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# Control Deprivation Motivates Acquisition of Utilitarian Products

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This research investigates how the fundamental desire for control affects product acquisition. The authors propose that consumers compensate for a loss of perceived control by buying utilitarian products (e.g., household cleaning agents) because of these products' association with problem solving, a quality that promotes a sense of control. Study 1 demonstrates this basic effect in a field setting involving real purchases, while studies 2 and 3 show that framing a product as utilitarian (vs. hedonic) moderates the effect of control on purchase intentions. Study 4 shows that a generalized problem-solving tendency mediates the effect of control on eagerness to pursue utilitarian consumption. Given the pervasiveness and ease of using product acquisition as a means to cope with psychological threat, this research has important implications for theory and practice.
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Control Deprivation Motivates Acquisition
of Utilitarian Products
CHARLENE Y. CHEN
LEONARD LEE
ANDY J. YAP
This research investigates how the fundamental desire for control affects product
acquisition. The authors propose that consumers compensate for a loss of
perceived control by buying utilitarian products (e.g., household cleaning agents)
because of these products’ association with problem solving, a quality that pro-
motes a sense of control. Study 1 demonstrates this basic effect in a ﬁeld setting
involving real purchases, while studies 2 and 3 show that framing a product as
utilitarian (vs. hedonic) moderates the effect of control on purchase intentions.
Study 4 shows that a generalized problem-solving tendency mediates the effect of
control on eagerness to pursue utilitarian consumption. Given the pervasiveness
and ease of using product acquisition as a means to cope with psychological
threat, this research has important implications for theory and practice.
Keywords: control, utilitarian consumption, problem-solving tendency
Human beings have an innate desire for control over
their environment (Langer 1975). We yearn for the
ability to manage the processes and outcomes of events in
our lives. However, the degree of control that we actually
possess over our life events is far from perfect (e.g., recall
the last time you were stuck in a traffic jam, or stranded at
an airport due to a severe snowstorm). In extreme cases, a
prolonged lack of control over one’s environment could
lead to passivity and withdrawal (i.e., learned helplessness;
Abramson, Seligman, and Teasdale 1978). Yet under most
circumstances of limited control, we display immense cap-
ability in regulating our sense of control by finding alterna-
tive means to assert control (Thompson 1993,2009).
Given prior theorizing that problem solving enhances one’s
sense of control (Mirowsky and Ross 1989), and that utili-
tarian products tend to be associated with problem solving,
the present research asks the following question: Would
control-deprived individuals be more likely to buy utilitar-
ian products?
In this research, we propose that a perceived loss of con-
trol is an undesirable state that leads consumers to restore
control through product acquisition. Specifically, when in-
dividuals perceive a loss of control over their environment,
we posit that they will prefer to acquire utilitarian products
in order to reinstate their sense of control. By illuminating
how people cope via their consumption decisions when
they experience perceived threat to control in their every-
day lives, the present research contributes toward the grow-
ing literature on the impact of people’s fundamental desire
for control on consumer behavior (Cutright 2012;
Charlene Y. Chen (cyjchen@ntu.edu.sg) is an assistant professor of
marketing and international business, Nanyang Technological University,
Singapore 639798, and research fellow of the Institute on Asian
Consumer Insight. Leonard Lee (leonard.lee@nus.edu.sg) is an associate
professor of marketing and Dean’s Chair, National University of
Singapore, Singapore 119245, and research fellow of the Institute on
Asian Consumer Insight. Andy J. Yap (andy.yap@insead.edu) is an assist-
ant professor of organizational behavior, INSEAD, Singapore 138676.
The authors acknowledge the helpful feedback of the editors, associate
editor, and reviewers. In addition, the authors thank the members of the
Research in Emotion and Decisions (RED) Lab at Columbia University
for their input. The research was supported by an internal grant from
Nanyang Technological University to the first author, internal grants from
Columbia University and National University of Singapore to the second
author, and an internal grant from INSEAD to the third author.
Ann McGill and Darren Dahl served as editors and Jaideep Sengupta
Advance Access publication December 20, 2016
V
CThe Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Journal of Consumer Research, Inc.
DOI: 10.1093/jcr/ucw068
1031
Hamerman and Johar 2013), while highlighting a potential
psychological role of utilitarian products: control
restoration.
SEEKING CONTROL OVER THE
ENVIRONMENT
Control refers to the ability to influence outcomes in
one’s environment (Skinner 1996). Social scientists have
long recognized human beings’ innate desire for control
and the evolutionary role it has played in ensuring the sur-
vival of our species (Averill 1973;Geary 1998). This de-
sire for control manifests as early as infancy when children
attend strongly to the effects their actions have on the en-
vironment (Piaget 1952), and continues to be evident in
adulthood as people attempt to create favorable outcomes
and prevent unfavorable outcomes in their lives. As noted
earlier, we do not always possess complete control over
our environment. Various situations in life, such as being
laid off by one’s employer, weaken our perceptions of con-
trol over the environment and accentuate our desire for
control. An unmet need for control creates discomfort that
in turn prompts people to augment perceived control
(Brehm 1966). When the source of control deprivation is
nonamenable to control, individuals are likely to bolster
perceived control in other domains (Thompson 1993,
2009).
Compensatory Control Theory
According to compensatory control theory (CCT),
control-deprived individuals may resort to different strat-
egies to restore personal control, and importantly, these
strategies do not have to be directed at the source of control
deprivation (Landau, Kay, and Whitson 2015). For in-
stance, individuals may affirm structured interpretations of
the world when their perceived control is low. In research
by Whitson and Galinsky (2008), participants who recalled
past situations in which they had experienced a loss of con-
trol were more likely to perceive in a subsequent unrelated
task illusory patterns among stimuli that were completely
random and not meaningfully related (e.g., images of ob-
jects in visual noise). Doing so enabled the control-
deprived participants to return order and structure to the
world, a world in which “performing certain actions would
reliably produce expected outcomes,” thus restoring par-
ticipants’ perceived control (Kay et al. 2009;Landau et al.
2015, 696). Other studies have similarly demonstrated gen-
eral structure-seeking tendencies (e.g., endorsement of
hierarchy and preference for order-providing theories)
among control-deprived individuals in domains unrelated
to the source of control deprivation (Friesen et al. 2014;
Rutjens et al. 2013).
More pertinent to the current research, CCT posits that
people may also restore personal control by strengthening
their belief that they have the ability to affect outcomes in
their environment (e.g., forming illusory beliefs about
one’s influence over random events; Langer 1975), or that
an ability (Landau et al. 2015). In a study by Kay et al.
(2008), participants who recalled low-control situations ex-
pressed stronger beliefs in God. This relationship emerged
only when God was described as a controller of events in
the world rather than a creator of the universe. In another
study, the same authors showed that individuals with low
perceived control tended to be more supportive of govern-
mental control, particularly when they lived in countries
with a benevolent (vs. corrupt) government. Taken to-
gether, this work suggests that control-deprived individuals
may compensate for lowered perceived control by bolster-
ing their beliefs that they have an external agent who is
able to influence outcomes on their behalf. We propose
that they may also compensate by problem solving to re-
affirm their belief that they themselves can control their
environment.
Generalized Problem-Solving Tendency
A problem exists when people want to go from a current
situation to a desired situation but the way to do so is not
immediately obvious (Robertson 2001). Resolving the
problem may involve some difficulty and thus require
some thinking to devise the solution (Duncker and Lees
1945). In fact, developmental studies have shown that chil-
dren who possess stronger control motivation find working
on puzzles with some level of difficulty more gratifying
than working on easily attainable goals (Harter 1974,
1975). In general, the action to be taken to solve the prob-
lem (i.e., the solution) must meet two requirements: 1) the
problem solver must be able to perform the action in his or
her current situation, and 2) the desired end state must be
contingent upon the action (Duncker and Lees 1945). It is
therefore apparent from these definitions that problem-
solving behaviors in themselves represent attempts to con-
trol the environment.
In line with CCT, we posit that when people experience
threat to their sense of control, they are motivated to en-
gage in problem solving because such behaviors reinforce
their belief in their ability to produce desired outcomes in
their environment. Supporting our theorizing, research has
suggested that problem solving can enhance people’s sense
of control (Mirowsky 1995;Mirowsky and Ross 1989). In
particular, individuals who receive problem-solving train-
ing tend to report greater perceived control during post-
training and follow-up evaluations (Nezu and Perri 1989).
More imperatively, some empirical evidence suggests that
control deprivation elicits a tendency to engage in problem
solving (Roth and Bootzin 1974;Tennen and Eller 1977).
Roth and Kubal (1975) found that participants exposed to
an uncontrollable task expended more effort and solved
1032 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
more problems in a separate cognitive task. These authors
proposed that increased engagement in problem solving
constituted attempts to restore and exert control over the
environment. Likewise, Inesi et al. (2011) showed that par-
ticipants deprived of power and/or choice, both of which
are sources of control, persisted for a longer period of time
at least one source of control.
As a conceptual replication of these findings, we ran-
domly assigned 72 students (23 male) aged 18–40 (M¼
22.19, SD ¼4.64) from a northeastern university in the
United States to write about either a personal incident in
which they had experienced a loss of control over their en-
vironment (low-control condition; Whitson and Galinsky
2008) or a typical weekday in their life over the previous
few weeks (baseline condition). After completing this re-
call task, participants from both conditions were given un-
solvable anagrams to solve. In this ostensibly unrelated
task on “language assessment,” participants were presented
anagrams one at a time and could choose to quit the task at
any point or continue to solve a new anagram.
