Filling an Empty Self: The Impact of Social Exclusion on Consumer Preference for Visual Density

Lei Su, Echo Wen Wan, Yuwei Jiang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


This research examines the effect of social exclusion on consumers' preferences for visual density. Based on seven experimental studies, we reveal that consumers who perceive themselves as socially excluded evaluate products with dense visual patterns more positively than their nonexcluded peers. This effect occurs because social exclusion triggers a feeling of psychological emptiness and dense patterns can provide a sense of being "filled," which helps to alleviate this feeling of emptiness. This effect is attenuated when consumers physically fill something or experience a feeling of "temporal density" (i.e., imagining a busy schedule with many tasks packed into a short time). These results shed light on consumers' socially grounded product aesthetic preferences and offer practical implications for marketers, designers, and policy makers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)808-824
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • a feeling of emptiness
  • social exclusion
  • visual density

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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