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EMAC 2023 Annual

Keeping Distance! How Disease Threat Lowers Consumers’ Attitude towards Densely Displayed Products

Published: May 24, 2023


Sahar Karimi, University of Liverpool; Wangshuai Wang, International Business School Suzhou, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University; Yanxi Yi, Graduate School of Economics, Osaka University


Infectious diseases have been posing frequent and significant threats to society and the economy. However, research on how disease threat affects consumer behavior, especially sensory response, is still limited. In this paper, we draw on the theory of compensatory consumption and show that consumers under disease threats are less willing to buy products in a dense display. The underlying mechanism for this effect is crowding avoidance. Moreover, when disease threat comes from in-group members, its effect on product display preferences is reversed. A set of five studies were conducted, adopting both lab and field settings. Using different manipulations and measures, these studies provide convergent evidence for these effects. Implications of research findings are then discussed.