ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2014, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (11): 1748-1759.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2014.01748

Previous Articles     Next Articles

When One Is Dying, Will H/She Buy Domestic Products? Exploring Whether, Why and When the Exposure to Death-related Information Will (Not) Increase Domestic Brand Choices

LIU Wumei1; WANG Haizhong2; HE Liu3   

  1. (1 School of Management, Lanzhou University, Lan Zhou 730000, China); (2 School of Business, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guang Zhou 510275, China) (3 School of Business, Wu Yi University, Jiang Men 529020, China)
  • Received:2014-01-09 Published:2014-11-25 Online:2014-11-25
  • Contact: WANG Haizhong, E-mail:


Death exposure sells newspapers. Each of us is inevitably exposed to death everyday (e.g., read newspapers, listen to radios, etc.). Though data from consumers of western developed countries showed that death exposure could increase preference for the domestic products to foreign products, up to date, no research examined whether death exposure would drive consumers from developing countries to choose domestic products. Research on terror management theory argues that death exposure can trigger two defensive mechanisms: supporting cultural worldviews and seeking for self-esteem, while recent research further finds that consumers from developing countries tend to prefer buying foreign products to enhance their self-esteem and to seek for high social status. Thus we expect that when consumers from developing countries are exposed to death-related information, they may simultaneously adopt two defensive mechanisms: to choose foreign products to enhance their self-esteem, and to choose domestic products to support their cultural worldviews. The authors examined which of these two competitive mechanisms would prevail, finding that the cultural worldview defensive mechanism excelled, death exposure forced consumers from developing countries to choose domestic products. Further, recent research on TMT reported that death exposure triggered a strong patriotism emotion among consumers from western developed countries, which in turn resulted in their higher preference for the domestic products. The authors argue and find that feelings of control, rather than patriotism emotions mediate the effect of death exposure on domestic product choices of consumers from developing countries. More important, past research did not examine when death exposure would not increase domestic product purchase, the authors investigate this issue and find that after priming consumers’ warm interpersonal support, they will no longer choose domestic products. The authors conduct two experiments to examine whether, why and when death exposure will (not) increase domestic product choices of consumers from developing countries via changing ways of manipulating death exposure and altering product categories. Experiment 1 investigates whether and why death exposure (will) affect consumers’ product choices, finding that death exposure lowers participants’ feelings of personal control, thus to compensate for such a loss they choose domestic products with the hope that domestic country ingroups can help them regain agency control. After controlling for the influence of patriotism emotions, magnitude of fear death and ingroup identification, the mediating role of low feelings of personal control are still found to be significant. In Experiment 2, the authors further examine when death exposure will have no impact on consumers’ domestic product choice, finding that after strengthen consumers’ belongingness needs (via manipulating supportive interpersonal relationships), consumers encountering with death fear will not choose domestic products any more. The article theoretically enriches and advances consumer research in the domain of terror management and country-of-origin stereotypes, and managerially provides useful implications on organizational management in general, and on domestic brands’ advertising, social responsibility activities and new product innovation in particular.

Key words: loss of personal control, death exposure, domestic brand choices, belongingness, terror management theory