Many Americans feel alone and isolated with one survey finding that as many as 25 percent of respondents believe they have no one with whom to discuss important matters.
A new study finds that lonely individuals behave differently in the marketplace than people with strong social networks.
“Despite the popularity of Wi-Fi technologies and social networks such as Facebook, Americans are more socially isolated than two decades ago,” write authors Jing Wang (University of Iowa), Rui (Juliet) Zhu (University of British Columbia), and Baba Shiv (Stanford University).
The study is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
In the current research, investigators set out to discover how this growing segment of consumers reacts to social consensus information.
“Consumers often construct their preferences based on consensus-related cues and prefer majority-endorsed products,” the authors write.
The investigators wanted to know whether people who feel lonely follow the crowd or respond to consensus-related information in the same way.
During their experiments, the researchers asked participants to evaluate products based on information expressed by previous consumers that liked the products. Researchers also measured participants’ feelings of loneliness and found that to a large extent, non-lonely people preferred products preferred by 80 percent of previous consumers.
But lonely people, on the other hand, vastly preferred minority-endorsed products (preferred by only 20 percent of previous consumers).
However, lonely people don’t want to advertise that they prefer items endorsed by a minority.
“Lonely people’s preference for the minority-endorsed products was only found when their preferences were kept private,” the authors write. “They switched to majority-endorsed products once their preferences became public.”