Corroborating past research, t-test analyses revealed that
compared to participants in the baseline condition, those in
the low-control condition attempted more anagrams (M
low
¼8.62, SD ¼2.09; M
baseline
¼7.31, SD ¼2.51; t(70) ¼
2.41, p<.05) and spent more time trying to solve the un-
solvable anagrams (M
low
¼256.19 sec, SD ¼196.36 sec;
M
baseline
¼173.27 sec, SD ¼107.04 sec; t(70) ¼2.21, p<
.05). In sum, these results, together with findings from ear-
lier work, provide supporting evidence that increased con-
trol motivation could trigger a generalized problem-solving
tendency.
In the current work, we postulate that control-deprived
individuals would engage in greater problem solving to
strengthen their belief that they have the ability to achieve
desired outcomes. Based on CCT, these resultant problem-
solving behaviors do not have to be targeted at the source
of control threat; rather, problem solving, in and of itself,
would boost perceptions of control over the environment.
Therefore, we predict that products that are typically asso-
ciated with problem solving would be perceived as more
attractive to control-deprived individuals. Acquiring such
products equips people with the means to solve certain
everyday problems or preempt such problems from arising,
thereby affording them a sense of control (Beggan 1991).
PRODUCT ACQUISITION AS A
COMPENSATORY STRATEGY FOR
PSYCHOLOGICAL NEEDS
Accumulating evidence suggests that consumers who
experience specific psychological needs tend to consume
products that offer benefits that alleviate those particular
needs (Mandel, et al. 2016). For instance, people who
experience threat to a certain dimension of their self-
concept (e.g., believing that they are unexciting) are
inclined to choose products that restore their confidence in
that particular self-view (e.g., brands with exciting person-
alities; Gao, Wheeler, and Shiv 2008). As a second ex-
ample, the enhanced need for belongingness following
social exclusion drives people to consume products that
help them strengthen social ties (Mead et al. 2011).
More pertinent to the current research, consumers have
been found to use compensatory consumption as a means
to satisfy basic needs that are related to control motivation
(e.g., power and autonomy; Inesi et al. 2011;Skinner
1996). In particular, people who feel powerless tend to pre-
fer products that signal high social status (e.g., a silk tie;
Rucker and Galinsky 2008), while people whose autonomy
is threatened tend to seek varied and unique product op-
tions (Levav and Zhu 2009). Although power and auton-
omy are closely intertwined with control, there are
important conceptual distinctions among the three con-
structs. Control is a broader construct that refers to the abil-
ity to determine outcomes in one’s environment, whereas
power is specifically an interpersonal construct that refers
to the ability to influence other people’s outcomes through
the asymmetric possession of resources (Inesi et al. 2011;
Keltner, Gruenfeld, and Anderson 2003;Thibaut and
Kelley 1959). Control also involves experiencing the con-
tingency between one’s own actions and the achieved out-
comes, whereas the need for autonomy is the desire to
experience oneself as the sole initiator of one’s own actions
(Brehm 1966;Deci and Ryan 1985). People with low per-
ceived control feel ineffective in producing certain out-
comes, while people with low perceived autonomy feel
denied of their freedom to act according to their own will
and thus are likely to experience reactance (Brehm 1966).
Together, these findings suggest that people are likely to
employ compensatory consumption to meet their need for
control, albeit using other forms of consumption.
Recent research has begun to shed some light on the ef-
fects of control motivation on consumption behaviors.
When people experience a loss of control, they tend to pre-
fer structured consumption (e.g., products with borders and
organized retail environments; Cutright 2012), suggesting
that people compensate for their loss of control by uphold-
ing beliefs that the world is ordered and structured. These
individuals may also prefer products that require high ef-
fort to feel empowered (Cutright and Samper 2014). The
current research adds to this modest body of research that
underscores the importance of understanding how products
can be used to restore one’s psychological sense of control.
Specifically, it extends this literature on the effects of con-
trol loss on consumption preferences by investigating a
hitherto unexamined phenomenon: consumers compensate
for their loss of control by strategically acquiring products
that are typically associated with problem solving—that is,
utilitarian products.
CHEN, LEE, AND YAP 1033
UTILITARIAN PRODUCTS AS A SOURCE
OF CONTROL
By definition, utilitarian products are consumer goods
that are primarily consumed or used for instrumental pur-
poses (e.g., stationery and household cleaning agents;
Khan, Dhar, and Wertenbroch 2005;Strahilevitz and
Myers 1998). They are often contrasted with hedonic prod-
ucts—consumer goods that are primarily consumed for
sensory pleasure and enjoyment (e.g., chocolates and mas-
sage chairs; Holbrook and Hirschman 1982). Whereas the
experience of consuming hedonic products constitutes the
end state that consumers seek when they acquire such
products, utilitarian products are typically purchased as
means to achieving tangible and objective outcomes in the
environment (Batra and Ahtola 1990).
We propose that utilitarian products tend to be seen as
solutions to various daily problems. For instance, a screw-
driver is used to affix screws in order to hold objects to-
gether and prevent the objects from falling apart. In the
hedonic and utilitarian products tend to describe utilitarian
but not hedonic products as problem-solving (Voss,
Spangenberg, and Grohmann 2003).
As a pilot test, we asked 77 Mechanical Turk partici-
pants (41 male) aged 19–72 (M¼39.62, SD ¼12.71) to
rate the consumption or use of various hedonic products
(e.g., chocolates, video games, and art pieces) and utilitar-
ian products (e.g., vacuum cleaner, flash drive, and laundry
detergent). We selected a variety of products that con-
sumers commonly consume or use and that are likely
deemed to be unambiguously hedonic or utilitarian.
Participants rated these products on two seven-point scales
(1 ¼not problem-solving and 7 ¼problem-solving; 1 ¼
does not give a sense of control and 7 ¼gives a sense of
control). Their ratings of the utilitarian products were aver-
aged, as were their ratings of the hedonic products. Paired
t-tests revealed that participants were more likely to rate
the consumption of utilitarian (vs. hedonic) products as
problem-solving (M
utilitarian
¼6.30, SD ¼.84; M
hedonic
¼
3.30, SD ¼1.35; t(76) ¼18.17, p<.001) and providing a
greater sense of control (M
utilitarian
¼5.54, SD ¼1.20;
M
hedonic
¼3.87, SD ¼1.44; t(76) ¼8.42, p<.001).
Together, these findings suggest that utilitarian products
are more strongly associated with problem solving and
achieving control than hedonic products.
Accordingly, if utilitarian products are generally per-
ceived as means or tools that people use to solve problems
in their environment, then when consumers experience a
loss of perceived control, they should exhibit greater pref-
erence for utilitarian products. Acquiring such products
would signal to these consumers the possibility of attaining
desirable outcomes and pre-empting problematic situations
from occurring, and thus satisfy consumers’ desire for con-
trol. More formally,
H1: Consumers who perceive a loss of control would be
more likely to acquire utilitarian products than consumers
who do not perceive threat to their sense of control; how-
ever, the same tendency would not be observed for hedonic
products.
H2: A generalized problem-solving tendency mediates the
effect of perceived control loss on consumers’ preference
for utilitarian products.
OVERVIEW OF THE PRESENT STUDIES
The first three studies examined the impact of control
motivation on preference for utilitarian products (hypoth-
esis 1). In study 1, we manipulated shoppers’ perceived
control before they began shopping and measured their ac-
tual purchase of utilitarian products at a supermarket. In
studies 2 and 3, we investigated whether control depriv-
ation would increase people’s intention to purchase prod-
ucts (i.e., a pair of sneakers in study 2 and juice in study 3)
framed as utilitarian (vs. hedonic). Finally, study 4 exam-
ined the underlying mechanism by testing whether the rela-
tionship between control deprivation and eagerness to
pursue utilitarian consumption would be mediated by a
generalized problem-solving tendency (hypothesis 2).
STUDY 1: PERCEIVED CONTROL IN THE
FIELD
Study 1 examined the purchase behavior of low-control
versus high-control shoppers at a midsize supermarket
(about 5,000 square feet) located in a northeastern city in
the United States. If low control indeed elicits a compensa-
tory response, then we should observe greater desire for
products typically associated with problem solving, which
would be manifested in an increased purchase of utilitarian
products. In comparison, hedonic products are not typically
associated with problem solving; therefore, shoppers who
perceived a loss of control should not have an increased de-
sire for these products.
