Advances in robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence increasingly enable firms to replace human labor with technology, thereby fundamentally transforming how goods and services are produced. From both managerial and societal points of view, it is therefore important to understand demand-side incentives for firms to employ human labor. We begin to address this question by examining for which products and services consumers are more likely to favor human (vs. robotic) labor. In six studies, we demonstrate that consumers prefer human (vs. robotic) labor more for products with higher (vs. lower) symbolic value (e.g., when expressing something about one’s beliefs and personality is of greater importance). We theorize that this is because consumers have stronger uniqueness motives in more (vs. less) symbolic consumption contexts (and associate human labor more strongly with product uniqueness). In line with this account, we demonstrate that individual differences in need for uniqueness moderate the interaction between production mode and symbolic motives and that a measure of uniqueness motives mediates the effect of consumption context on preferences for human (vs. robotic) production.

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Journal of Consumer Psychology
Department of Marketing Management

Granulo, A., Fuchs, C., & Puntoni, S. (2020). Preference for Human (vs. Robotic) Labor is Stronger in Symbolic Consumption Contexts. Journal of Consumer Psychology. doi:10.1002/jcpy.1181