Hiding in the Crowd: Secrecy Compels Consumer Conformity

Dongjin HE, Yuwei JIANG*, Gerald J GORN

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This research investigates how secrecy (i.e., a state in which people have an active intention to conceal information from others) affects individuals’ consumption behavior. Six studies reveal that making consumers’ secrets salient increases their tendency to conform in their consumption, and show that this effect is driven by the desire to avoid social attention. This effect is moderated by consumers’ perceived self-control capacity. This research uncovers a novel downstream consequence of secrecy on consumer behavior and provides insight into when conforming consumption can serve as a strategy to help consumers avoid unwanted social attention. This research has important practical implications concerning using notions of secrecy in marketing strategies and promoting conforming products.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1032–1049
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number6
Early online date7 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

This research was supported by the Faculty Research Grant (DB21A6) and Lam Woo Research Fund (871227) from Lingnan University to the first author, and financial support from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (PolyU 155032/18B), the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (G-UAJ1), and the Asian Centre for Branding and Marketing (ACBM) to the second author. This paper is based on the first author’s PhD thesis supervised by the second author. Correspondence on the manuscript should be sent to Yuwei Jiang.

Supplementary materials are included in the web appendix accompanying the online version
of this article


  • secrecy
  • social attention
  • attention avoidance
  • consumer conformity
  • self-control


Dive into the research topics of 'Hiding in the Crowd: Secrecy Compels Consumer Conformity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this