Social Exclusion Causes People to Spend and Consume Strategically in the Service of Affiliation
When people's deeply ingrained need for social connection is thwarted by social exclusion, profound psychological consequences ensue. Despite the fact that social connections and consumption are central facets of daily life, little empirical attention has been devoted to understanding how belongingness threats affect consumer behavior. In four experiments, we tested the hypothesis that social exclusion causes people to spend and consume strategically in the service of affiliation. Relative to controls, excluded participants were more likely to buy a product symbolic of group membership (but not practical or self-gift items), tailor their spending preferences to the preferences of an interaction partner, spend money on an unappealing food item favored by a peer, and report being willing to try an illegal drug, but only when doing so boosted their chances of commencing social connections. Overall, results suggest that socially excluded people sacrifice personal and financial well-being for the sake of social well-being.
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