ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2022, Vol. 54 ›› Issue (8): 979-995.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2022.00979

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Try something new together: Joint consumption fosters choice of unfamiliar products

RAN Yaxuan1, ZHANG Puyue1, CHEN Siyun2, XIANG Diandian1   

  1. 1School of Business Administration, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, Wuhan 430073, China
    2School of Management, Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China
  • Published:2022-08-25 Online:2022-06-23


Joint consumption is pervasive in daily life, such as watching movies with friends, eating out with family, and shopping for communal kitchens with roommates. Comparing with individual consumption, decisions in joint consumption are distinct in various aspects. The number of existing studies on joint consumption is increasing year by year, but the research topics are too scattered to form a system. Previous research can be divided into three categories: driving factors, decision results and their influencing factors and subsequent consequences. However, very few studies have examined whether consumers would behave differently in the context of individual and joint consumption. In the current research, we extend the extent literature by examining how consumer respond to exploration behavior when shopping either individually or with others.
Choosing between familiar and unfamiliar products is one of the most common forms of exploratory behavior. Perceived risk is an important factor affecting this choice. According to the risky shift theory, an individual in a group has greater risk-taking tendencies than when alone because sharing the decision result could weaken the perceived risk of each group member. In addition, there are researches showing mere being accompanied by others also decreases risk perception. Therefore, we inference that comparing with individual consumption, consumers in joint consumption would perceive less risk so that they prefer unfamiliar options. Nonetheless, the main hypothesis is limited. In the light of product category risk and impression management, this effect appears only when individuals face with low-risk products and are with close companions. The research framework is shown in Figure 1.
Five studies were conducted to examine our hypotheses. As a lab experiment, Study 1a (N = 138) was a 2 (consumption situation: individual vs. joint) between-subjects design, which proved that participants in the joint condition (67.57%) were more likely to choose the unfamiliar product than those in the individual condition (50%; χ2 (1) = 2.94, p = 0.086, φ = 0.17; Figure 2).
Study 1b (N = 263) repeated the main effect with a 3 (consumption situation: individual vs. joint with friends vs. joint with families) between-subjects design and also excluded the potential influence of relationship type on this effect. Comparison between groups showed (Figure 3) that comparing with participants consuming individually (45.2%), those consuming with friends (60.2%; χ2 (1) = 3.53, p = 0.060, φ = 0.15) and those with family members (60.7%; χ2 (1) = 4.23, p = 0.040, φ = 0.15) had higher preference for the unfamiliar restaurant. Meanwhile, there was no significant difference between the two joint consumption situations (p = 0.943).
And by changing the manipulation and measurement method, Study 2 (N = 150) verified the mediating effect of perceived risk (indirect effect = 0.33, SE = 0.16, 95% CI: [0.0137, 0.6536]; Figure 4) with a 2 (consumption situation: individual vs. joint) between-subjects design. And it also ruled out the alternative explanation of emotional arousal (indirect effect = 0.088, SE = 0.071, 95% CI: [−0.0178, 0.2555]).
Study 3 (N = 213) was 3 (consumption situation: individual vs. joint with a close friend vs. joint with a distant friend) between-subjects design. It identified two important moderating variables. On the one hand, by comparing individual and joint with a close friend situations, there was no significant difference in decision outcomes of high-risk products, such as movie (t(143) = 0.08, p = 0.934), movie theater (t(143) = 0.56, p = 0.580) and hand sanitizer (t(143) = 0.74, p = 0.458). We can only investigate the effect of joint consumption among low-risk products, such as popcorn (M individual = 4.93, SD = 1.42; M close friend = 5.36, SD = 1.20; t(143) = 2.00, p = 0.048, d = 0.33). On the other hand, shown in Figure 5, participants with close friends (M close friends = 5.36, SD = 1.20) were more interested in unfamiliar products than those consuming alone (M individual = 4.93, SD = 1.42; t(143) = 1.86, p = 0.048, d = 0.33) and those consuming with distant friends (M distant friend = 4.96, SD = 1.190; t(140) = 2.04, p = 0.044, d = 0.36). There was no significant difference between the latter two groups (p = 0.906). Additionally, it examined the mediating role of perceived risk (indirect effect = 0.04, SE = 0.03, 90% CI: [0.0013, 0.0864]) and excluded the alternative explanation of diffusion of responsibility (indirect effect = −0.01, SE = 0.01, 90% CI: [−0.0347, 0.0112]).
Study 4 (N = 148) extended the scope of application of this main effect with a 2 (consumption situation: individual vs. joint) between-subjects design. The result showed that even when faced with daily choices in non-consumption situations, participants under joint consumption showed exploratory behavior (Mindividual = 1.17, SD = 1.08; Mjoint = 1.66, SD = 1.16; t(146) = 2.61, p = 0.010, d = 0.44).
Our investigation suggests that joint consumption (vs. individual consumption) encourages consumers to try new and unfamiliar products/services through a decreased perception of consumption risk. This effect would be attenuated when consumers are shopping with distant companions or when consumers face the choice of high-risk products/services. Our findings supplement the literature on joint consumption, exploration behavior and risk-shift theory, while practically suggesting that managers can integrate the joint consumption context into the new product promotion process by defining product positioning.

Key words: joint consumption, unfamiliar product, perceived risk, collective decision-making, risk-shift theory