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Lonely Consumers: When, How, and Why Does Loneliness Influence Consumer Behavior?
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Although the advance of social media has enabled people to build social connections much more easily than ever before, loneliness—an aversive feeling of being isolated and disconnected—persists in modern society. In this dissertation, I examine when, how, and why loneliness influences consumer behavior. First, I develop an experimental method to induce loneliness and identify a circumstance that experimenters can obtain a successful loneliness priming effect. Across three experiments, I demonstrate that the same loneliness primes produce different loneliness responses based on the availability of cognitive resources. Specifically, participants who are cognitively depleted tend to rely on responses evoked by the loneliness primes (showing the intended loneliness priming effect) while those with abundant cognitive resources are not affected by the loneliness primes. Building on the findings from Experiments 1-3, I investigate how loneliness affects consumer behaviors in two different marketing contexts, nostalgic product consumption and charitable giving by focusing on how consumers cope with loneliness through consumption. In Experiments 4-5, I demonstrate that consumers who lack cognitive resources tend to form positive attitudes toward nostalgic products when experiencing loneliness. In Experiments 6-7, I show that lonely consumers with limited cognitive resources are likely to donate money to a charitable organization. Additionally, I find that consumers can regulate feelings of loneliness by spending money either for themselves (i.e., nostalgic products) or for others (i.e., charitable giving). This dissertation contributes to our understanding of loneliness in marketing by identifying a circumstance in which such emotional distress significantly influences consumer behavior and by showing how consumers spend money to cope with loneliness.
- Doctoral Dissertations