Everyone has been rejected or felt left out at one time or another. It happens all the time. But did you know that the feeling of exclusion from a person or group can cause you to buy odd things? Case in point: new research published in the Journal of Consumer Research states that people who feel excluded are more likely to make purchases that they hope will help them fit in. The study found that participants would not only eat, but pay for repellent food items such as chicken feet in order to feel accepted.
Why do we want to fit in so badly? Because being part of the group helped us survive. “Humans have an innate drive to be a part of social relationships because a social group afforded survival and safety throughout evolutionary history,” according to Roy F. Baumeister, an author of the study.
Researchers recruited university students to partner with a stranger for an experiment. In half the cases, the partners (who were actors) left abruptly, saying they were unwilling to work with the subjects, leaving them to experience personal rejection. Afterward, the researchers allowed the students to participate in a supposedly unrelated study that involved them shopping in a mock store. Most of the items were practical, but more than half of the “rejected” students bought a pack of fairly useless wristbands labeled with the university logo. Why? Presumably buying the wrist bands was an attempt to re-affiliate themselves with their school community after feeling rejected by a fellow student.
Other interesting findings involved ostracized subjects spending a lot when they knew their partners were big spenders or spending like a miser if they knew their partners to be cheapskates. It appears the excluded individuals were hoping to conform rather than impress. One additional part of the experiment sought to determine the impact of future social interaction. Again, the recently rejected purchased items they didn’t like, when they were led to believe they would meet the person that rejected them in the future.
The study drives home that social acceptance is one of the most basic human needs, but as a consumer you may want to watch out; when feeling like you’ve been left out of the group–your wallet may be as vulnerable as your emotions following rejection.
Chicken feet anyone?