Miserable products are used to "wallow in misery" (Pollack 2014). Although counter-hedonic consumption exists, it has been relatively neglected by research. When and why do people choose miserable products? We define wallowing as the perpetuation of negative self-views that can occur after threatening experiences. An example of wallowing would be engaging in miserable activities (eating disgusting food, staying at home) instead of uplifting ones (eating nice food, meeting friends) after a romantic breakup. Most existing theories would predict that threats cause self-gifting to mollify the sting of the threat (Mick and DeMoss 1991) or engage in compensatory consumption to bolster the threatened part of the self (Gao et al. 2009; Rook 1987). Why would consumption be used to cultivate negative self-views rather than to counteract them? This research tested whether wallowing is a form of self-verification. Self-verification describes the need to be understood and to act in accordance with one's firmly held self-views (Sedikides and Strube 1997). Self-verifying actions align self-perceptions and environment to create predictability and facilitate relationships. Research demonstrated that engrained negative self-views trigger verification rather than enhancement: People who thought poorly of themselves preferred condescending interaction partners (Swann et al. 1992) and roommates that liked them less (Swann and Pelham 2002). This project proposes that consumers with low self-esteem use miserable products like disgusting food, or low-tier brands, to self-verify. Low self-esteem consumers perceive miserable products as self-congruent and therefore appealing. We predict that negative self-verification is chronic and persists after threats because failures and setbacks reaffirm engrained negative self-conceptions (Dogson and Wood 1998). Success experiences urge low self-esteem people to update their self-views which should temporarily attenuate the desire for miserable products. We further expect that low self-esteem consumer's choosing of miserable products is explained by undeservingness - convictions of being unworthy of quality products (Cavanaugh 2014).

Advances in Consumer Research
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Stuppy, A., Mead, N., & van Osselaer, S. (2016). Wallowing in misery: Consumers with low self-esteem verify negative self-views by choosing miserable products. In Advances in Consumer Research (Vol. 44, pp. 643–644). Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/100051