When do consumers react to social exclusion with charitable behavior?

April 16, 2012

People who feel ignored tend to engage in conspicuous consumption, whereas consumers who are rejected are more likely to volunteer or donate to a worthy cause, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"The need to belong is considered to be universal across , and in fact, cultures themselves may reflect the need to belong," write authors Jaehoon Lee (University of Houston–Clear Lake) and L.J. Shrum (University of Texas at San Antonio). "One need only look at the clothing of college students—much of which displays affiliation through school logos and colors—to see its magnitude."

But what happens when experience social exclusion? The authors examined different types of and consumer responses to them. "We propose that when relational needs, such as self-esteem and belonging, are primarily threatened, people attempt to fortify those needs by feeling, thinking, and behaving in a prosocial, affiliative manner, because prosocial acts such as helping other increase interpersonal attractiveness and help reconnect with society," the authors write. But when their need for control and a meaningful existence is threatened, people act out in provocative and attention-getting ways.

The authors conducted four experiments where people either felt ignored or rejected. The researchers asked people to recall actual experiences or they simulated exclusion by arranging for participants to feel left out or antagonized in online exchanges. Afterward, the participants took purportedly separate surveys on behavioral intentions and actual behavior. For conspicuous consumption, the researchers asked about preferences for brand logos. For prosocial behavior, they asked about willingness to donate money or volunteer.

"Being ignored increased preferences for clothing with conspicuous brand logos, but it had no effect on prosocial behavior," the authors write. "In contrast, being rejected increased prosocial , but had no effect for clothing with conspicuous brand logos."

Explore further: When charities ask for time, people give more money

More information: Jaehoon Lee and L.J. Shrum. "Conspicuous Consumption versus Charitable Behavior in Response to Social Exclusion: A Differential Needs Explanation." Journal of Consumer Research: October 2012. ejcr.org/

Related Stories

When charities ask for time, people give more money

August 22, 2008

According to new research in the Journal of Consumer Research, simply asking people a question about whether they're willing to volunteer their time leads to increases in donations of both time and money.

Inconspicuous consumption: Insiders vs. outsiders

June 21, 2010

Why would a consumer spend $10,000 on a handbag that doesn't identify the brand, when most observers would confuse it with a $50 alternative? A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research finds that high-end consumers don't ...

Cellphone use linked to selfish behavior in new study

February 14, 2012

Though cellphones are usually considered devices that connect people, they may make users less socially minded, finds a recent study from the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Recommended for you

Biologists trace how human innovation impacts tool evolution

November 24, 2015

Many animals exhibit learned behaviors, but humans are unique in their capacity to build on existing knowledge to make new innovations. Understanding the patterns of how new generations of tools emerged in prehistoric societies, ...

How experienced buyers can mitigate economic bubbles

November 19, 2015

(Phys.org)—Over the last decade, many people got a tough primer on the effects of economic bubbles, as the bursting of the 2007-2008 housing bubble sent shockwaves through most of the major world economies. But property ...

First Londoners were multi-ethnic mix: museum

November 23, 2015

A DNA analysis of four ancient Roman skeletons found in London shows the first inhabitants of the city were a multi-ethnic mix similar to contemporary Londoners, the Museum of London said on Monday.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.