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Acta Psychologica Sinica    2019, Vol. 51 Issue (6) : 699-713     DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2019.00699
Reports of Empirical Studies |
When will consumers choose brands associated with dissociative groups?
YANG Defeng,JIANG Xia(),SONG Qianwen()
School of Management, Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China
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Prior research has consistently demonstrated that consumers have a negative preference for brands associated with dissociative groups. Conditions under which these preferences might be changed have remained largely unexamined. The current work investigates the effect of threat of freedom on consumers’ preferences for brands associated with dissociative groups. We propose that consumers who experience a high level of threat of freedom will prefer brands associated with dissociative groups. This effect is mediated by a heightened feeling of psychological reactance induced by the high level of threat of freedom. We also examined the moderating role of narrative and self-esteem on the effect.

One pilot experiment and three laboratory experiments were conducted to test our conceptualization. In experiment 1, we assessed the basic effect by which threat of freedom influences consumers’ preferences for brands associated with dissociative groups. In this experiment, we also examined the mediating effect of psychological reactance. In experiment 2, we tested the robustness of the effect found in experiment 1 and investigated the moderating role of means of narrative through a two-by-two inter-subject design (freedom threat: low vs. high and means of narrative: yes vs. no). In experiment 3, we investigated the moderating role of self-esteem through a two-by-two mixed design (freedom threat: low vs. high and self-esteem: low vs. high).

The results of three experiments confirm our predictions. The results of experiment 1 showed that the participants in the high threat-of-freedom group tended to prefer brands associated with dissociative groups. This effect was found to be mediated by psychological reactance. In experiment 2, our findings showed that the influence of threat of freedom on consumers’ preference for brands associated with dissociative groups was replicated when a non-narrative information transmission model was used, and the effect was mitigated when a narrative information transmission mode was used. Finally, experiment 3 confirmed the moderating role of self-esteem by showing that participants with high self-esteem tended to prefer brands associated with dissociative groups when they experienced high vs. low threat of freedom. For participants with low self-esteem, such effects became non-significantly different.

The current research has theoretical and practical contributions in the following aspects. First, it contributes to the literature of dissociative groups by documenting a condition in which consumers’ negative attitude toward brands associated with dissociative groups can be improved. Second, this research extends the current literature on threat of freedom by revealing a preference for brands associated with dissociative groups as a new behavioral downstream. Finally, our findings have clear marketing implications. Certain types of consumers may experience varying levels of threat of freedom. Marketers may consider using actors who represent a dissociative identity in their marketing communications to attract this type of consumers.

Keywords dissociative groups      threat of freedom      psychological reactance      means of narrative      self-esteem     
ZTFLH:  B849:C93  
Corresponding Authors: Xia JIANG,Qianwen SONG     E-mail:;
Issue Date: 25 April 2019
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Defeng YANG
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Defeng YANG,Xia JIANG,Qianwen SONG. When will consumers choose brands associated with dissociative groups?[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2019, 51(6): 699-713.
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