ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

心理学报 ›› 2020, Vol. 52 ›› Issue (2): 216-228.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2020.00216

• 研究报告 • 上一篇    下一篇


丁瑛, 钟嘉琦()   

  1. 中国人民大学商学院, 北京 100872
  • 收稿日期:2018-08-28 出版日期:2020-02-25 发布日期:2019-12-24
  • 通讯作者: 钟嘉琦
  • 基金资助:
    * 国家自然科学基金资助项目(71872173)

The effect of social crowding on individual preference for self-improvement products

DING Ying, ZHONG Jiaqi()   

  1. School of Business, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China
  • Received:2018-08-28 Online:2020-02-25 Published:2019-12-24
  • Contact: ZHONG Jiaqi


本文通过3个实验和对中国综合社会调查数据的系统分析, 研究了社会拥挤如何影响个体的认知和行为。结果发现社会拥挤能够显著增强个体对自我提升类产品的偏好, 自我提升需求在其中发挥中介作用。此外, 社会公平感知和地区就业率对社会拥挤的这一偏好增强效应起到调节作用, 即当个体感知社会公平性高或身处低就业率地区时, 社会拥挤对自我提升类产品偏好的促进作用会被强化; 反之, 主效应会被削弱。

关键词: 社会拥挤, 自我提升类产品, 社会公平感知, 地区就业率


As the world population continues to grow, social crowding has become a ubiquitous and pervasive phenomenon in daily life. A growing body of research has mainly investigated the negative consequences of social crowding on individual cognition and behavior. However, little research attention has been given to its potential positive outcomes. This research documents that to cope with social crowding, individuals are motivated to choose self-improvement products. Our findings suggest this effect is mediated by the need for self-improvement and moderated by perceived social equity and employment rate.

Four studies were conducted to test the proposed hypotheses. Experiment 1 established the main effect of social crowding on individual preference for self-improvement products using a 2 (social crowding: crowded vs. uncrowded) between-subject design. In Experiment 2, we collected data from subways and compared the choice for self-improvement products during rush hours (crowded condition) and non-rush hours (uncrowded condition). Experiment 3 aimed to rule out perceived busyness as an alternative explanation. Experiment 4 further employed secondary cross-sectional data from the 2015 Chinese General Social Survey (N = 10, 229) to examine the moderating effects of perceived social equity and employment rate. The self-improvement index was abstracted from answers to the question “During the past year, how often did you learn to recharge in your spare time?” Perceived social equity was measured by answering “To what extent do you think society is fair?” We then calculated provincial population density and employment rate.

Experiment 1 documented the effect of social crowding on self-improvement products in a laboratory setting. We found that social crowding strengthened participants’ preference for self-improvement products, but it did not significantly change their liking toward general products. The results of Experiment 2 replicated the effect, that is, participants mainly preferred self-improvement products when feeling crowded (Mcrowded = 3.77, SD = 1.65 vs. Muncrowded = 5.07, SD = 1.48), F(1, 58) = 10.27, p = 0.002, Cohen’s d = -4.53. This effect was mediated by the need for self-improvement (95% CI = 0.0108 to 0.6388). Experiment 3 ruled out the mediating role of perceived busyness (95% CI = -1.2613 to 0.4922). In Study 4, linear least squares (OLS) confirmed the effect of population density on the frequency of residents’ learning to improve themselves. We further examined the moderating role of perceived social equity and employment rate. Perceived social equity moderated this effect, that is, when people perceived social equity as high, the influence of crowdedness on self-improvement behavior was intensified. However, this effect was attenuated when social equity was deemed low. In addition, high density strengthened the self-improvement behavior of participants from regions with low employment rates. However, this effect was attenuated for those from regions with high employment rates.

In summary, this research provides an initial investigation into the influence of social crowding on the preference for self-improvement products and its underlying process. This research contributes to the existing literature by identifying the positive behavioral consequence of social crowding.

Key words: social crowding, self-improvement product, perceived social equity, employment rate