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The Boston Globe


Uncommon Knowledge

My fancy handbag says: He’s mine!

And more surprising insights from the social sciences

What a Vuitton bag really says

When women spend money on clothes, handbags, and jewelry, just what are they trying to accomplish? A new study from the University of Minnesota suggests that they’re flashing a warning signal to female rivals: Back off. Women believe that expensive accessories are signals to other women that a woman has a caring and committed partner, and a woman’s desire for conspicuous consumption goes up after thinking about other women flirting with her partner. And, indeed, promiscuous women report being more deterred from flirting with a man if his partner bears expensive accessories—especially if the man is thought to have paid for them.

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