Participants and Procedure
A research assistant invited shoppers entering the super-
market to participate in a short study for a $2 coupon. Shoppers who agreed to participate were randomly as- signed to either a low- or high-control condition. We manipulated control using an autobiographical recall task adapted from Whitson and Galinsky (2008). Participants in the low-control (high-control) condition were asked to write a short essay of about 75–100 words concerning a personal incident in which they had experienced a loss of control (heightened sense of control) over their 1034 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH environment. They were instructed to describe the incident as vividly and in as much detail as possible. An example of a low-control incident was a technical failure during an im- portant presentation, while an example of a high-control in- cident was being able to answer all the questions in a difficult exam. Upon completing the autobiographical recall task, all participants commenced shopping. After shopping, they handed their receipt to another research assistant at the checkout area to redeem their coupon. Based on the re- ceipts, we recorded information about the products shop- pers purchased, whether these products were on promotion, and the monetary amount shoppers spent. Ten shoppers (6 from the low-control condition, 4 from the high-control condition) did not redeem their coupon and were excluded from the sample. The final sample comprised 134 shoppers (58 male) aged 16–85 (M¼31.33, SD ¼14.34). Results and Discussion Eight participants (5 from the low-control condition, 3 from the high-control condition) were excluded from the sample because they misread or failed to follow the in- structions in the control manipulation task (e.g., they stated that they did not have any incidents to report) and gave ir- relevant accounts (e.g., their general philosophies about control), leaving a sample of 126 participants. Manipulation Check. Two raters (blind to the assigned conditions) independently scored participants’ writings for level of perceived control on a scale from –5 (large amount of loss of control) to þ5 (large amount of gain in control) (r¼.98). High-control shoppers scored significantly higher on this measure (M¼4.05, SD ¼.85) than low- control shoppers (M¼–3.80, SD ¼1.52; t(124) ¼35.84, p <.001), indicating that the control manipulation was successful. Main Analyses. Two other independent raters classified each product participants purchased as “utilitarian,” “he- donic,” or “undetermined” (Kappa ¼.72; disagreements were resolved through discussion). They classified these products according to definitions of hedonic and utilitarian consumption by Strahilevitz (1999, 219–220): hedonic products are those that are consumed “for sensual pleasure, fantasy, and fun” (e.g., chocolates, soda), whereas utilitar- ian products are those that are consumed “to fill a basic need or accomplish a functional task” (e.g., skim milk, painkillers). Ambiguous products that may be consumed for both pleasure and functional need were classified as “undetermined” (e.g., unspecified grocery items). A 2 (perceived control: low vs. high) 3 (product type: hedonic vs. utilitarian vs. undetermined) mixed ANOVA revealed a significant main effect of perceived control such that low-control participants bought more products (M¼3.89, SD ¼3.80) than high-control participants (M¼2.56, SD ¼1.49; F(1, 124) ¼6.17, p<.05), and a significant main effect of product type (F(1, 124) ¼18.43, p<.001) such that participants bought fewer undeter- mined products (M¼.40, SD ¼.74) than hedonic (M¼1.18, SD ¼1.24; F(1, 124) ¼30.08, p<.001) and utilitarian products (M¼1.60, SD ¼2.43; F(1, 124) ¼ 37.92, p<.001). Participants bought marginally signifi- cantly more utilitarian products than hedonic products (F(1, 124) ¼3.09, p¼.08). These two main effects were qualified by a significant interaction between perceived control and product type (F(2, 248) ¼3.65, p<.05). Specifically, consistent with our prediction, low-control participants bought more utilitarian products (M¼2.11, SD ¼3.07) than high-control participants (M¼1.09, SD ¼1.43; F(1, 124) ¼5.75, p<.05). By contrast, low- and high-control participants did not differ significantly in the number of hedonic products (M low ¼1.32, SD ¼1.43 vs. M high ¼1.05, SD ¼1.00; F(1, 124) ¼1.58, p¼.21) or the number of undetermined products (M low ¼.39, SD ¼ .71 vs. M high ¼.42, SD ¼.77; F(1, 124) ¼.07, p¼.79) they bought. In addition, t-test analyses revealed that low-control par- ticipants spent more money than high-control participants (M low ¼$11.08, SD ¼$9.88; M high ¼$7.56, SD ¼$5.25; t(124) ¼2.51, p<.05). Importantly, this difference in ex- penditure was driven mainly by participants’ expenditure on utilitarian products: low-control participants spent more money on utilitarian products than high-control partici- pants (M low ¼$5.91, SD ¼$8.18 vs. M high ¼$3.00, SD ¼
$4.08; t(121) ¼2.49, p<.05); there were no significant differences across conditions in the amounts spent on he- donic and undetermined products (p’s >.16). Lastly, there was no difference between low- and high-control partici- pants in the number of promotional items they purchased (M low ¼.06, SD ¼.25 vs. M high ¼.14, SD ¼.56; t(124) ¼ –1.00, p¼.32). Together, these results provided initial evidence for hy- pothesis 1 that control motivation leads people to buy more utilitarian products but not more hedonic products. By test- ing our hypothesis in a real-world shopping context, we demonstrated the external validity of this effect. Nonetheless, it is plausible that it was the high-control shoppers, not the low-control shoppers, who were driving the observed effects. Furthermore, the utilitarian and he- donic products in this study might have varied in other sys- tematic ways (e.g., compared to the utilitarian products, the hedonic products comprised a larger proportion of edible products than inedible products); hence, other product dif- ferences might have been responsible for the observed ef- fects. Study 2 addressed these limitations by manipulating three levels of control—low-, high- and baseline control— and testing whether framing the same product as utilitarian versus hedonic would lead to similar results. CHEN, LEE, AND YAP 1035 STUDY 2: PURCHASING SNEAKERS To ensure that other systematic differences beyond the hedonic-utilitarian distinction were not driving the hypothesized effects, participants in study 2 were presented with the same product (i.e., a pair of sneakers) that was framed as either utilitarian or hedonic, and were asked to indicate their intention to purchase the product. We chose sneakers as the product stimulus because they could be worn primarily for their style (more characteristic of he- donic consumption) or functionality (more characteristic of utilitarian consumption). Another goal of this study was to validate that the hypothesized effect is driven by control deprivation and not a high sense of control. To this end, we compared the low-control condition to both the baseline and high-control conditions. We predicted that control- deprived participants would exhibit a greater intention to purchase the utilitarian (but not hedonic) pair of sneakers than participants in the other two conditions (hypothesis 1). Participants and Procedure Two hundred fifty-nine US participants (106 male), aged 18–73 (M¼35.39, SD ¼13.17), were recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. A 3 (perceived con- trol: low vs. high vs. baseline) 2 (product type: utilitarian vs. hedonic) between-subjects design was employed to test our prediction. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the six conditions. To manipulate participants’ perceived control, we employed an autobiographical recall task simi- lar to the one we used in study 1. Participants in the low- control and high-control conditions were given the same instructions as in study 1. Participants in the baseline con- dition, however, wrote about a typical weekday in their life over the past few weeks. After completing the recall task, participants answered a product evaluation survey about sneakers that was osten- sibly unrelated to the recall task. They were presented with a description of either a pair of hedonic sneakers or a pair of utilitarian sneakers from label X. In the hedonic condi- tion, the stylistic aspects of the sneakers were emphasized. By contrast, in the utilitarian condition, the functional as- pects of the sneakers were emphasized (see appendix A). Participants first rated how likely (1 ¼very unlikely, 7 ¼very likely) and interested (1 ¼not at all interested, 7 ¼ very interested) they were to buy the given pair of sneakers from label X, and stated how much they were willing to pay for this pair of sneakers. Adopting Strahilevitz’s (1999) definitions of hedonic and utilitarian consumption, we then asked participants to indicate on seven-point scales (1 ¼not at all, 7 ¼extremely) how much they perceived buying this pair of sneakers to be representative of pleasure-oriented consumption (i.e., something fun or ex- periential) and goal-oriented consumption (i.e., something one buys to carry out a necessary function or task in one’s life). Finally, to ensure that participants were taking the survey seriously, we inserted an attention check question that instructed them to ignore the response format of the question, and instead enter a specific response to this ques- tion (Oppenheimer, Meyvis, and Davidenko 2009). (We included an attention check in all the subsequent studies as well.) Results and Discussion Twenty-three participants (6 from the baseline/hedonic condition, 6 from the high-control/hedonic condition, 4 from the high-control/utilitarian condition, 3 from the low- control/utilitarian condition, 2 from the low-control/he- donic condition, and 2 from the baseline/utilitarian condi- tion) were excluded from the sample because they misread or failed to follow the instructions in the control manipula- tion task and gave irrelevant accounts (n¼8), or failed the attention check (n¼15), leaving a sample of 236 participants. Product-Type Manipulation Check. To test whether the product-type manipulation was successful, participants’ ratings of how much buying the given pair of sneakers was representative of goal-oriented consumption were submit- ted to a two-way ANOVA (perceived control product type). As intended, there was a significant main effect of the product-type manipulation such that participants who were presented with the utilitarian pair of sneakers per- ceived buying them as more representative of goal- oriented consumption (M¼5.13, SD ¼1.48) than those who were presented with the hedonic product (M¼3.27, SD ¼1.68; F(1, 230) ¼88.66, p<.001). There was also a significant main effect of perceived control (F(1, 230) ¼ 4.62, p<.05) such that low-control participants rated the given pair of sneakers as more representative of goal- oriented consumption (M¼4.62, SD ¼1.76) than baseline (M¼4.14, SD ¼1.81) and high-control participants (M¼ 4.03, SD ¼1.88; p<.005). Baseline participants’ ratings did not differ significantly from high-control participants’ ratings (p¼.48). However, the interaction between control and product type was not significant (p¼.32). Participants’ ratings of how much buying the given pair of sneakers was representative of pleasure-oriented con- sumption were also submitted to the same two-way ANOVA. There was a significant main effect of the product-type manipulation such that participants perceived buying the hedonic pair of sneakers to be more representa- tive of pleasure-oriented consumption (M¼5.07, SD ¼1.52) than buying the utilitarian pair of sneakers (M ¼3.89, SD ¼1.55; F(1, 230) ¼33.69, p<.001). Neither the main effect of control nor the interaction between con- trol and product type was significant (p’s >.51). Together, these results showed that the product-type manipulation worked as intended. 