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Acta Psychologica Sinica    2020, Vol. 52 Issue (2) : 216-228     DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2020.00216
Reports of Empirical Studies |
The effect of social crowding on individual preference for self-improvement products
DING Ying,ZHONG Jiaqi()
School of Business, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China
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As the world population continues to grow, social crowding has become a ubiquitous and pervasive phenomenon in daily life. A growing body of research has mainly investigated the negative consequences of social crowding on individual cognition and behavior. However, little research attention has been given to its potential positive outcomes. This research documents that to cope with social crowding, individuals are motivated to choose self-improvement products. Our findings suggest this effect is mediated by the need for self-improvement and moderated by perceived social equity and employment rate.

Four studies were conducted to test the proposed hypotheses. Experiment 1 established the main effect of social crowding on individual preference for self-improvement products using a 2 (social crowding: crowded vs. uncrowded) between-subject design. In Experiment 2, we collected data from subways and compared the choice for self-improvement products during rush hours (crowded condition) and non-rush hours (uncrowded condition). Experiment 3 aimed to rule out perceived busyness as an alternative explanation. Experiment 4 further employed secondary cross-sectional data from the 2015 Chinese General Social Survey (N = 10, 229) to examine the moderating effects of perceived social equity and employment rate. The self-improvement index was abstracted from answers to the question “During the past year, how often did you learn to recharge in your spare time?” Perceived social equity was measured by answering “To what extent do you think society is fair?” We then calculated provincial population density and employment rate.

Experiment 1 documented the effect of social crowding on self-improvement products in a laboratory setting. We found that social crowding strengthened participants’ preference for self-improvement products, but it did not significantly change their liking toward general products. The results of Experiment 2 replicated the effect, that is, participants mainly preferred self-improvement products when feeling crowded (Mcrowded = 3.77, SD = 1.65 vs. Muncrowded = 5.07, SD = 1.48), F(1, 58) = 10.27, p = 0.002, Cohen’s d = -4.53. This effect was mediated by the need for self-improvement (95% CI = 0.0108 to 0.6388). Experiment 3 ruled out the mediating role of perceived busyness (95% CI = -1.2613 to 0.4922). In Study 4, linear least squares (OLS) confirmed the effect of population density on the frequency of residents’ learning to improve themselves. We further examined the moderating role of perceived social equity and employment rate. Perceived social equity moderated this effect, that is, when people perceived social equity as high, the influence of crowdedness on self-improvement behavior was intensified. However, this effect was attenuated when social equity was deemed low. In addition, high density strengthened the self-improvement behavior of participants from regions with low employment rates. However, this effect was attenuated for those from regions with high employment rates.

In summary, this research provides an initial investigation into the influence of social crowding on the preference for self-improvement products and its underlying process. This research contributes to the existing literature by identifying the positive behavioral consequence of social crowding.

Keywords social crowding      self-improvement product      perceived social equity      employment rate     
ZTFLH:  B849: F713.55  
Corresponding Authors: Jiaqi ZHONG     E-mail:
Issue Date: 24 December 2019
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Cite this article:   
Ying DING,Jiaqi ZHONG. The effect of social crowding on individual preference for self-improvement products[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2020, 52(2): 216-228.
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自变量 model_1 model_2 model_3
ln (density) 0.18***
[0.1584, 0.1991]
[0.1507, 0.1892]
[0.0875, 0.1256]
ln (age) -0.93***
[-0.9833, -0.8794]
[-0.9038, -0.8034]
sex (0 = female) 0.16***
[0.1222, 0.2010]
[0.1538, 0.2295]
ln (wage) 0.03***
[0.0261, 0.0367]
[0.0103, 0.0207]
幸福感 0.10***
[0.0765, 0.1232]
个人经济地位 -0.23***
[-0.2608, -0.1906]
所处区域 (城市 vs. 农村) 0.47***
[0.4333, 0.5125]
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