ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2024, Vol. 32 ›› Issue (4): 677-688.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2024.00677

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Solitude and its effect and psychological mechanisms in the marketing field

HOU Jiawen, LIU Fengjun(), MENG Lu   

  1. School of Business, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China
  • Received:2023-07-28 Online:2024-04-15 Published:2024-02-29
  • Contact: LIU Fengjun


With the change of social structure and economic development, the phenomenon of population urbanization and migrant working has led to the rapid growth of the number of solitary people. Solitude has become a normal part of life for most people, which promoting the rapid rise of the “Single Economy”. Many scholars from psychology, neurology and marketing begin to focus on the impact of solitude on individual’s decision-making strategies and consumption behavior, they want to explore the individual’s psychological and behavioral performance, and consumers’ consumption attitudes and product preference when solitude. For both businesses and researchers, they need to understand what differences exist in consumers’ emotional and psychological experiences based on different motivations for solitude behavior, and what changes these differences may have on consumer behavior. In this study, we first review the definition, motivation and type of solitude: solitude refers to a state in which individuals do not interact socially with others, and it can be divided into two types: positive solitude (voluntary solitude) and negative solitude (involuntary solitude) based on internal and external motivations. Although the concepts of solitude, loneliness and social exclusion/social isolation are similar in some respects: social exclusion/social isolation is one of the causes of negative solitude (involuntary solitude), and loneliness is one of the negative emotions that individuals experience when in a state of solitude/social exclusion/social isolation. However, these three concepts are fundamentally different in terms of connotations, emotional responses and causes, and do not constitute either a sufficient or a necessary condition for each other. Solitude is a neutral concept that refers to a objectively behavioral state; loneliness is a subjectively perceived negative emotion, not only generated by the individual in the state of involuntary solitude, but also represents the subjective feeling of the individual from the unsatisfied and lower-than-expected quantity and quality of the social network, and feelings of the lack of social connection and companionship; social exclusion/social isolation reflects an individual’s social status and is a manifestation of an individual’s inability to participate in normal social activities due to social blockage or disengagement caused by the breakdown of social relationships.

Then, we probe into the inducing factors of solitude from internal factors and external factors: internal factors mainly refer to the individual’s own personality traits and subjective willingness, they choose to cut all the social connections with the outside world in a time; while external factors mainly refers to the influence of other people and the external environment, which mainly including poor interpersonal relationships, the individual’s work and life environment that leads to unsatisfied social needs, and the influence of the socio-cultural environment. Then, we propose the impact of solitude on consumer behavior from the two aspects of internal motivation and external motivation: Individuals do not have social needs when they are in positive solitude (voluntary solitude), they will pay more attention to satisfy their internal needs, with self-satisfaction and self-pleasure, self-improvement and self-realization as the main consumption motivation, and prefer to carry out consumption behaviors without social attributes, i.e., without interacting with other people, such as purchasing miniature products, singing and improving themselves through offline mini-gallery, mini-fitness barn, independent bookstore, single-person theaters, or online APP to realize singing, reading, painting, fitness, movie watching and other forms of self-pleasure and enhancement. Individuals want to create social interactions and establish social connections through linking up with the external environment or others when they are in negative solitude (involuntary solitude), so they take the establishment of social connections and emotional support as their main consumption motivation, and prefer consumption scenes or product types with social attributes, such as interactive experience-type consumption, ritual consumption, etc., as well as the creation of virtual socialization through human-computer interactions and online communities. To satisfy social needs, they also purchase corresponding items to seek a sense of security and belonging, establish emotional ties, or avoid interpersonal experiences based on self-protection mechanisms when socializing. As a result, a theoretical framework of consumer solitary behavior and its psychological mechanism is constructed based on the two types of positive solitude and negative solitude. Finally, future research directions in the marketing field are prospected: on the one hand, based on the background of the Internet era, future literature should focus on the characteristics of the “Singles Economy” from the perspectives of economic development and industrial change; on the other hand, combining with the consumption value and behavioral habits of young people, and based on the new consumption areas such as social media, online consumption, customized consumption, ceremonial consumption, and minimalist consumption, future literature should explore the differences in the mindsets, decision-making strategies and consumption behaviors of consumers in different type of solitude.

Key words: solitude, inducing factor, consumption motivation, consumption preference, psychological mechanism

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