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A Shaken Self on Shopping: Consumer Threats and Compensatory Consumption
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Social and Psychological Studies. Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Service Research Center.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0283-8777
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In a series of experiments, with a total sample of over 2,400 participants, this thesis investigates how various threats that customers may encounter influence the customers’ subsequent purchase and choice behaviors. Furthermore, this thesis examines whether individuals’ predicted behaviors in certain consumer contexts are congruent with customers’ actual behaviors in these very contexts.

Paper I takes an evolutionary approach and investigates whether a status threat to male customers, induced by exposure to physically dominant men, results in compensatory consumption of products that signal status through price or size.

Paper II takes a reactance-based approach and examines whether customers whose freedom to touch has been threatened compensate by touching, and ultimately purchasing, a larger number of products.

Paper III investigates whether threats to customers’ self-control in one domain influence choice behavior and consumption preferences in another unrelated domain. More specifically, the paper examines whether exposure to attractive opposite-sex faces (and hence a subtle activation of sexual desire and its associated pleasure-seeking mindset) makes individuals more motivated to choose and consume unhealthy-but-rewarding foods.     

The main findings of this work can be summarized as follows: Consumer threats result in compensatory consumption, not only in the specific domain under threat, but also in unrelated or only symbolically similar domains. Such compensatory responses are in direct contrast to consumer lay beliefs and even the predictions made by marketing professors and other scholars, which suggests that people are generally unaware of the impact that certain threats have on their behavior. These results should be as interesting for customers who want to make informed choices and resist various influence attempts as for marketers, advertisers, and retail managers who want to influence customers. 

Abstract [en]

In a series of experiments, this thesis investigates how threats that customers may encounter influence their subsequent purchase and choice behaviors. Moreover, this thesis examines whether individuals’ predicted behaviors are congruent with customers’ actual behaviors in certain consumer contexts.

Paper I investigates whether a status threat to male customers, induced by physically dominant men, results in compensatory consumption of products that signal status through price or size. Paper II examines whether customers whose freedom to touch has been threatened compensate by touching, and ultimately purchasing, more products. Paper III investigates whether attractive opposite-sex faces threaten individuals’ self-control, thereby making them more motivated to choose and consume unhealthy-but-rewarding foods.

The results reveal that consumer threats do indeed lead to compensatory consumption. Such compensatory responses are in direct contrast to lay beliefs and even predictions made by marketing professors, suggesting that people are generally unaware of the impact certain threats have on their behavior. These results should be as interesting for customers trying to make informed choices as for marketers, advertisers, and retail managers trying to influence customers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstads universitet, 2017. , p. 50
Series
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2017:6
Keywords [en]
threat-compensation effects, compensatory consumption, belief-behavior inconsistencies
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-47650ISBN: 978-91-7063-746-9 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7063-747-6 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-47650DiVA, id: diva2:1065780
Public defence
2017-04-21, 11D227, Karlstad University, Karlstad, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-03-30 Created: 2017-01-16 Last updated: 2018-05-25Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The Abercrombie & Fitch effect: The impact of physical dominance on male customers' status-signaling consumption
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Abercrombie & Fitch effect: The impact of physical dominance on male customers' status-signaling consumption
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-47647 (URN)
Available from: 2017-01-16 Created: 2017-01-16 Last updated: 2018-05-25Bibliographically approved
2. Touch forbidden, consumption allowed: Counter-intuitive effects of touch restrictions on customers' purchase behavior
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Touch forbidden, consumption allowed: Counter-intuitive effects of touch restrictions on customers' purchase behavior
2016 (English)In: Food Quality and Preference, ISSN 0950-3293, E-ISSN 1873-6343, Vol. 50, p. 1-6Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In-store events are increasingly used to provide customers with unique shopping experiences. Although recent studies indicate that such events positively influence customers' purchase intentions and store choice decisions, little is known about how customers respond to various in-store events. This paper investigates one type of in-store event that is frequently used in several food and non-food contexts. Specifically, the study investigates how an in-store product demonstration influences customers' subsequent purchase behavior depending on whether they are restricted or encouraged to touch the products being demonstrated. An initial scenario-based experiment involving 35 undergraduates aimed to examine how people intuitively think that restricting (versus encouraging) touch during an in-store product demonstration would influence their subsequent purchase behavior. A two-way ANOVA with participant gender and experimental condition as the between-subjects factors consistently showed that people hold a lay theory that restricting touch should have a negative impact on the amount of money they spend and the number of products they purchase. A second field experiment involving 126 customers in a retail store aimed to investigate whether this lay belief is consistent with customers' actual purchase behavior. Counter-intuitively, a two-way ANOVA with customer gender and experimental condition (touch restriction, touch encouragement) as the between-subjects factors revealed that restricting touch during an in-store product demonstration resulted in significantly more money being spent, a larger number of products being purchased, and more expensive products being purchased. These findings show that consumer lay theory can directly contradict customers' actual purchase behavior. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2016
Keywords
Reactance, Compensatory consumption, Threat to freedom, Product touch, Touch restriction, Product demonstration
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-41974 (URN)10.1016/j.foodqual.2015.12.011 (DOI)000372767300001 ()
Available from: 2016-05-04 Created: 2016-05-04 Last updated: 2018-05-25Bibliographically approved
3. Appetite for destruction: Counter-intuitive effects of attractive faces on people's food choices
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Appetite for destruction: Counter-intuitive effects of attractive faces on people's food choices
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-47648 (URN)
Available from: 2017-01-16 Created: 2017-01-16 Last updated: 2018-05-25Bibliographically approved

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