1036 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH Main Analyses. Participants’ ratings of how likely and interested they would be to buy the pair of sneakers were averaged to form a purchase-intention index (r¼.87). We hypothesized that low-control participants would have a stronger intention to purchase the pair of utilitarian sneakers than high-control and baseline participants, while intention to purchase the pair of hedonic sneakers would not be significantly different among the three conditions (hypothesis 1). To test this hypothesis, we ran a two-way ANOVA on purchase intentions with perceived control and product type as independent factors. There was a signifi- cant main effect of product type such that participants ex- pressed a greater intention to buy the utilitarian sneakers (M¼4.44, SD ¼1.52) than the hedonic sneakers (M¼ 3.92, SD ¼1.41; F(1, 230) ¼8.93, p<.005). More im- portantly, this main effect was qualified by a significant interaction between perceived control and product type (F(1, 230) ¼3.61, p<.05; see figure 1, top panel). As pre- dicted, a follow-up contrast analysis showed that low- control participants were more likely to buy the utilitarian pair of sneakers (M¼5.08, SD ¼1.49) than high-control participants (M¼4.27, SD ¼1.43) and baseline partici- pants (M¼4.14, SD ¼1.52; F(2, 230) ¼4.46, p<.05). Pairwise comparisons indicated that intentions to buy the utilitarian pair of sneakers were significantly stronger for low-control participants than high-control (p<.05) and baseline participants (p<.01). However, low-control par- ticipants were not more likely to buy the hedonic sneakers (M¼3.78, SD ¼1.25) than high-control participants (M¼ 4.19, SD ¼1.43) and baseline participants (M¼3.82, SD ¼1.52; F(2, 230) ¼.93, p¼.40). There was no signifi- cant main effect of control (p¼.16). The same two-way ANOVA with perceived control and product type as independent factors was performed on the amount participants were willing to pay for the given pair of sneakers. Again, a significant interaction between per- ceived control and product type emerged (F(1, 230) ¼ 5.48, p<.01; see figure 1, bottom panel). A follow-up contrast analysis revealed that low-control participants were willing to pay more for the utilitarian pair of sneakers (M¼$53.60, SD ¼$23.37) than high-control participants (M¼$40.59, SD ¼$20.10) and baseline participants (M ¼$43.65, SD ¼$20.25; F(2, 230) ¼3.57, p<.05). Pairwise comparisons indicated that the amount was sig- nificantly higher for low-control participants than for both high-control (p<.05) and baseline participants (p<.05). Interestingly, perceived control also had a marginally sig- nificant simple main effect on the amount participants were willing to pay for the hedonic pair of sneakers (F(2, 230) ¼2.43, p¼.09). High-control participants were will- ing to pay significantly more for the hedonic pair of sneakers (M¼$49.33, SD ¼$25.53) than low-control par- ticipants (M¼$38.61, SD ¼$18.66; p<.05) but not base- line participants (M¼$41.02, SD ¼$22.70; p<.10). The main effects of control and product type were nonsignifi- cant (p’s >.30). Results from study 2 demonstrated that framing a prod- uct that could be consumed for functional or pleasurable reasons as primarily utilitarian increases people’s prefer- ence for that product when they experience perceived con- trol loss. In the next study, we sought to test whether this framing effect would also emerge with a different product category. STUDY 3: PURCHASING SUGARCANE JUICE Study 3 aimed to replicate the basic effect of control de- privation on preference for utilitarian products using FIGURE 1 STUDY 2: INTERACTION BETWEEN PERCEIVED CONTROL AND PRODUCT TYPE ON INTENTION TO PURCHASE SNEAKERS (TOP PANEL) AND WILLINGNESS TO PAY (BOTTOM PANEL) 3.82 3.78 4.19 4.14 5.08 4.27 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Baseline Low control High control Intenon to purchase sneakers Control condion Hedonic Ulitarian 41.02 38.61 49.33 43.65 53.60 40.59 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 Baseline Low control High control Willingness to pay (US$)
Control condion
Hedonic Ulitarian
CHEN, LEE, AND YAP 1037
another product category (i.e., a juice beverage). A juice
beverage was chosen as the focal product because juice
could be consumed primarily for its good taste (more char-
acteristic of hedonic consumption) or nutritional benefits
(more characteristic of utilitarian consumption). Similar to
study 2, following the control manipulation, participants
were presented with the same juice beverage that was
to indicate their intention to purchase a regular size cup of
the beverage. We predicted that in accordance with hy-
pothesis 1, when the juice beverage was advertised as a
utilitarian product, low-control participants would exhibit a
greater purchase intention for the beverage than baseline
participants; when the juice beverage was advertised as a
hedonic product instead, there would be no difference in
purchase intentions between the two conditions. We did
not include the high-control condition in this study because
the main focus of our research is to examine the influence
of control deprivation on product preference; moreover,
the previous study revealed that there was no difference be-
tween the high-control and baseline conditions in prefer-
ence for the utilitarian pair of sneakers.
Participants and Procedure
Two hundred one participants (101 male), aged 17–54
(M¼30.89, SD ¼8.76), were recruited at a shopping mall
in a city in Asia. A 2 (perceived control: low vs. baseline)
2 (product type: utilitarian vs. hedonic) between-
subjects design was employed to test our prediction.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of the four
conditions. To manipulate participants’ perceived control,
we employed the autobiographical recall task used in study
2, excluding the high-control condition. After completing
erage. They were asked to imagine that they were thinking
cane juice, a beverage commonly sold in food outlets in
the Asian city. In the utilitarian condition, the ad empha-
sized the nutritional aspects (e.g., rehydrating and fights
common infections) of consuming the juice; by contrast, in
the hedonic condition, the ad emphasized the pleasurable
aspects (e.g., refreshing and tasty) of consuming the juice
(see appendix B).
Participants rated how likely (1 ¼very unlikely, 7 ¼
very likely) and interested (1 ¼not at all interested, 7 ¼
very interested) they were to purchase a regular size cup of
to indicate on a seven-point scale (1 ¼not at all, 7 ¼to a
large extent) the extent to which the problem-solving prop-
erties of the sugarcane juice influenced their likelihood of
and interest in purchasing a regular cup of sugarcane juice.
They were also asked to indicate on seven-point scales (1
¼not at all, 7 ¼to a large extent) how much they thought
the ad highlighted how drinking sugarcane juice is repre-
sentative of pleasure-oriented consumption and goal-
oriented consumption, and how much they thought the ad
highlighted how drinking sugarcane juice could help them
solve a particular problem or prevent a particular problem
from happening. Finally, participants were asked to indi-
cate on seven-point scales how much they liked sugarcane
juice in general (1 ¼dislike extremely, 7 ¼like ex-
tremely), as well as how hungry and thirsty they were dur-
ing the study (1 ¼not at all thirsty/hungry, 7 ¼extremely
thirsty/hungry).
Results and Discussion
Twenty-six participants (10 from the low-control/
utilitarian condition, 6 from the baseline/utilitarian condi-
tion, 6 from the low-control/hedonic condition, 4 from the
baseline/hedonic condition) were excluded from the sam-
tions in the control manipulation task and gave irrelevant
accounts (n¼19), or failed the attention check (n¼7),
leaving a sample of 175 participants.
Product-Type Manipulation Check. To test whether the
product-type manipulation was successful, participants’
ratings of how much they thought the ad highlighted how
drinking sugarcane juice was representative of goal-
oriented consumption, pleasure-oriented consumption, and
problem solving were submitted to a two-way ANOVA
(perceived control product type). There was a significant
main effect of the product-type manipulation on the goal-
orientation item such that participants who saw the utilitar-
juice was representative of goal-oriented consumption to a
greater extent (M¼4.08, SD ¼1.83) than those who saw
the hedonic ad (M¼3.34, SD ¼1.80; F(1, 171) ¼8.05, p
<.01). There was also a significant main effect of the
product-type manipulation on the pleasure-orientation item
such that participants who saw the hedonic ad thought the
ad highlighted how drinking sugarcane juice was represen-
tative of pleasure-oriented consumption to a greater extent
(M¼4.01, SD ¼1.71) than those who saw the utilitarian
ad (M¼3.38, SD ¼1.77; F(1, 171) ¼5.30, p<.05).
Lastly, there was a significant main effect of the product-
type manipulation on the problem-solving item such that
lighted how drinking sugarcane juice could help them
solve a particular problem or prevent a particular problem
from happening to a greater extent (M¼3.77, SD ¼1.89)
than those who saw the hedonic ad (M¼2.91, SD ¼1.72;
F(1, 171) ¼10.33, p<.005). Neither the main effect of
control nor the interaction between control and product
type on any of the three ratings was significant (p’s >.12).
Together, these results showed that the product-type ma-
nipulation worked as intended, and that people were
1038 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
inclined to view the utilitarian ad as highlighting the
problem-solving properties of sugarcane juice.
Main Analyses. Participants’ ratings of how likely
and interested they would be to purchase a regular size
cup of sugarcane juice after seeing the ad were averaged
to form a purchase-intention index (r¼.81). A two-way
ANOVA of participants’ purchase intention with per-
ceived control and product type as independent factors
revealed a marginally significant interaction effect be-
tween perceived control and product type (F(1, 171) ¼
3.31, p¼.07). The simple main effect of perceived con-
trol within each product-type condition was nonsignifi-
cant, but directionally consistent with our hypothesis
(p’s ¼.20 in both hedonic and utilitarian conditions).
Because liking for sugarcane juice and thirstiness were
correlated with purchase intention (r¼.55, p<.001 and
r¼.15, p<.05, respectively), we reran the analysis
controlling for these two variables as covariates. Results
showed a significant interaction between perceived
control and product type (F(1, 169) ¼5.60, p<.05; see
figure 2, top panel). Within the utilitarian condition,
low-control participants indicated greater purchase in-
tentions (M¼4.85, SD ¼1.75) than baseline partici-
pants (M¼4.36, SD ¼1.70; F(1, 169) ¼4.16, p<.05).
However, within the hedonic condition, there was no dif-
ference in purchase intentions between low-control (M¼
4.18, SD ¼1.73) and baseline participants (M¼4.65,
SD ¼1.77; F(1, 169) ¼1.66, p¼.20). The main effects
of control and product type were not significant (p’s >.56).
Liking for sugarcane juice was a significant predictor of
purchase intentions (b¼.73, F(1, 169) ¼72.30, p<
.001), but thirstiness was not (b¼.09, F(1, 169) ¼2.54,
p¼.11).
