ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

心理学报 ›› 2023, Vol. 55 ›› Issue (7): 1176-1191.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2023.01176

• 研究报告 • 上一篇    下一篇


孙洪杰, 王美玲, 钟科()   

  1. 海南大学管理学院, 海口 570228
  • 收稿日期:2022-07-17 发布日期:2023-04-21 出版日期:2023-07-25
  • 通讯作者: 钟科, E-mail:
  • 基金资助:

The U-shaped effect of intimacy on word-of-mouth intention about consumption failure: Based on the perspective of motivational conflict model

SUN Hongjie, WANG Meiling, ZHONG Ke()   

  1. Management School, Hainan University, Haikou 570228, China
  • Received:2022-07-17 Online:2023-04-21 Published:2023-07-25


消费失败情境下消费者对不同亲密度群体的口碑传播意愿受保护他人利益和保护自我形象动机的影响。不同于前期研究亲密度对口碑影响的线性关系结论, 本研究基于动机冲突的视角, 构建动机冲突模型, 考察了消费失败情境下人际亲密度对口碑传播意愿的影响及其内在机理。通过4个主实验和2个附加实验, 结果表明亲密度对口碑传播意愿的影响呈U型关系, 与低高亲密度对象相比, 消费者面对中亲密度对象时口碑传播意愿最低。这种影响可以通过消费者产生的保护他人利益动机和保护自我形象动机之间的张力来解释, 商家责任调节了以上机理, 当商家在导致消费失败的结果中承担的责任较高时, 口碑传播意愿不再随亲密度的增加呈现U型关系。

关键词: 消费失败, 亲密度, 口碑传播意愿, U型


Consumers often share their shopping experiences with others. The strength of different social relationships can impact a consumer's word-of-mouth behavior, especially when an unpleasant purchase occurs. While some studies have explored that interpersonal closeness plays an important role in a social context, little has been known about how this diverse range of relationships affects consumers' word-of-mouth behavior in the case of consumption failures. Previous research has shown that consumers are more likely to spread negative information to individuals with whom they have high (vs. low) levels of interpersonal closeness. However, these studies have only taken a binary approach to classifying interpersonal closeness, ignoring the what would happen when the closeness was on the middle level. Literally, the impact of the diversity of relationships needs further investigation.

In this study, the impact of interpersonal closeness on consumers' word-of-mouth intention after a consumption failure was explored through six experiments, both online (Experiments 1, 2, and supplementary Experiment 1) and offline (Experiments 3, 4, and supplementary Experiment 2), in common social settings. Based on the literature on the attitudinal ambivalence literature, this research uses the SIM model to determine the level of motivation conflict and examines the U-shaped impact of interpersonal closeness on word-of-mouth intention in the event of a consumption failure. Experiment 1 (N = 143) is a between-subject design with a single factor of three levels of interpersonal closeness (low vs. medium vs. high). Participants were randomly assigned to different groups and asked to imagine a negative hotel service experience. They then had the opportunity to share the experience with others and answer related questions. The reading materials for the different experimental groups varied only in terms of the manipulation statement for interpersonal closeness. Experiment 2 (N = 155) was designed to verify the mediating role of motivation conflict. The manipulation method for interpersonal closeness was changed and the stimulus material was changed to a poorly performing cell phone purchase. Participants answered related questions after reading the materials. Experiment 3 (N = 126) was conducted in an offline airport waiting room to simulate a more natural face-to-face communication setting. The social background of the experiment was transferred from WeChat to the waiting room. The U-shaped relationship between interpersonal closeness and word-of-mouth intention was verified and the mediating effect of motivation conflict was determined. Experiment 4 (N = 298) is a 3 (interpersonal closeness: low vs. medium vs. high) × 2 (merchant responsibility: low vs. high) between-subject design to validate the moderating effect of merchant liability. The stimulus material describes a negative private custom tour experience, and interpersonal closeness and merchant responsibility were manipulated. In the low merchant responsibility condition, the merchant only provided relevant reference options and the consumer chose the travel route. In the high merchant responsibility condition, the consumers chose the strongly recommended travel route provided by the merchant. The domestic samples were recruited from a professional survey website (Credamo) and completed online questionnaires, while the foreign samples were recruited from another professional survey website (Prolific). Samples can be considered representative of the mainstream consumer group.

The main findings of this study are as follows: (1) Consumers are least likely to discuss their negative consumer experiences in front of objects with medium interpersonal closeness, compared to low and high interpersonal closeness, therefore there is a U-shaped relationship between interpersonal closeness and word-of-mouth intention. (2) The cause of this difference lies in the conflict between the motivation to protect others' interests and the motivation to protect self-image: when faced with individuals of medium interpersonal closeness, consumers are most concerned with protecting their self-image, which leads to a high degree of motivational conflict and results in the lowest willingness to spread word-of-mouth. (3) The level of responsibility taken by merchants moderates the effect of interpersonal closeness on word-of-mouth intention. When merchants take low responsibility, the effect of interpersonal closeness on word-of-mouth intention is U-shaped. However, when merchants take high responsibility, consumers' motivation to protect their self-image decreases in the presence of individuals with medium interpersonal closeness, causing the motivation to protect others' interests to become dominant and leading to low levels of motivational conflict. This results in an increase in word-of-mouth intention as interpersonal closeness increases, yielding an approximately linear effect of interpersonal closeness on word-of-mouth intention.

This study contributes to the important fields of word-of-mouth communication, social relationships, and word-of-mouth intention, and provides valuable insights for marketing professionals involved in market research, word-of-mouth management, social media operations, and marketing.

Key words: consumption failure, intimacy, word-of -mouth intention, U-shaped