“When Moving on Feels Wrong: Avoiding Hedonic Consumption to Maintain Moral Character” by Dr. Stephanie C. Lin
Dr. Stephanie C. Lin
Assistant Professor of Marketing
Lee Kong Chian School of Business
Singapore Management University
Although the hedonic principles of emotion regulation suggest that people want to feel good, we argue that sometimes feeling good just feels wrong. Specifically, we demonstrate across five studies that consumers want to avoid repairing their mood via hedonic consumption when feeling good would reflect badly on their moral character (e.g., repairing negative emotions that arose in response to a documentary about the effects of bullying). In our sixth and final study, we examine how consumers react when their attempts to maintain negative affect are thwarted with exposure to hedonic content: Employing a social media context, we find that people feel more uncomfortable when negative moralized (vs. nonmoralized) content is followed by hedonic, frivolous content. These findings stand in contrast to emotion regulation research that focuses on the hedonic motivation to increase positive and decrease negative affect, as well as judgment and decision making literature that shows that consumers prefer sequences of events that improve over time. Furthermore, we offer clear prescriptions to marketers regarding when versus when not to offer hedonic consumption as mood repair, and how to sequence different types of media content.