Submitting participants’ ratings of the extent to which
the problem-solving properties of the sugarcane juice influ-
enced their purchase intentions to another two-way
ANOVA with perceived control and product type as inde-
pendent factors revealed a marginally significant inter-
action between perceived control and product type (F(1,
171) ¼3.17, p¼.08). The simple main effect of perceived
control was significant in the utilitarian condition (F(1,
171) ¼5.47, p<.05) but not in the hedonic condition (p¼
.89). After we controlled for liking for sugarcane juice and
thirstiness, there was a significant main effect of perceived
control such that low-control participants indicated that the
problem-solving properties of sugarcane juice influenced
their purchase intentions to a larger extent (M¼4.49,
SD ¼2.12) than baseline participants (M¼4.02,
SD ¼2.05; F(1, 169) ¼3.99, p<.05). More importantly,
the interaction effect became significant (F(1, 169) ¼3.98,
p<.05; see figure 2, bottom panel). Within the utilitarian
condition, low-control participants indicated that the
problem-solving properties of sugarcane juice influenced
their purchase intentions to a larger extent (M¼4.95,
SD ¼1.97) than baseline participants (M¼3.89,
SD ¼2.03; F(1, 169) ¼7.63, p<.01). However, within
the hedonic condition, there was no difference between
low-control (M¼4.09, SD ¼2.18) and baseline partici-
pants (M¼4.15, SD ¼2.10; F(1, 169) ¼.00, p>.99) in
this influence. Finally, liking for sugarcane juice was a sig-
nificant predictor (b¼.45, F(1, 169) ¼14.56, p<.001),
whereas thirstiness was a marginally significant predictor
(b¼.15, F(1, 169) ¼3.45, p<.07) of this influence.
Results from study 3 replicated our basic effect that
control-deprived individuals tend to desire utilitarian prod-
ucts (hypothesis 1). Furthermore, we found that control-
deprived individuals assigned greater importance to the
problem-solving properties of the product when they con-
sidered the utilitarian juice beverage. Nonetheless, we do
not have conclusive evidence that a generalized tendency
FIGURE 2
STUDY 3: INTERACTION BETWEEN PERCEIVED CONTROL
AND PRODUCT TYPE ON INTENTION TO PURCHASE
BEVERAGE (TOP PANEL) AND CONSIDERATION OF
PROBLEM-SOLVING PROPERTIES IN DECISION
(BOTTOM PANEL)
4.65
4.18
4.36
4.85
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
Baseline Low control
Intenon to purchase juice beverage
Control condion
Hedonic Ulitarian
4.15 4.09
3.89
4.95
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
Baseline Low control
Extent to which problem-solving
properes inﬂuenced purchase intenon
Control condion
Hedonic Ulitarian
CHEN, LEE, AND YAP 1039
to engage in problem solving was indeed responsible for
our effect. Therefore, in the next study, we tested whether
generalized problem-solving tendency mediated the effect
of control deprivation on eagerness to pursue utilitarian
consumption (hypothesis 2).
STUDY 4: GETTING A MASSAGE—
PROBLEM-SOLVING TENDENCY AS
MEDIATOR
Having established the basic effect in the first three stud-
ies, we sought in study 4 to test whether it is indeed a gen-
eral motivation to engage in problem solving that makes
utilitarian products more desirable to consumers when they
have low perceived control. In a pilot test, we manipulated
participants’ perceived control and measured their
problem-solving tendency. One hundred fifty-six US par-
ticipants (87 male) aged 18–68 (M¼35.39, SD ¼13.17)
recruited through Mechanical Turk were randomly as-
signed to either a low-control or baseline condition. We
manipulated perceived control using the autobiographical
pants to indicate on a seven-point scale (1 ¼strongly dis-
agree, 7 ¼strongly agree) their desire to engage in
problem solving on four items: “I would like to take action
to try to make a problematic situation better,” “I would like
to concentrate my efforts on doing something about a cur-
rent or potential problem,” “I want to try to come up with a
strategy about what to do regarding a problem,” and “I
want to think about what steps to take to solve a problem.”
These items were adapted from the brief COPE inventory,
which measures problem-focused coping behaviors
(Carver 1997). Ratings on these items were averaged to
form a problem-solving tendency index (a¼.96). Results
showed that low-control participants reported a greater
problem-solving tendency (M¼5.76, SD ¼1.16) than
baseline participants (M¼5.09, SD ¼1.34; t(154) ¼3.31,
p<.005).
In study 4, we manipulated product type using consump-
tion goals (Botti and McGill 2011;Pham 1998): partici-
pants were asked to imagine a scenario in which they were
planning to get a massage either for hedonic or utilitarian
reasons. After participants indicated their level of eager-
ness to schedule their massage appointment, we measured
their generalized tendency to engage in problem solving.
We predicted that in line with hypothesis 1 low-control
participants would be more eager to schedule the appoint-
ment than baseline participants when the consumption goal
was utilitarian (vs. hedonic). Importantly, we also pre-
dicted that this relationship would be mediated by their
problem-solving tendency (hypothesis 2).
Participants and Procedure
Two hundred seventeen US participants (112 male),
aged 18–72 (M¼34.81, SD ¼11.82) were recruited
through Mechanical Turk. A 2 (perceived control: low vs.
baseline) 2 (consumption goal: utilitarian vs. hedonic)
between-subjects design was employed to test our predic-
tion. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the
four conditions. We manipulated participants’ perceived
control using the autobiographical recall task from study 3.
to complete a scenario study that was ostensibly unrelated
were deciding whether to schedule an appointment for a
professional massage at a local spa. We varied participants’
goal for getting the massage. In the utilitarian condition,
participants were told that their goal was to get a massage
to provide immediate relief and reduce the body fatigue
that they had been experiencing. In the hedonic condition,
they were told that their goal was to treat themselves to an
enjoyable time at the spa, and hence they would like the
massage to be pleasurable and relaxing. Participants rated
on a 100-point sliding scale how eager they were to sched-
ule the spa appointment (1 ¼not at all eager, 100 ¼very
eager).
Following that, we measured generalized problem-
solving tendency by asking them to indicate on a seven-
point scale (1 ¼strongly disagree, 7 ¼strongly agree) their
desire to engage in problem solving on the same four items
from the pilot test (a¼.94). Next, as manipulation checks,
participants rated on separate seven-point scales (1 ¼not
at all, 7 ¼extremely) how much they thought getting the
massage was representative of pleasure-oriented consump-
tion, goal-oriented consumption, and action taken to solve
a problem. Finally, they were asked to indicate on seven-
point scales how often they go for a massage (1 ¼never, 7
¼very frequently) and how much they like getting a mas-
sage (1 ¼not at all, 7 ¼very much).
Results and Discussion
Fourteen participants (4 from the low-control/hedonic
condition, 4 from the low-control/utilitarian condition, 3
from the baseline/hedonic condition, 3 from the baseline/
utilitarian condition) were excluded from the sample be-
the control manipulation task and gave irrelevant accounts
(n¼7), or failed the attention check (n¼7), leaving a
sample of 203 participants.
Consumption-Goal Manipulation Check. To test
whether the consumption-goal manipulation was success-
ful, participants’ ratings of how much they thought getting
the massage was representative of goal-oriented consump-
tion, pleasure-oriented consumption, and action taken to
solve a problem were submitted to a two-way ANOVA
1040 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
(perceived control consumption goal). There was a sig-
nificant main effect of the consumption-goal manipulation
on goal-oriented consumption such that participants in the
utilitarian condition thought that getting the massage was
more representative of goal-oriented consumption (M¼
4.25, SD ¼1.74) than participants in the hedonic condition
(M¼3.65, SD ¼1.77; F(1,199) ¼6.57, p<.05). There
was also a significant main effect of the manipulation on
pleasure-oriented consumption such that participants in the
hedonic condition thought that getting the massage was
more pleasure-oriented (M¼5.54, SD ¼1.46) than partici-
pants in the utilitarian condition (M¼5.06, SD ¼1.55;
F(1, 199) ¼7.64, p<.01). Lastly, there was a significant
main effect of the consumption-goal manipulation on the
problem-solving item such that participants in the utilitar-
ian condition thought that getting the massage was more
representative of action taken to solve a problem (M¼
4.91, SD ¼1.62) than participants in the hedonic condition
(M¼3.49, SD ¼1.79; F(1,199) ¼34.20, p<.001).
Neither the main effect of control nor the interaction be-
tween control and consumption goal on any of the three
ratings was significant (p’s >.23).
Main Analyses. We hypothesized that low-control par-
ticipants would be more eager to schedule the spa appoint-
ment in the utilitarian condition than baseline participants,
and that there would be no difference in eagerness between
low-control and baseline participants in the hedonic condi-
tion. To test this hypothesis, a two-way ANOVA with per-
ceived control and consumption goal as independent
factors was performed on the eagerness ratings. Supporting
our hypothesis, results showed a significant interaction
between perceived control and consumption goal (F(1,
199) ¼4.81, p<.05; see figure 3). As predicted, a follow-
up contrast analysis showed that within the utilitarian con-
dition, low-control participants were significantly more
eager to make the appointment (M¼77.91, SD ¼24.48)
than baseline participants (M¼62.61, SD ¼29.92; F(1,
199) ¼7.35, p<.01). However, within the hedonic condi-
tion, there was no difference in eagerness between low-
control (M¼65.63, SD ¼28.68) and baseline participants
(M¼67.91, SD ¼29.90; F(1, 199) ¼.16, p¼.69).
Neither of the main effects was significant (p’s >.11).
