Fill Up Your Senses: A Theory of Self-Worth Restoration through High Intensity Sensory Consumption

Published Papers
Batra, Rishtee Kumar., Ghoshal, Tanuka. (Forthcoming) "Fill Up Your Senses: A Theory of Self-Worth Restoration through High Intensity Sensory Consumption", Journal of Consumer Research
Abstract:
It is well known that individuals engage in reactive consumption to address self-discrepancy and self-threat and that this consumption may be either symbolically related to the nature of the threat or may occur in an unrelated domain. This research proposes a theory for self-worth restoration through the consumption of high intensity sensory stimuli. Four studies demonstrate that not only do individuals facing self-threat prefer high intensity sensory consumption (HISC) but also this consumption restores their self-worth. This propensity for HISC is negated after individuals are allowed to engage in additional self-affirmation tasks. The findings are documented in both the visual domain (as evidenced by a preference for more intense and saturated colors) and the auditory domain (as evidenced by a preference for louder audio levels). The consumption of high intensity sensory stimuli elevates individuals’ arousal levels, which in turn minimizes rumination on thoughts related to the threat and thus restores one’s self-worth. The distractive nature of HISC and its subsequent impact on self-worth restoration is shown to operate regardless of the valence of the sensory consumption. Finally, the propensity for HISC is negated after individuals experience an arousal-elevating threat, providing additional support for the underlying process.