Cross-Domain Effects of Guilt on Desire for Self-Improvement Products
Date of Issue2015
College of Business (Nanyang Business School)
This research examines the notion that guilt, the negative emotion stemming from a failure to meet a self-held standard of behavior, leads to preferences for products enabling self-improvement, even in domains unrelated to the original source of the guilt. Examining consumer responses to real products, this research shows that such effects arise because guilt—by its focus on previous wrongdoings—activates a general desire to improve the self. This increase in desire for self-improvement products is only observed for choices involving the self (not others), is not observed in response to other negative emotions (e.g., shame, embarrassment, sadness, or envy), and is mitigated when people hold the belief that the self is nonmalleable. Building on past work that focuses on how guilt often leads to the motivation to alleviate feelings of guilt either directly or indirectly, the current research demonstrates an additional, novel downstream consequence of guilt, showing that only guilt has the unique motivational consequence of activating a general desire to improve the self, which subsequently spills into other domains and spurs self-improving product choices. These findings are discussed in light of their implications for research on the distinct motivational consequences of specific emotions and on consumer well-being.
Journal of Consumer Research
© 2015 The Author (published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Journal of Consumer Research, Inc.). This is the author created version of a work that has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication in Journal of Consumer Research, published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Journal of Consumer Research, Inc.. It incorporates referee’s comments but changes resulting from the publishing process, such as copyediting, structural formatting, may not be reflected in this document. The published version is available at: [http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jcr/ucv024].