Moderated Mediation of Eagerness Ratings by Problem-
Solving Tendency. We predicted that problem-solving
tendency would mediate the relationship between per-
ceived control and eagerness ratings in the utilitarian con-
dition but not in the hedonic condition. A moderated
mediation analysis with 5,000 bootstrapped samples was
conducted using model 8 of the PROCESS macro for SPSS
to test this hypothesis (Hayes 2012). Results from the ana-
lysis revealed a significant moderated mediation (B¼
3.48, with a bias-corrected 95% confidence interval that
does not include 0 {.29, 9.48}). Within the utilitarian con-
dition, the relationship between perceived control and
eagerness ratings was mediated by problem-solving ten-
dency (B¼2.29, with a bias-corrected 95% confidence
interval that does not include 0 {.21, 5.90}). However,
there was no mediation in the hedonic condition (B¼
1.19, with a bias-corrected 95% confidence interval that in-
cludes 0 {–5.13, .45}).
In sum, results from study 4 replicated the basic effect of
control deprivation on preference for utilitarian consump-
tion. Most importantly, we found support for our hypothe-
sized mechanism that control-deprived individuals desire
utilitarian products because of their stronger problem-
solving tendency (hypothesis 2).
GENERAL DISCUSSION
The hedonic-utilitarian typology of products is funda-
mental in marketing and consumer research (Dhar and
Wertenbroch 2000). Therefore, it is important to under-
stand the distinction between these two types of products
and the psychological states that drive preferences for one
type over the other. The current work demonstrates that
perceiving a loss of control over the environment enhances
desire for utilitarian products. An increased motivation for
control led shoppers in a supermarket to purchase more
utilitarian but not hedonic products (study 1). Participants
who perceived a loss of control were also more likely to
purchase a product (i.e., a pair of sneakers or cup of juice
beverage) that was framed as utilitarian rather than hedonic
(studies 2 and 3). Importantly, our empirical findings dem-
onstrate that low-control consumers acquire utilitarian
products because a perceived loss of control motivates
FIGURE 3
STUDY 4: INTERACTION BETWEEN PERCEIVED CONTROL
AND CONSUMPTION GOAL ON EAGERNESS TO SCHEDULE
THE SPA APPOINTMENT
67.91 69.60
62.61
77.91
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
Baseline Low control
Eagerness to schedule the spa
appointment
Control condion
Hedonic Ulitarian
CHEN, LEE, AND YAP 1041
these consumers to engage in problem solving, and utilitar-
ian products are typically seen as solutions to everyday
problems. Specifically, we found in study 4 that a general-
ized problem-solving tendency mediated the causal rela-
tionship between low control and eagerness to get a
massage with a utilitarian goal.
Theoretical Contributions
Contributions to Consumer Research. By showing that
control deprivation influences the type of products con-
sumers purchase, the present research contributes to a still-
nascent stream of work that examines the impact of peo-
ple’s fundamental desire for control on consumer behavior
(Cutright 2012). Our findings show that people compensate
for their lack of control by purchasing utilitarian products
because of these products’ association with problem solv-
ing. As solving problems represents and involves taking
control of situations in one’s life, such behaviors reinforce
self-perceptions of being able to attain desirable outcomes
and prevent undesirable outcomes in one’s environment
(Duncker and Lees 1945;Landau et al. 2015).
Our work adds to prior research that has identified con-
ditions under which utilitarian products are preferred (Dhar
and Wertenbroch 2000;Okada 2005;Sela, Berger, and Liu
2009). Much of this prior research points to the virtuous
nature of utilitarian products (i.e., consuming utilitarian
products is perceived to be more rational and induces less
guilt than consuming hedonic products; Kivetz and
Simonson 2002) as the underlying reason why they are
favored in various circumstances. Consumers faced with a
larger assortment of products, for example, are more likely
to choose utilitarian (vs. hedonic) products because these
products are easier to justify (Sela et al. 2009). Our article
identifies another attribute (i.e., problem solving) of utili-
tarian products that makes them desirable. Furthermore,
we uncover a new condition (i.e., loss of control) that
would stimulate utilitarian purchases. Unlike Sela et al.’s
(2009) research, which demonstrates that having too many
options (arguably a control-depriving situation) leads peo-
ple to select the utilitarian option in the choice set, we
show that incidental manipulations of control that are unre-
lated to the choice context can also increase preference for
utilitarian products.
Importantly, our research demonstrates the ecological
validity of the effect by documenting how control motiv-
ation could affect shopping behavior in a real-world con-
text; this empirical approach is especially essential given
the pervasiveness and ease of using product acquisition as
a means to cope with psychological threat. The use of dif-
ferent sample populations, product stimuli, shopping con-
texts, and dependent measures across studies also
demonstrates the robustness and generalizability of the ef-
fect besides its external validity.
Contributions to the Literature on Control
Motivation. As attested by earlier work (Inesi et al. 2011)
and findings from our preliminary study, instead of sinking
into a state of passivity and learned helplessness, individ-
uals temporarily induced with a state of low control are
often motivated to engage in problem solving. In addition,
our research demonstrates how control deprivation could
also prompt active attempts to acquire products (study 1).
Although the notion that ownership can serve as a source
of control has been acknowledged in the literature (Beggan
1991;Furby 1978,1980), this relationship has not been
tested empirically. Besides testing this relationship empir-
ically in the present work, we also extend this literature by
showing that specific types of products (i.e., utilitarian
products) are more attractive under a loss of control.
Through the acquisition of a utilitarian product that serves
as a solution to an everyday problem, people reinforce their
belief in their ability to attain desirable outcomes in the
environment.
Contributions to the Understanding of Control-Related
Constructs. The causal relationship between control mo-
tivation and utilitarian-product acquisition documented in
the current work enhances the conceptual understanding of
other motivation-related constructs that are closely inter-
twined but not synonymous with the construct of control.
In particular, power and autonomy are two constructs that
are affiliated with control, and these constructs have also
been studied in the domain of consumption.
(a) Power. Unlike a threat to one’s sense of power,
which triggers an increase in preference for high-status
products (e.g., silk tie, luxury pen) that consequently help
the individual derive respect from others (Rucker and
Galinsky 2008), a threat to one’s perceived control en-
hances desire for utilitarian products that satisfy the motive
for problem solving. To test this distinction, we recruited
101 Mechanical Turk participants (54 male) aged 18–69
(M¼32.96, SD ¼12.22) to first write about a low-control
situation or a typical weekday and then choose between a
hedonic pair of sneakers (label X) that was rated as super-
ior in style but inferior in functionality, and a utilitarian
pair of sneakers (label Y) that was rated as superior in
functionality but inferior in style. The hedonic pair of
sneakers was also assigned a higher overall consumer rat-
ing, while the utilitarian pair had a higher price.
Supporting our prediction that control deprivation would
enhance preference for the utilitarian pair of sneakers, we
found that low-control participants were more likely to
choose the utilitarian pair of sneakers than baseline partici-
pants (63.5%. vs. 40.8%, respectively; v
2
(1) ¼5.19, p<
.05) despite its lower overall rating and higher price.
However, we also found that participants from both condi-
tions, who rated the relative status of the two pairs of
sneakers on a seven-point bipolar scale (1 ¼the pair of
sneakers from X has higher status, 7 ¼the pair of sneakers
1042 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
from Y has higher status), similarly perceived the hedonic
pair of sneakers (label X) to have higher status than the
utilitarian pair of sneakers (label Y) (M¼2.51, SD ¼1.67;
t(100) ¼–8.96, p<.001). In other words, low-control par-
ticipants were not more likely to choose the hedonic pair of
sneakers with higher perceived status, in contrast to power-
less individuals, who presumably would exhibit greater
preference for high-status products (Rucker and Galinsky
2008). These results remained significant after we con-
trolled for perceptions of relative status across both pairs of
sneakers and were replicated in a subsequent study.
Although control is a broader construct that encom-
passes power, and thus high-status products could theoret-
ically compensate for one’s lack of control (Inesi et al.
2011), it seems plausible that directly manipulating power
would cause people to seek products that have immediate
interpersonal implications, whereas manipulating control
influences preference for products with immediate intra-
personal implications.
(b) Autonomy. Individuals who experience a threat to
their autonomy tend to seek variety or unique products to
assert their freedom in determining their own actions
(Levav and Zhu 2009). Unlike control-deprived individuals
such as those in our studies, these individuals are more
concerned with the freedom to decide their own actions
than whether those actions would lead to desired outcomes.
Prior research has shown that people perceive a lower
sense of freedom when choosing a product to satisfy a utili-
tarian (vs. hedonic) goal because they feel more compelled
by extrinsic reasons to make the particular choice (i.e., “a
choice feels less like a choice”; Botti and McGill 2011,
1068; B&G for brevity). A careful consideration of the
conceptual distinction between autonomy and our focal
construct of control helps reconcile the seeming contradic-
tion between B&G’s finding and the current research,
which posits that consumers perceive utilitarian products
to have a control-restorative function. In both sets of stud-
ies, participants had to consider options that would enable
them to achieve a particular goal. However, in contrast to
the studies in B&G in which participants were induced
with a utilitarian goal while they were choosing between
options, participants in our studies freely decided which
products to buy or how much they wanted to buy a product
given their differential degrees of motivation for control.
Whereas control-deprived individuals in our studies
focused on the prospect of problem solving associated with
utilitarian products, participants induced with a utilitarian
goal in B&G focused on the constraints imposed by the
given instrumental motive as they made their choice.
In summary, motivations for power and autonomy are
conceptually distinct from the motivation for control and
thus engender different consumer preferences. Our findings
therefore add to this burgeoning literature on the conflu-
ence of control, power, and consumption (Inesi et al. 2011)
that seeks to understand how people might use
consumption as a means to satisfy specific psychological
needs. Importantly, unlike previous research in this area
and within the larger sphere of compensatory consumption
(which has largely been conducted in lab settings), we pro-
vide evidence that such compensatory behavior can occur
in a real-world context, and with real buying behavior.
Future research should further examine the relationships
between control and these closely relevant constructs (e.g.,
by depicting these relationships in a visual concept map)
and how these constructs can lead to divergent effects in
other contexts.
