves, chair, desk and the tapestry that looked tired and weary to him. One new robe triggered a long list of purchases for this philosopher. Before he got the new dressing gown, he was not unhappy with his surroundings. But after he got the new gown he felt the need to change everything to match his new identity.

In our current society of high consumerism and upgrading of our lifestyle with new tech, new cars and even new exercise equipment, I’m sure we are surrounded by victims of the Diderot effect.

I was nearly a victim of the Didero effect when I first walked into IKEA. Luckily, I did not have a credit card with a huge limit then.

Please tell me you can relate to my predicament!

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