ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2016, Vol. 48 ›› Issue (12): 1589-1599.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2016.01589

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The effect of power on consumers’ nostalgia preferences

CHEN Huan; BI Sheng; PANG Jun   

  1. (School of Business, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China)
  • Received:2015-09-24 Published:2016-12-24 Online:2016-12-24
  • Contact: PANG Jun, E-mail:


Power is defined as a capacity to influence others or as immunity to the influence of others. The experience of low power is an aversive state of being, motivating consumers to regain perceived power by purchasing status-related products. Nostalgic consumption refers to consumers’ preferences for nostalgic products, brands, or advertisements. Prior research suggests that anxiety, insecurity, stress, and social exclusion would increase nostalgic consumption as nostalgia can bring out positive emotions and social belongingness. Yet, little has been done to examine the relationship between power and nostalgic consumption. In this study, we propose nostalgic consumption as a new strategy to cope with a low power state. Specifically, we argue that low power makes consumers feel that their lives are meaningless, which would activate a need to search for meaning. Nostalgic products can help consumers attain meaning in life by activating memories of personally significant events and boosting perceptions of social connectedness. Therefore, consumers in a state of low power are more likely to prefer nostalgic products than those in the state of high power and motivation to search for meaning in life mediates this effect. We conducted three studies to test these hypotheses. Study 1 explored the relationship between power and consumers’ nostalgia preferences. One hundred and five participants took part in the experiment and were randomly assigned to the nostalgic or non-nostalgic condition. They first completed a Life Style and Personality Survey, which measured their chronic sense of power. After that, they read a nostalgic or non-nostalgic ad and then reported their preferences for the brand in the ad. Study 2 examined the causal effect of power on consumers’ nostalgia preferences. One hundred and forty-six participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: high power, low power, and a control. The experiment consisted of a priming task used to manipulate power and a choice task asking participants to choose between a nostalgic-themed concert and a non-nostalgic-themed concert. Study 3 was intended to replicate the previous findings and test the mediating effect of the motivation to search for meaning. Forty-eight participants were randomly assigned to the high-power or low-power condition. We manipulated power using a recall task, followed by a measure asking participants to what extent they wanted to search for meaning in life. Following that, participants were asked to choose their favorite brand among four alternatives: two nostalgic brands and two non-nostalgic brands. The results of Study 1 showed that power was negatively associated with participants’ preferences for the nostalgic brand (b = –0.44, t(45) = –2.08, p = 0.044), and this relationship was not significant for the non-nostalgic brand. In Study 2, participants primed with low power were more likely to choose the nostalgic- themed concert (χ2(2) = 23.32, p < 0.001, φ = 0.40) and indicated more favorable attitudes toward it (F(2,143) = 23.84, p < 0.001, η2 = 0.25) than those primed with low power and those in the control condition. In Study 3, we replicated the effect of power on nostalgia preference (χ2(1) = 3.46, p = 0.06, φ = 0.27) and found evidence for a full mediating process of the motivation to search for meaning in life (95% CI = –3.29 ~ –0.10). Our research is the first to demonstrate the relationship between consumers' state of power and their preferences for nostalgic consumption. Furthermore, the results suggest that nostalgic consumption is a particular strategy for consumers to cope with the negative experience caused by low power. In addition, we identify the concept of motivation to search for meaning in life as the underlying mechanism, which is also novel to the literature. Beyond the theoretical contributions, our findings provide important implications for people on how to cope with the negative state of low power, as well as for firms on how to improve the effectiveness of nostalgia marketing.

Key words: power, nostalgia, nostalgic consumption, meaning in life, coping strategy. Note, We appreciate Atanas Nik Nikolov’s help with this abstract.