People who are feeling jealous because their partner is getting too much attention from someone else may be more likely to purchase products that will re-catch their lover’s eye, according to a new study published online in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.
The study, conducted with a series of five experiments, investigated whether strong feelings of jealousy could potentially motivate consumers to buy things that are more likely to grab the attention of others.
Indeed, the researchers found that feelings of jealousy increased the desire for eye-catching products, such as a bright colored coat instead of a dull-colored one, or a T-shirt with a big logo design versus a low-key design.
One surprising finding was that the desire to recapture someone’s attention with eye-catching products even outweighed the risk of public embarrassment.
In one experiment, participants were asked to imagine that they had been invited to a party. One group was invited to a costume party organized by friends, and the other group was invited to a formal welcoming party for new staff members at their company.
Then they were asked to choose whether they’d prefer to wear an ordinary pair of sunglasses to the party or a unique and eye-catching pair. The researchers found that participants who were feeling jealous chose to wear the eye-catching sunglasses to both types of parties, even though they could garner negative attention at a formal work party.
The findings also show that the desire for eye-grabbing products disappeared when there was little chance that the product would be noticed by others in public.
For example, participants who were experiencing feelings of jealousy in one experiment were more likely to buy a noticeable gold lamp for their office, a public place. However, if the lamp was for their bedroom, the plain gray lamp was chosen just as often as the gold one.
“We believe that this effect is not just restricted to jealousy in romantic relationships,” said researcher Xun (Irene) Huang, Ph.D., a professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. “Children can be jealous of a sibling’s relationship with their parents, or workers might be jealous of a colleague’s close relationship with a supervisor.”
The findings also have implications for marketing, Huang said. Print advertisements and in-store displays can capture situations in which jealousy is at play, which could motivate consumers to buy products that will attract someone’s attention.
Source: Society for Consumer Psychology