Are you affected by the Dilderot effect


Imagine a scenario where you recently purchased a couch.

It looks good by itself but something feels off, as if something is missing.

Something that would make the couch look even better.

Before you know it, there are new pillows to match the couch and a side table with an indoor plant that complements the couch.

The entire layout of your living room has now been completely changed, it all started with a new couch.

This is an example of the Dilderot Effect.

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What is the Dilderot Effect?

The Dilderot Effect is a two part social phenomenon:

The first idea is that we buy goods that complement each other, our identity and often also transforms our identity to a whole new one.

Secondly, the purchase of one product leads to the purchasing of several more products in order to complement the initial product, at times to the extent that the initial product losing its original purpose. This results is spiraling consumption.

In simple language, we buy things that look good with one another and in our opinion are aligned with who we are.

The term was first coined by anthropologist Grant McCracken in 1998 and named it after the French philosopher Denis Diderot who himself described about this phenomenon in his essay ‘Regrets on parting with my Old Dressing Gown’.

This phenomenon is studied in relation to consumerism and human behaviour.


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Origin of the Dilderot Effect

Denis Dilderot was a French Philosopher, well known at the time because he was the co-founder of Encyclopedie, one of the most well documented Encyclopedias of the time.

Despite that, he lived most of his life in poverty.

Dilderot was in his 50’s with his daughter about to be married but he could not afford the dowry.

As previously mentioned, Dilderot was well known & so were his money troubles and his impending daughter’s wedding.

The Russian Empress, Catherine the Great who was also a patron of arts & philosophy took a stock of the situation and proposed to buy Dilderot’s library for a healthy sum.

This ironically is where his troubles began.

‘’My old robe was one with the other rags that surrounded me. A straw chair, a wooden table, a rug from Bergamo, a wood plank that held up a few books, a few smoky prints without frames, hung by its corners on that tapestry. Between these prints three or four suspended plasters formed, along with my old robe, the most harmonious indigence.

All is now discordant. No more coordination, no more unity, no more beauty.’’

A part of that healthy sum was used to purchase a new scarlet robe.

Dilderot was so enamoured by its beauty that everything in its vicinity seemed pale and thus began the consumption spiral.

In order to complement his new robe, he replaced his old rug with a new one from Damascus (Syria).

His entire home was redecorated & updated with expensive & beautiful items, a new kitchen table and mirror found a new owner.

His old prints were replaced by new costly ones, a new golden clock and several art pieces eventually directed him towards debt.

All because he bought a robe!

“I was the absolute master of my old robe. I have become the slave of the new one.”

This is called the Dilderot effect when the purchase of a new product leads to purchase of several new products to complement the original product. The new product becomes one’s identity.


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How to avoid the Dildero Effect trap?

Dildero’s example may seem uncommon with him eventually falling in debt (which he recovers from) but his behavior is not uncommon.

We are all guilty of exhibiting such behavior in some form or the other from time to time.

As humans the natural tendency is to get our hands on shiny new toys and to consume more.

A society that encourages looking outside for internal validation does no favours.


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Needs versus Wants

Understand the difference between needs and wants, they are not the same.

Needs you cannot put off like eating, wants you can like purchasing the recently launched and in vogue phone.

There are certain purchases where drawing a line between the two can be a complicated task.

For eg. Buying a car for traveling to and from work along with driving to and picking up your kids from school is a need but specifically wanting a SUV for that is a want.

Understanding the difference between your needs and wants is a good start but implementing your understanding is what eventually makes the difference.


Budget everything

Budget everything and try staying within your means.

Making a budget would involve keeping a maximum limit on each expense and trying to stay within that limit.

This will inculcate a sense of discipline and make sure you never go astray.

Keeping a budget will help in avoiding unnecessary expenses.


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Track your Spending

Tracking your spending does not mean only having a mental calculation of your expenses.

Once in a while you need to write down your expenses since writing it down helps in the sense that it makes your expense feel real.

Note unnecessary expenses and avoidable expenses, no matter how trivial they may seem cause the accumulation of such ‘trivial’ expenses in the long run can cause a hole in your pocket.

Pay your bills on time, wherever possible try availing discount rates on paying before due date and avoid impulsive shopping and minimize dining out.

Prioritize your needs before wants and see how your expenses take a dive. 



Human behavior is as predictable as it is unpredictable.

Our motivation to overspend could either be an external one like society influencing a new lifestyle or an internal one, like us trying to fill an emotional gap or longing by external purchases.

Consumption and over consumption are not the same, be a mindful consumer rather than an irresponsible spender.

You never know when a simple purchase of a shirt leads you to an entirely new and updated wardrobe.    



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Disclaimer : While due precaution has been undertaken in the preparation of this article, The Mutual Fund Guide or any of its authors will not be held liable for any investments based on the above article. The above article should not be considered financial advice and has been published only for your perusal. Due credit has been given in case wherever required, in case you feel any part violates any rights then do get in touch with us and we shall get it duly removed.  
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