The Effect of Social Crowdedness on Preference for Utilitarian Products

  • Xi Chen Business School, China University of Political Science and Law, China
  • Tingyu Yang Business School, China University of Political Science and Law, China
Keywords: social crowdedness, interpretive control, compensatory control, functional products, hedonic products


In a modern society with high population density, consumers usually face crowded consumption environment. Meanwhile, the choices they can make are more and more abundant. Is there any correlation between social crowdedness and the preference for different types of products?

This research investigates whether social crowdedness, defined as the number of people in a given area—impacts consumers’ propensity to choose functional products rather than hedonic products. We propose that social crowdedness increases the likelihood of preference for functional products rather than hedonic products. This effect occurs because density settings make consumers experience a loss of perceived control, which in turn makes them engage in interpretive cognition, exhibit a desire for structured and meaningful products, and practical function of the product as a compensatory method to help them regain control.

Two studies provide support for this hypothesis. Study 1 confirms the relationship between social crowdedness and the product type preference. Study 2 examined the mediating role of perceived control as the underlying mechanism, which is, social crowdedness gives rise to a feeling of loss of perceived control, to fill up this, consumers seek products with more practical and useful function feature rather than hedonic and pleasure-oriented products as compensation to fill the gap.

This study expands the research in the fields of social crowdedness from consumer behavioral perspectives. Also, the research may contribute to the marketing planning of different types of commodities in various environments.


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