ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2017, Vol. 49 ›› Issue (2): 273-284.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2017.00273

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The influence of the perceived status change on status consumption

JIN Xiaotong1; ZHAO Taiyang1; CUI Hongjing2; XU Wei1; LI Guangzheng3   

  1. (1 Business School, Jilin University, Changchun 130012, China) (2 School of Business Administration, Jilin University of Finance and Economics, Changchun 130117, China) (3 School of Education Science, Jiangsu Normal University, Xuzhou 221116, China)
  • Received:2016-04-08 Published:2017-02-25 Online:2017-02-25
  • Contact: ZHAO Taiyang, E-mail:


Consumers’ perceived status change has an important influence on their status consumption. Consumers may manipulate their social status by purchasing or owning a brand that enhances their social status. Since threats to one’s social status often lead to psychological aversion, consumers tend to select and purchase goods that can be affiliated with people of higher social status in order to improve peer evaluations on their social status and thus compensate their psychological inferiority. Meanwhile, because of the human nature that desires positive self-image, perceived status improvement will evoke consumers’ self-enhancement motivation, through purchasing products that are associated with high social status. In the experiment 1, 183 MBA students were first asked to rate themselves as well as their peers on the perceived status index and then they received feedback of a randomly generated ranking. This was conducted to manipulate their perceived social status. Next, their purchase intention towards status related goods and non-status related goods were measured. In the experiment 2,568 undergraduate students were asked to complete an IQ test and then they were informed of their individual rankings based on their test score, which were in fact randomly generated. Their self-enhancement motivation, self-compensation motivation, perceived power and self-esteem were measured, along with their purchase intention towards status goods and non-status goods. In the experiment 3, 96 participants were instructed to recall a status-threatening event (manipulation group) or a non-status threatening event (control group) that occurs in the social context. Participants then completed a “Traditional vs. New Consumption Value” survey and were asked to imagine a shopping experience. Finally, their status consumption likelihood was measured. Our results demonstrated that improved status perception increased consumers’ intention to purchase status goods, but not the non-status goods; while threatened status perception drove their purchase intention towards both status and non-status goods. Self-enhancement motivation (self-compensation motivation) mediated the influence of improved status perception (threatened status perception) on intention to purchase status goods. Certain traditional Chinese cultural values, like modesty, had negative impacts on the extent to which customer would achieve self-compensation through status consumption. On the other hand, Western cultural values, like self-realization, were found to enhance consumer status consumption likelihood as a means to fulfill self- compensation. This study examining perceived status provides a new perspective of understanding the complexity of status consumption of individual consumers, which has been largely overlooked by social stratification theory pertaining to status consumption. Our research has also advanced our knowledge of the mediating mechanism underlying the relationship between status perception and status goods consumption. In addition, this study extends the Western-based compensatory consumption theory by introducing culture values as a moderating variable, and thus enrich the cultural diversity of the theory.

Key words: status perception, status consumption, compensatory consumption, self-enhancement, cultural values