Please wait a minute...
Acta Psychologica Sinica    2016, Vol. 48 Issue (7) : 880-890     DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2016.00880
Consumers’ power states and impulsive buying
JIN Fei1; ZHU Huawei2
(1 Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China) (2 Economics and Management School, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, China)
Download: PDF(489 KB)   Review File (1 KB) 
Export: BibTeX | EndNote | Reference Manager | ProCite | RefWorks    

Power has long been a common and fundamental component of social systems and organizations and it is also a psychological state of individuals. The circumstance around us can change our current power state at any moment. The influence of power on human behavior and the underlying mechanism have been pervasively examined in the psychology and other sociology literatures. These literatures suggest that power is an omnipresent force which can affect humans’ cognition, preference and behavior. However, it has been largely neglected in consumer behavior research. Prior research has been focused on product preference, consumption utilities and brand switch behavior. Based on current literatures, we explored the relationship between power states and impulsive buying which is very common in consumer behavior but underexplored. We proposed the impulsive buying was largely due to a fluency effect derived from match between different power states and product categories. Given this finding, the authors then demonstrated an important boundary condition by priming powerful participants’ hedonic goals. Three studies were conducted to check the propositions. Experiment 1 supported the interaction effects of power and product categories on impulsive buying through 2 (power: high vs. low) × 2 (product category: utilitarian vs. hedonic) between-subjects design. 123 university students participated the experiment. Study 2 primed power states via role play. A total of 168 participants completed a study with a 2 (power: high vs. low) × 2 (product category: utilitarian vs. hedonic) between-subjects design. In this study, we utilized a new product (i.e. a smart watch) to enhance the external validity. Further, we aimed to check the underlying mechanism. Based on extant research, we tested the role of fluency and deservingness. In study 3, we changed the product presentation mode to assess the basic proposition and the moderating role of hedonic goals among participants in high power state. 115 undergraduate students participated the 2 (power: high vs. low) × 2 (hedonic goal: stimulate vs. no stimulate) × 2 (product categories: utilitarian vs. hedonic) mixed design, with power and hedonic goal between-subjects design and product within-subjects design. The results of these three studies provided supports for our theorizing: (1) Participants in high power state showed more impulsive intention in utilitarian condition, whereas those in low power state prefer hedonic product. (2) Study 2 provided robust evidence for the interaction effects and the underlying mechanism of processing fluency when participants in different power states faced different product types. (3) Participants in high power state preferred the hedonic product when they were stimulated hedonic goals. However, such effect was not applied to participants in the low power state which confirmed our basic proposition that the power states and the product categories affected impulsive buying again. The research concluded by discussing the theoretical contributions of our findings and managerial implications for practice. Firstly, we propose a new means to broaden the understanding of power and consumer behavior, which enriches the relevant research on power. Secondly, by showing the relation between power and impulsive buying and that processing fluency plays a mediating role in this effect, our research offers a new explanation to understand impulses. Last but not the least, the result makes beneficial supplement to Approach-Inhibition Theory by showing the powerless may buy hedonic product impulsively. Beyond the theoretical implications, this article offers critical insights for marketers.

Keywords impulsive buying      power      fluency      hedonic goals.     
Corresponding Authors: ZHU Huawei, E-mail:   
Issue Date: 25 July 2016
E-mail this article
E-mail Alert
Articles by authors
Cite this article:   
JIN Fei; ZHU Huawei. Consumers’ power states and impulsive buying[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica,2016, 48(7): 880-890.
URL:     OR
[1] ZHANG Yin, LIANG Tengfei, YE Chaoxiong, LIU Qiang. The inhibitory effect of long-term associative representation on working memory[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2020, 52(5): 562-571.
[2] HE Xiaoling,CHEN Jun. Cognitive development of multiple metaphors of power concepts in 3~5 year-old children[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2020, 52(2): 149-161.
[3] WANG Jianfeng, DAI Bing. The pursuit of fame at the expense of profit: The influence of power motive and social presence on prosocial behavior[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2020, 52(1): 55-65.
[4] FU Anguo,ZHANG Zaisheng,ZHENG Jianhong,YUE Tong,LIN Zhaohong,WU Na,HUANG Xiting. Qualitative research on the endogenous power mechanism for poverty elimination[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2020, 52(1): 66-80.
[5] SUN Qian,LONG Changquan,WANG Xiuxin,LIU Yongfang. Fairness or benefit? The effect of power on distributive fairness[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2019, 51(8): 958-968.
[6] ZHU Yue,XIE Jiangpei,JIN Yanghua,SHI Junqi. Power disparity and team conflict: The roles of procedural Justice and legitimacy[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2019, 51(7): 829-840.
[7] YANG Chen,CHEN Zeng-Xiang. Do numbers have shape? The matching effect between precise numerical information and brand logo shape[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2019, 51(7): 841-856.
[8] LI Ting, WEI Xiaoping, ZHENG Zixin, YI Xiangjie, ZHAO Xueru, HE Xianyou. The effects of different power relations on negation bias of negative descriptions[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2019, 51(6): 714-723.
[9] JI Hao,XIE Xiao-Yun,XIAO Yong-Ping,GAN Xiao-Le,FENG Wen. Does power hierarchy benefit or hurt team performance? The roles of hierarchical consistency and power struggle[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2019, 51(3): 366-382.
[10] CHEN Ying,LI Fengying,LI Weijian. The influence of learner’s beliefs about processing fluency on font-size effect[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2019, 51(2): 154-162.
[11] LI Xiao-dan,DING Dao-qun,YE Hao-sheng. The influence of embodied implicit power on fair decision making[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2019, 51(1): 106-116.
[12] CHENG Yahua, WANG Jian, WU Xinchun.  The role of morphological awareness in Chinese children’s reading comprehension: The mediating effect of word reading fluency[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2018, 50(4): 413-425.
[13] . The effects of power on human behavior: The perspective of regulatory focus[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2017, 49(3): 404-415.
[14] ZHOU Yuanyuan, HU Yangli, ZHAO Yancheng.  What do you listen to under the pressure of time? The moderator effects of reference group on impulsive buying[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2017, 49(11): 1439-1448.
[15] ZHANG Lijin; BI Yuan; LIANG Yi; LIU Minhong. Early screening and dynamic intervention of children with insufficient number sense[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2016, 48(7): 804-817.
Full text



Copyright © Acta Psychologica Sinica
Support by Beijing Magtech