Effects of secrecy in consumer behavior

Research output: Other contributionThesis/Dissertation


Keeping secrets is a ubiquitous part of life. Almost everyone keeps a secret at some point in time, be it a surprise party, a secret job, a stigmatized identity, or an affair. Secrecy is also not an obscure concept in the marketing and consumption domain. Consumers often keep consumption-related secrets about, for example, the gifts they buy for others, their consumption of chocolates, or an adult magazine delivered by mail in a nondescript package. Despite the growing academic attention paid to secrecy in the field of psychology, a more systematic investigation is needed of the consequences of secrecy as well as the psychological mechanism underlying its impact on consumers. The current research addresses this important theoretical gap by examining two downstream consequences of secrecy in the consumption domain: consumer conformity and consumer decision regret. In this thesis, I first review the existing literature on the nature of secrecy and its consequences. Then, in chapters 3 and 4, I examine two downstream consequences of secrecy in the consumption domain. In chapter 3, I investigate how the experience of secrecy affects consumers' consumption behavior. Specifically, six studies reveal that secrecy increases consumers' tendency to conform in their consumption and show that this effect is driven by concern about information leakage and the desire to avoid social attention. Furthermore, the effect of secrecy on consumer conformity is moderated by consumers' sense of the amount of attention that others pay to them, their perceived capacity for self-control, and whether the product is used in a private or public context. I demonstrate that the relationship between secrecy and consumer conformity is weakened when consumers believe that others do not pay much attention to them, when they perceive themselves as having high self-control, and when the product in question is used in private contexts. In chapter 4, I investigate how the experience of secrecy affects consumers' self-perception and judgment of their decisions. Three studies demonstrate that the experience of secrecy increases consumers' regret for decisions made during the period of secret-keeping and show that this effect is driven by perceived decision inauthenticity. The effect of secrecy on consumer decision regret is weakened when the decision is not made during the period of secret-keeping.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherThe Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Number of pages105
Place of PublicationHong Kong
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Advisor: Jiang, Yuwei.


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