ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (10): 2194-2205.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.02194

• Conceptual Framework • Previous Articles     Next Articles

How does decision making process signal social status? A maximizing decision making perspective

LUAN Mo1(), WU Shuang2   

  1. 1International School of Business, University of International Business and Economics, Beijing 100029, China
    2Rady School of Management, University of California-San Diego, La Jolla, CA, 92093, USA
  • Received:2022-01-19 Online:2022-10-15 Published:2022-08-24
  • Contact: LUAN Mo


Social status signaling is a fundamental motive that drives consumer behavior. Previous research on consumer psychology largely focuses on how social status can be signaled by the characteristics of products, but rarely explores how consumer decision process, another pivotal element of consumer decision-making, affects social status inference. Decision process is a vital part of consumer behavior. Similar to product characteristics, it is easy to observe and easy to control. The current research aims to build a social status inference model based on information about the maximizing decision process. We will systematically examine the following three questions. First, does maximizing, as a decision-making process, signal consumers’ social status? If so, how? We propose a moderated mediation model with perceived agency as the mediating mechanism and subjective decision experience and social mobility belief as boundary conditions. Building upon research on social status inference, our research will address the lack of focus on purchasing process in past research and broaden the scope of research on social status inference. Building upon research on maximizing, we will examine how maximizing influences social status inference by observers, which extends research on maximizing to an interpersonal level. Second, does the motivation to signal social status drive consumers to maximize? Individuals may adopt a maximizing decision strategy to signal social status. We will approach the question from a social status perspective and examine whether need for social status explains why consumers maximize during decision making. Third, how does consumers’ maximizing decision process influence their observers’ subsequent consumption behavior through social status inference? We will examine how perceived agency and social status inference serially mediate the effect of maximizing on consumers’ influence, reflected by observers’ advice seeking, reliance on consumers’ reviews, and purchase decisions. We will test the serial mediation model in two domains: reviews generated by consumers and advertisements generated by companies. The current research will study maximizing at an interpersonal level by examining how maximizing influences the attitude and behavior of observers. Furthermore, our research will help companies and marketers understand how decision process, described in user reviews, affect status inference and observers’ subsequent consumption. As a result, companies and marketers can nudge consumers to provide more descriptions about their decision process in the review, thereby helping with word-of-mouth marketing. Our research will also help companies and marketers understand how decision process related to product design and manufacturing, described in advertisements, affects status inference and consumers’ subsequent consumption. As a result, companies and marketers can design more effective advertisements by providing more information about the decision process. In conclusion, our research will provide a new perspective for research on social status inference, expand the scope of research on maximizing and shed new light on the underlying causes of maximizing.

Key words: maximizing decision making, social status inference, consumer decision process, perceived agency, social influence

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