Implications for Subjective Well-Being
Addressing the impact of control motivation on product
acquisition is important given the prevalence of buying
activities in everyday life. As attested by the current find-
ings, consumers exposed to control-depriving situations in
their daily lives may buy utilitarian products as a conveni-
ent and important means to satisfy their need for control.
In study 1, participants incurred higher expenditures as a
result of this greater spending on utilitarian products.
Nonetheless, while prudent use of this strategy may be
helpful for those who wish to enhance their momentary
sense of control, and the purchase of utilitarian (vs. he-
donic) products is less likely to be associated with guilt
and regret (Khan et al. 2005), frequent use of buying as a
strategy among people who often experience a lack of con-
trol over their environment (e.g., employees with unpre-
dictable work schedules) may lead to overspending.
One question that arises from this research is whether
control is indeed restored after utilitarian products are
acquired. In a separate study that is not reported here, we
employed a 2 (perceived control: low vs. high) 2 (product
type: utilitarian vs. hedonic) between-subjects design to
test whether acquiring utilitarian (vs. hedonic) products
helps control-deprived individuals restore their perceived
control. Participants (N¼138; 40 male) from a northeast-
ern university in the United States, aged 18–40 (M¼
21.61, SD ¼3.69), were handed a $1 bill and a brown paper bag containing two products that were either hedonic (a pack of M&M’s chocolate candies and a bag of Lay’s kettle chips) or utilitarian (a box of metal clip binders and a gel-ink pen) at the start of the study. After completing the recall manipulation, they were instructed to open the bag and purchase one of the two products using the$1 bill.
After this shopping task, participants rated on seven-point
scales their momentary sense of control (1 ¼no control at
all, 7 ¼very high control) and power (1 ¼not powerful at
all, 7 ¼extremely powerful).
Results indicated a significant main effect of the control
manipulation (M
low
¼5.13, SD ¼1.38 vs. M
high
¼5.56,
SD ¼1.14; F(1, 134) ¼4.19, p<.05), qualified by a sig-
nificant interaction between perceived control and product
type (F(1, 134) ¼4.45, p<.05) on reported sense of
CHEN, LEE, AND YAP 1043
control. Low-control participants who bought a utilitarian
product reported greater perceived control than low-control
participants who bought a hedonic product (M
utilitarian
¼
5.49, SD ¼1.20 vs. M
hedonic
¼4.77, SD ¼1.48; F(1, 134)
¼5.72, p<.05); the same difference was not significant
among the high-control participants (M¼5.47
utilitarian
,
SD ¼1.16 vs. M
hedonic
¼5.66, SD ¼1.13; F(1, 134) ¼.37,
p¼.55). In comparison, an analysis of participants’ ratings
of how powerful they felt did not produce any significant
findings (p’s >.17). Hence, results from this study provide
preliminary evidence that the acquisition of a utilitarian
product does heighten one’s sense of control, but not
power, for control-deprived individuals. In fact, low-
control participants who acquired utilitarian products
seemed to have restored their perceived control to levels
similar to their high-control counterparts. The downstream
consequences of consuming utilitarian products (and more
broadly, problem solving) on one’s perceived control con-
stitute a promising area for future research.
Other Future Research Directions
Negative-Affect Regulation. In our studies, a perceived
loss of control over the environment increased purchase of
utilitarian products, and not hedonic products, which are
typically considered more mood-lifting (Khan et al. 2005)
and likely consumed as a form of emotion regulation. It is
therefore unlikely that negative affect resulting from con-
trol deprivation was instrumental in driving the results.
Nevertheless, it would be interesting to examine the inter-
play between control motivation and negative-affect
regulation.
Negative emotions, such as sadness and anxiety, have
been found to be associated with the appraisal of
situational-control loss (Rick, Pereira, and Burson 2014;
Smith and Ellsworth 1985). Yet sadness, for instance, has
been shown to increase consumption of hedonic foods
(e.g., buttered popcorn and M&M’s; Garg and Lerner
2013;Garg, Wanskin, and Inman 2007). An intervention
to boost control (via choice), however, eliminates the ef-
fect of sadness on hedonic consumption presumably be-
cause elevated perceived control from exercising choice
counteracts the sense of helplessness related to sadness
(Garg and Lerner 2013). Hence, it is possible that acquisi-
tion of utilitarian products or engagement in problem-
solving behaviors, which have control-restorative func-
tions, may also alleviate negative emotions associated
with low control. In fact, some empirical evidence sug-
gests that compared to individuals in a neutral mood, sad
individuals are willing to spend more on items such as
water bottles and highlighters, which tend to be more
utilitarian than hedonic (Cryder et al. 2008;Lerner,
Small, and Loewenstein 2004).
Given that the extant literature on affect regulation has
focused on the impact of negative affect on hedonic
consumption (e.g., “retail therapy”; Atalay and Meloy
2011;Lee 2015;Lee and Bo¨ttger 2016;Rick et al. 2014), it
would be worthwhile to investigate the extent to which
emotions generally associated with low control (e.g., sad-
ness, fear, and anxiety) would also increase people’s desire
to engage in problem solving and acquire utilitarian prod-
ucts. Future research could also examine whether these
emotions would be attenuated following such behaviors.
For example, would individuals with chronic depression,
who have a higher propensity to perceive themselves as
lacking control (Mirowsky and Ross 1990;Nezu and Perri
1989), feel better after acquiring a utilitarian product or
succeeding in problem solving? Additionally, it would be
interesting to determine the conditions under which these
emotions lead to stronger preference for utilitarian rather
than hedonic products (e.g., personal competence as an in-
tegral part of one’s self-identity vs. lay beliefs of indul-
gence as a form of mood repair).
Related Means of Compensation. Another promising
direction to explore pertains to the creation of new prod-
ucts (e.g., baking, art pieces). Insofar as the process of
creating a product involves the perception of how one’s
actions can successfully produce a desired outcome, the
product creator will experience the self as being effect-
ive in exercising control over the environment (Skinner
1996). In fact, the more skillful or capable the individual
is at creating the object, the higher the level of control
he or she would possess over the process and the out-
come, and therefore he or she would derive greater satis-
faction from control and mastery (Loewenstein 1999;
Shapiro, Schwartz, and Astin 1996).Inthesamevein,
future work could examine whether control motivation
influences people’s desire to innovate and ideate. From a
managerial perspective, Do-It-Yourself products, such
as baking mixes from Betty Crocker and stuffed animals
from Build-a-Bear Workshop, as well as furniture de-
signed to be assembled by the consumer, such as that
from Swedish retailer IKEA, could leverage this notion
of control in their marketing strategies (Norton,
Mochon, and Ariely 2012).
DATA COLLECTION INFORMATION
The first two authors jointly supervised the collection
ofdataforstudy1byresearchassistantsatMorton
Williams Supermarket in New York in the summer/au-
tumn of 2009. The first author collected the data for
study 2 using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk panel in the
autumn of 2013. The first and third authors jointly
supervised the collection of data for study 3 by research
assistants at Fusionopolis Mall in Singapore in the sum-
mer of 2015. The first author collected the data for study
4 using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk panel in the spring
1044 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
of 2016. The first author analyzed the data for all four
studies.
APPENDIX A
PRODUCT STIMULI FROM STUDY 2
Utilitarian pair of sneakers:
This pair of sneakers from label X is known for its function-
ality and craftsmanship. In particular, it features a solid non-
marking rubber outsole for long-wearing traction and dur-
ability. X’s signature emblem is found on the outer-side of
these shoes.
Hedonic pair of sneakers:
This pair of sneakers from label X is known for its stylish
and pleasing design. In particular, it features a sleek modern
aesthetic and a beautiful contrast shade design. X’s signa-
ture emblem is found on the outer-side of these gorgeous-
looking shoes.
APPENDIX B
PRODUCT STIMULI FROM STUDY 4
Beat heatstroke and dehydration with a glass of freshly-
squeezed sugarcane juice. Besides its rehydrating and ener-
gizing properties, this nutritional beverage is known in
many parts of Southeast Asia and South America to fight
common infections and keep one’s body healthy.
Treat yourself by indulging in a glass of refreshing freshly-
squeezed sugarcane juice! This tasty and delicious beverage
that is popular in many parts of Southeast Asia and South
America is served ice cold, and if you like, with a squeeze
of lemon. Tastes like a vacation in paradise!
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This research examines consumer reactions to handcrafted products under control deprivation. Four studies reveal that while a positive handmade effect exists among consumers whose sense of personal control is not threatened, a negative handmade effect appears for those consumers under control deprivation. That is, consumers show less favorable attitudes toward handcrafted products when their sense of personal control is threatened. This effect appears because the lower psychological ownership of handcrafted (vs. regular) products cannot instrumentally help restore consumers' sense of personal control. The negative handmade effect under control deprivation is mitigated when consumers can customize the product based on their own preferences. The current research is among the first to show how the handcrafted nature of products can backfire and lead to negative reactions among consumers (i.e., a negative handmade effect). Our findings also shed light on the antecedents and consequences of psychological product ownership and add to the current knowledge of personal control in the consumption domain.
... Another reason for consumers to stockpile and/or panic-buy was postulated to be related to consumers' cautiousness to reduce their risk of contracting the virus during their food shop [27]. Others described these changes in purchasing behavior as an innate human response to crises and stress, and thus consumers stockpiled to feel safe and in control [25,26,28]. ...
... However, although consumers reported that they were confident in the available food supply, the study found that 27.6% bought more food than usual, in particular non-perishable foods (e.g., beans, rice, lentils, and legumes), frozen foods (e.g., ready meals, fruits, and vegetables etc.), and canned foods (e.g., chickpeas foul and vegetables). Hence, these findings suggest that consumers were bulk-buying or panic-buying, which is similar to what was observed in other countries that also reported changes in food purchasing behaviors and stockpiling [24][25][26]28]. Furthermore, with respect to gender differences, the study found that more women than men changed their food purchasing behaviors. ...
