ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (11): 2595-2606.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.02595

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Residential mobility and consumption: Explanation based on regulatory focus theory

LIU Wumei, XIAO Haiyi, WANG Xuefeng()   

  1. School of Management, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
  • Received:2021-09-05 Online:2022-11-15 Published:2022-11-09
  • Contact: WANG Xuefeng


Residential mobility refers to the frequency with which people change their place of residence (i.e. move). As one of the key socio-ecological factors, it has a significant impact on individual’s cognition, emotions, and behaviors. Although the important effects of residential mobility on consumer psychology and behavior have already been outlined, no review studies have been found to summarize the consumer behavioral responses triggered by residential mobility or to explain this influence mechanism in a theoretical way. Based on this, this paper presents a review of studies on consumer psychological and behavioral responses to residential mobility, and categorizes the relevant research findings based on the regulatory focus theory, indicating that residential mobility leads consumers to adopt either a facilitative or a preventive response strategy. Furthermore, it is proposed that the autonomy and directional characteristics of residential mobility can explain the differences in the strategic choices of movers. Finally, a framework of facilitative and preventive strategies of residential mobility is constructed and several potential research questions are proposed.

By reviewing the research on consumer psychological and behavioral responses to residential mobility, we found two behavioral response paths. On the one hand, movers adopt a series of facilitative behaviors, such as expanding social networks, seeking uniqueness, and cooperating and assisting across groups, in order to obtain social resources, strength their individual selves, and pursue their identities. Such behaviors of actively acquiring resources for self-improvement fit well with the facilitative responses in the regulatory focus theory. On the other hand, the risk-averse behaviors of familiarity seeking, nostalgic consumption, and preference for short-term venture capital products to relieve anxiety and other negative emotions, reduce uncertainty, and increase the sense of control in life are consistent with the preventive responses of the regulatory focus theory. Therefore, this paper uses the regulatory focus theory to rationalize the findings of the relevant studies, and points out that different dimensions of residential mobility will lead consumers to adopt different response strategies of promotion or prevention.

Further analysis revealed that the autonomous and directional characteristics of residential mobility can indicate when mobile individuals adopt different response strategies. Specifically, when individuals are actively or upwardly mobile, they exhibit promotion focus and thus adopt facilitative behaviors,whereas when individuals are passively or downwardly mobile, they exhibit prevention focus and thus adopt preventive behaviors. Based on the above perspectives, we further explain the differences between the findings of existing research and construct a framework of facilitative and preventive strategies for residential mobility.

The generalization and explanation of the differential consumption behaviors caused by residential mobility can, on the one hand, provide a reference marketing practices such as identifying target customers; on the other hand, by constructing a framework of residential mobility promotion and prevention strategies, it can provide a direction and clarification for marketing scholars to conduct empirical research on residential mobility and related characteristics. Based on this, we propose that further research on the topic of residential mobility can be conducted in the following aspects in the future: (1) using residential mobility as an antecedent to investigate the interactive effects of residential mobility and trait-regulated orientation on consumer behavioral responses (2) using residential mobility as an outcome to investigate the interactive effects of trait-regulated orientation and state-regulated orientation on residential mobility and related consumer behavioral responses; (3) exploring the boundary conditions of the consequences of residential mobility; and (4) discussing the impact of the effects of residential mobility autonomy and orientation on consumer behavior in a more realistic context.

Key words: residential mobility, consumer behavior, regulatory focus

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