ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2023, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (3): 480-491.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2023.00480

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The double-edged sword effect of consumers’ photo-taking behavior on consumption experience

LIU Hongyan1(), ZHENG Yun1, LIU Yaozhong2, QIAO Fei3   

  1. 1School of Management, Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China
    2Guangzhou Huashang College, Guangzhou 511300, China
    3Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou 510420, China
  • Received:2022-05-18 Online:2023-03-15 Published:2022-12-22
  • Contact: LIU Hongyan


The evolution of digital photographic technology and the rise of social media have made photo-taking an indispensable part of people’s daily lives. Photo-taking can provide consumers with concrete evidence of their experiences; it can also invite them to revisit their recollections of the experience and share the memories with others. Although photo-taking has become an integral part of people’s everyday lives, no review studies have been found that synthesize or theoretically explain the influence of photo-taking on consumption experiences. Consumers may use photo-taking to create visual records of their consumption experiences. Photo-taking behavior in the broad sense includes not just shooting images, but also a variety of photo-related activities such as looking back, editing, and sharing photos.
What impact does photo-taking behavior have on consumption experiences? This paper presents a review of studies on the effect of photo-taking on consumption experiences. We creatively differentiate the influence of photo-taking behaviors on consumption experiences into two categories: bonus effect and deficiency effect, composing the double-edged sword effect, which could be explained from the theoretical perspectives of motivation, cognition, and emotion. On the one hand, photo-taking behavior can provide consumers with a kind of bonus impact based on the “visual experience bonus,” that is, the pleasant emotional and cognitive reactions elicited by photo-taking behavior via concentrating consumers on visual components. For example, taking photos may direct customers’ attention to the focal part of the visual elements and increase their visual recollection of the encounter. On the other hand, photo-taking behavior might cause negative consequences on consumers, in that consumers may miss the genuine experience of other sensory experiences (i.e., smell, taste, hearing, and touch) because of their concentration on the visual experience in a photo shoot, a condition known as “the deprivation of other sensory experiences.” For example, taking photos during an experience forces consumers’ attention to switch between the experience and taking photos, leading to distraction from the experience; taking photos prompts consumers to focus on the visual experience, resulting in less experience with other senses and lower memory accuracy.
Based on prior research, our paper recommends practical future research directions, with the goal of providing some reference for research and corporate marketing practice in this field. The future research topics can be extended in three aspects. First, researchers can explore how different objects in photo-taking affect consumption experiences, product reputation, and brand attitudes. Furthermore, objects in photo-taking activate visual and other sensory imagery. As a result, it is also possible to investigate the breadth and depth of other sensory imagery experiences elicited by photo-taking behavior. Second, in the future, the boundary conditions of the bonus impact of photo-taking on consumption experiences in various social and experiential settings may be investigated. The influence of photo-taking behavior on consumption experience may change depending on the social milieu and kind of encounter. Third, the double-edged sword impact of photo-taking behavior should be explored more in corporate marketing research. Consumer engagement and immersion in the activity may be reduced if photo-taking behavior concentrates on visual features while disregarding the true senses of hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Therefore, the influence of photo-bonus taking’s effect on improving corporate marketing performance may be particularly investigated, as well as expanding research on the positive impact of photo-taking on re-experiencing intents and behaviors.

Key words: photo-taking behavior, consumption experience, bonus effect, deficiency effect

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