Journal of Marketing Science ›› 2014, Vol. 10 ›› Issue (3): 19-31.

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Impact of social comparison on conspicuous consumption: a psychological compensation perspective  

Zheng Xiaoying, Peng Siqing, Dai Shanshan   

  1. Guanghua School of Management, Peking University
  • Online:2014-09-01 Published:2014-11-10


Based on the psychological compensation mechanism of consumer behavior, the current research examines how social comparison in ability domain influences people’s conspicuous consumption, and explores the possible interventions. Past research regarded conspicuous consumption as a way of signaling social-economic status, which often derived from wealth comparison. Our research proposes that besides wealth comparison, comparison in consumption unrelated domains would also lead to conspicuous consumption. In this mechanism, conspicuous consumption is a way to compensate for the self threat resulted from upward comparison. 2 studies were conducted to confirm our hypothesis. Study 1 indicates that consumers are more likely to spend on conspicuous items after comparing their own academic performance to those better counterparts. Study 2 replicates the result of study 1 using a more general conspicuous consumption measure. Furthermore, we found that the impact of ability comparison on conspicuous consumption diminished if people engaged in a prior self affirmation.

Key words: Social Comparison, Compensatory Consumption, Self Affirmation, Psychological Compensation