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... In other words, they attempt to escape the negative circumstance and emotions they are going through and try to reduce their stress levels by shopping (Fransen et al., 2019;Sneath et al., 2009). When the literature is examined, it is seen that individuals factors (Rajkumar, 2021) cover the concepts such as gender (Lins and Aquino, 2020), personality traits (Dammeyer, 2020;Lehberger et al., 2021), dark triad traits (Taylor, 2021;Yousaf et al., 2022), fear, anxiety (Arafat et al., 2020;Sim et al., 2020;Taylor et al., 2020) perceived scarcity, perceived threat (Yuen et al., 2020), perceived lack of control (Chen et al., 2017) and attitude (Micalizzi et al., 2020); socio-psychological factors such as social influence (Kaur and Malik, 2020;Li et al., 2021;Naeem and Ozuem, 2021), social trust , peer influence (Prentice et al., 2022), social risk, social determination (Singh et al., 2021), social norm (Li et al., 2021), as well as neurological factors such as anxiety and depression (Herjanto et al., 2021), affect panic buying behaviour. ...
... According to compensatory control theory (CCT), consumers with lower perceived control try to gain a sense of control by exhibiting panic buying behaviour (Chen et al., 2017). Thus, individuals purchase certain products or services, aiming to feel they have a say in their lives by getting rid of negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, and concern (Laurin et al., 2008). ...
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... This reaction may be largely due to the relationship between trauma and anxiety sensitivity (Stanley et al., 2017), or the fear of anxiety-related sensations arising from the anticipation that these sensations will have negative cognitive, physical, or social consequences (Taylor et al., 2007). This potential fear development causes individuals to feel like they have lost control over their environment and may prevent coping since a precise appraisal is impeded (Chen et al., 2017). For instance, stimuli can begin to compound and make coping much more daunting since multiple exposures can become overwhelming (Pavia and Mason, 2004). ...
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Retailers must understand how trauma influences the consumer shopping journey and identify ways to mitigate any potential adverse effects. Two studies were conducted to explore trauma in the retail environment. First, a conceptual model was tested using structural equation modeling (SEM) based on survey data collected from 324 participants. Findings indicate that consumers who report previously experiencing traumatic events feel anxiety while shopping in retail environments, negatively influencing their ability to make purchase decisions. This outcome is due to challenges in adequately assessing stressful environmental stimuli and developing positive coping mechanisms. Consumer propensity for psychological hardiness was found to moderate this relationship. Next, a follow-up qualitative study from 110 consumers who reported experiencing instances of trauma identified potential ways for retailers to help consumers who have experienced trauma feel more comfortable in shopping environments. These findings extend research on trauma and consumer shopping behavior by identifying its impacts on choice confusion and stress appraisal and suggesting how retailers can support shoppers through a trauma-informed approach.
... In a capitalistic society -like the United States -product acquisition, particularly of utilitarian products (e.g., food, water, medicine, other household goods) (C. Y. Chen et al., 2017;Harrison, 2020), has long been a means to alleviate stress, trepidation, and worry, allowing for some sort of control in an otherwise chaotic situation (Arafat et al., 2020;Harrison, 2020;Micalizzi et al., 2021;Yuen et al., 2020). ...
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In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an unprecedented number of people purchasing firearms/ammunition. However, this was not the only way Americans responded to the pandemic: large swaths of the public also stayed at home and stockpiled goods. Twelve months later, as the pandemic raged, these coping mechanisms were still present as Americans continued to buy guns/ammunition, limit social interactions, and hoard supplies. Using two nationwide surveys conducted one year apart, we examine the extent and sources of gun/ammunition purchasing compared to staying home and panic buying during this unique moment in American history. Results from both surveys indicate that the factors that led to these divergent coping mechanisms vary. Both at the beginning of the pandemic and one year later, the likelihood of purchasing a firearm/ammunition was associated low self-control and White nationalism. Conversely, fear of the virus was associated with people staying home and amassing supplies.
... Lacking power is an aversive state and thus individuals are often motivated to reduce a state of powerlessness (Rucker and Galinsky, 2008). Consumers with low-power experience are eager to get rid of this negative psychological feeling in various ways, including compensating consumption (Chen et al., 2017). A focus on one's internal psychological experience of power produces a focus on what a product will do for an individual (Rucker and Galinsky, 2009), as a result, hedonic products were predicted to be particularly valued by the powerless as a means of elevating a negative feeling. ...
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... The manipulation check for product type included two questions from Chen et al. (2017): "Buying this product represents pleasure-oriented consumption (e.g., people buy something to have fun or an experience)", and "Buying this product represents goal-oriented consumption (e.g., people buy something to perform a function or task)" (1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree). The results suggest that the manipulation of product type was valid, with the perceived hedonic value of the cake being greater than that of the mouse (M Cake = 5.88, SD = 1.76; ...
In recent years, the extensive use of digital human avatar (DHA) endorsement has emerged. DHA endorsement often entails the use of real products, e.g., wearing real clothes, which raises the issue of the fit between a "fake" virtual image and a real product. Whether consumers feel a positive attitude toward this kind of fit is the basis of whether DHA endorsement can be successful. Accordingly, based on cue consistency theory, we infer that consumers generate positive attitudes toward DHA endorsement when there is a fit between a DHA and a real product. We therefore developed a DHA endorsement model to explain the antecedents and consequences of avatar-product fit, decomposing fit type into authenticity fit and association fit. Two tests were used to verify this model. Their results show that authenticity fit and association fit have significant positive impacts on consumer attitudes toward DHA endorsement. Furthermore, the influences of these two paths vary by product. For hedonic products, authenticity fit has a greater impact on attitudes; for utilitarian products, association fit is a more influential factor.
... Specifically, utilitarian products have a high degree of functional and practical characteristics; thus, purchasing utilitarian products can meet consumers' functional needs (Dhar & Wertenbroch, 2000). Utilitarian products can also help consumers solve problems and enhance personal control (Chen et al., 2017). ...
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Chapter
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Consumer goods and services have psychological value that can equal or exceed their functional value. A burgeoning literature demonstrates that one source of value emerges from the capacity for products to serve as a psychological salve that reduces various forms of distress across numerous domains. This review systematically organizes and integrates the literature on the use of consumer behavior as a means to regulate self-discrepancies, or the incongruities between how one currently perceives oneself and how one desires to view oneself (Higgins, 1987). We introduce a Compensatory Consumer Behavior Model to explain the psychological consequences of self-discrepancies on consumer behavior. This model delineates five distinct strategies by which consumers cope with self-discrepancies: direct resolution, symbolic self-completion, dissociation, escapism, and fluid compensation. Finally, the authors raise critical research questions to guide future research endeavors. Overall, the present review provides both a primer on compensatory consumer behavior and sets an agenda for future research.
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Shopping is an integral part of our everyday lives. Common wisdom suggests that many consumers engage in shopping and buying as a means to repair their negative feelings - a notion commonly referred to as retail therapy. However, does retail therapy really work? The present monograph seeks to address this question by proposing a tripartite approach, reviewing and organizing relevant research in marketing and consumer psychology based on this tripartite framework: (1) motivational (the goals and motives that consumers have for shopping); (2) behavioral (the activities in which consumers engage during the shopping process); and (3) emotional (the feelings that consumers experience while shopping). Although accumulating evidence suggests that retail therapy does work to a certain extent, simultaneously considering the three perspectives in future empirical investigation helps to further improve our understanding of the antecedents, underlying mechanisms, and consequences of retail therapy. Accordingly, a number of questions and directions for future research on the topic of retail therapy are discussed, drawing upon the proposed tripartite framework.
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Consumers often face situations in which their feelings of personal control are threatened. In such contexts, what role should products play in helping consumers pursue their goals (e.g., losing weight, maintaining a clean home)? Across five studies, we challenge the traditional view that low control is detrimental to effort and demonstrate that consumers prefer products that require them to engage in hard work when feelings of control are low. Such high-effort products reassure individuals that desired outcomes are possible while also enabling them to feel as if they have driven their own outcomes. We also identify important boundary conditions, finding that both the nature of individuals’ thoughts about control and their perceived rate of progress toward goals are important factors in the desire to exert increased effort.
Book
I: Background.- 1. An Introduction.- 2. Conceptualizations of Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination.- II: Self-Determination Theory.- 3. Cognitive Evaluation Theory: Perceived Causality and Perceived Competence.- 4. Cognitive Evaluation Theory: Interpersonal Communication and Intrapersonal Regulation.- 5. Toward an Organismic Integration Theory: Motivation and Development.- 6. Causality Orientations Theory: Personality Influences on Motivation.- III: Alternative Approaches.- 7. Operant and Attributional Theories.- 8. Information-Processing Theories.- IV: Applications and Implications.- 9. Education.- 10. Psychotherapy.- 11. Work.- 12. Sports.- References.- Author Index.
Chapter
The bulk of the research on perceived control indicates that we feel better about ourselves, are physically healthier, perform better on cognitive and manual tasks, cope better with adversity, and are better able to make desired behavioral changes if we have a sense of personal control (Thompson & Spacapan, 1991). Given these positive effects, it is not surprising that individuals are motivated to have control and tend to overestimate their abilities to influence events (Alloy & Abramson, 1979). However, it cannot be assumed that the motive to have control is without limit or disadvantage. For example, in “low-control” situations in which there are fewer opportunities for exercising effective control and increased likelihood that control perceptions will be disconfirmed, beliefs in personal control may not be beneficial and individuals may not overestimate their control. Not much is known about the motivation to believe that you have control when people are in life circumstances that limit the actual control available to them.