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Desire to Acquire: Powerlessness and Compensatory Consumption

Derek D. Rucker, Adam D. Galinsky
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/588569 257-267 First published online: 1 August 2008

Abstract

Three experiments examine how power affects consumers' spending propensities. By integrating literatures suggesting that (a) powerlessness is aversive, (b) status is one basis of power, and (c) products can signal status, the authors argue that low power fosters a desire to acquire products associated with status to compensate for lacking power. Supporting this compensatory hypothesis, results show that low power increased consumers' willingness to pay for auction items and consumers' reservation prices in negotiations but only when products were status related. The link between powerlessness and compensatory consumption has broad implications both for consumers' health and well-being and for understanding the psychological state of power.

  • Bargaining/Negotiation
  • Economic Psychology
  • Judgment and Decision Making
  • Motivation/Desires/Goals
  • Symbolic Consumption/Semiotics
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