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Acta Psychologica Sinica
The Impact of Loneliness on Consumer Preference of Uncertain Consumption: New Products, Product Packaging and Probabilistic Promotions
CHEN Rui; ZHENG Yuhuang
(School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China)
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Despite the popularity of social networks and new technologies that make social interactions easier, more and more people feel lonely now than before. Prior research suggested that loneliness significantly affected social behavior, psychological cognition and physiological health, but little research has been done in the domain of consumer behavior. Building on prior research about loneliness, perceived loss of control and uncertainty avoidance, this paper argues that loneliness will cause perceived loss of control, which consequently will make consumers more uncertainty avoiding. A series of three studies were conducted in both China and the U.S. to test the above hypotheses in the consumption domains of new products, product packaging and probabilistic promotions. Study 1 used a 2 (product type: novel Sony speaker vs. traditional Sony speaker) × loneliness (continuous measurement) between-subjects design to test the aforementioned hypothesis. 102 participants from Amazon’s M-Turk pool were randomly assigned to one of the two product type groups. After reading information about a novel Sony speaker (or a traditional Sony speaker), participants evaluated the product and then completed the loneliness scale and some other demographic information. The results revealed a significant interaction between product type and loneliness. Specifically, loneliness had no effect on the evaluation of the traditional Sony speaker, but loneliness was significantly negatively correlated to the evaluation of the novel Sony speaker. Study 2 used a similar design as Study 1 to further test our proposition in the domain of product packaging (transparent vs. non-transparent packaging). 123 participants were randomly assigned to one of the two groups in which there were asked to imagine shopping for nuts with either transparent or non-transparent product packaging and consequently to indicate their preferences of the nuts. The results showed a significant interaction of product packaging and loneliness. Specifically, loneliness had no effect on the preferences of the nuts with transparent packaging, but loneliness was significantly negatively correlated to the preferences of the nuts with non-transparent packaging. Study 3 aims to further test our proposition in the consumption domain of probabilistic promotions and to test the underlying mechanism of perceived loss of control. Participants were first asked to make a choice between a certain discount promotion and a probabilistic promotion. Then, they were asked to fill out a set of items to measure their perceived loss of control and loneliness. The results showed that the more lonely participants were, the less likely for them to choose the probabilistic promotion. More importantly, perceived loss of control totally mediates the effect of loneliness on their preferences of probabilistic promotions. In summary, this research finds that loneliness causes uncertainty avoidance in consumption preferences, across a variety of consumption domains including new products, product packaging and probabilistic promotions. Further, this effect was mediated by lonely consumers’ perceived loss of control. Finally, the findings have important implications both theoretically and practically. Theoretically, our research is the first to show that other than the attachment motivation, loneliness can also affect people’s cognition that consequently affects their consumption behavior. Practically, our research suggests that firms should weaken the uncertain information featured in new products and probabilistic promotions or use transparent product packaging for lonely consumers such as the elderly or disabled.

Keywords loneliness      perceived loss of control      new products      transparent packaging      probabilistic promotions     
Corresponding Authors: ZHENG Yuhuang, E-mail:   
Issue Date: 25 August 2015
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CHEN Rui,ZHENG Yuhuang. The Impact of Loneliness on Consumer Preference of Uncertain Consumption: New Products, Product Packaging and Probabilistic Promotions[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2015.01067
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