Filling the Void or Showing the Love? How Romantic Rejection vs. Acceptance Affects Men’s and Women’s Willingness-to-Pay for Conspicuous Goods
Dr. Eric LEVY
Assistant Professor in Marketing
Judge Business School
University of Cambridge
Interpersonal relationships, particularly romantic relationships, are an important yet underexamined area of consumer behavior. In the current research, we experimentally test the association between people’s actual romantic relationship experiences and their willingness-to-pay for a conspicuous luxury good. In two studies, we demonstrate a novel result that men and women exhibit opposite patterns of willingness-to-pay based on the type of romantic experience they recall. Study 1 finds that men are willing-to-pay more for a conspicuous good when recalling a romantic rejection (vs. acceptance) while women are willing-to-pay more when recalling a romantic acceptance (vs. rejection), particularly when thinking about the public aspects of the experience. Study 2 (involving people currently in serious romantic relationships) shows that these findings are specific to conspicuous goods, and that the effect is mediated by social self-esteem (for men). The findings are discussed in light of sexual economics theory and social signaling, and offer intriguing insights and future research directions into how romantic relationships affect consumer purchase behavior.