ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (4): 941-952.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.00941

• Regular Articles • Previous Articles    

The performance and psychological mechanism of contamination effect in consumer behavior

MENG Lu1, XIE Yufeng2(), LI Tongmao2, DUAN Shen1, ZHANG Liangbo3   

  1. 1School of Business, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China
    2College o Management, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen 518060, China
    3School of Economics and Management, Harbin Institute of Technology in Shenzhen, Shenzhen 518055, China
  • Received:2021-06-30 Online:2022-04-15 Published:2022-02-22
  • Contact: XIE Yufeng


The pneumonia outbreak caused by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been defined as a public health emergency by the World Public Health Organization and poses a serious threat to economic development worldwide. Since that COVID-19 is highly contagious, and the number of infected people and is unprecedented, many governments have taken strong measures to control the spread of COVID-19. In the face of sudden major disasters, people are prone to panic. As a result, individuals pay more attention to personal protection-related issues, and the consumption of protective and health products increases significantly (Yang et al., 2020). Because COVID-19 is spread mainly by droplets and contact, consumers are avoiding products that others may have touched or used for fear of catching the virus. Data from iiMedia Research also showed that the number of users of shared charging banks in China maintained rapid growth to 307 million in 2019. However, due to COVID-19, the number of users dropped to 229 million in 2020. It can be seen that consumers are increasingly concerned about health-related issues, thus amplifying the potential contamination effect on consumer behaviors.

It has been more than 20 years since contamination effect was first introduced into psychology. Up to now, contamination effect has been widely adopted to explain behaviors in many fields, including product evaluation, celebrity effect, organ transplantation, preference for shrine, valuation of original artwork, cross-cultural differences in collecting behavior, gambling decisions, individual abilities and performance, and even romantic relationships. Although consumers are often faced with a variety of content cues to induce their perception of contamination in daily consumption, there is little known about what consumer behaviors will occur under the influence of contamination effect and what the underlying mechanisms and boundary conditions are for these behaviors. There is still no an integrated research framework that can generalize and explain the application of contamination effects to consumer behavior to answer these questions. More importantly, the continuous updating of emerging research backgrounds such as Internet +, new retail and big data provide new insights for the study of contamination effects, however, there is little systematic review of these effects and paradigms.

In this study, we mainly review the definition and characteristics of contamination effect in the studies of consumer behavior, and then explore the antecedents of contamination effect from the aspects of exposure factors, location factors, product factors and social factors, and further summarize its negative and positive effects on consumer behavior. Finally, the theoretical basis and boundary conditions of contamination effect are well discussed. Based on these discussions, the future research direction of contamination effect in the field of consumer behavior is prospected.

Key words: the laws of sympathetic magical, contamination effect, product evaluation, purchase intention

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