Indulgent Consumption Signals Interpersonal Warmth

Qing Tang*, Kuangjie Zhang, Xun Irene Huang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


People who engage in indulgent consumption often are viewed as having poor self-control. In this research, however, eight studies provide converging support that indulgent consumption can have a positive effect: signaling interpersonal warmth. Specifically, consumers who post indulgent (vs. healthy) consumption content on social media are perceived as warmer (Study 1). The effect occurs because consumers believe that indulgent consumption is what people genuinely prefer, so indulgent (vs. healthy) consumption seems more authentic, and authenticity mediates the effect of indulgent consumption on perceived warmth (Studies 2a and 2b). Providing additional support for the authenticity mechanism, the authors show that the positive effect of indulgent (vs. healthy) consumption on perceived warmth is attenuated when the indulgent content is sponsored, which casts doubt on its authenticity (Study 3). Further, sharing sharing indulgent consumption can increase the appeal of a service provider among consumers who are seeking a warm service provider, but this occurs only when the content is not sponsored (Studies 4a and 4b). Finally, the effect of sharing indulgent (vs. healthy) consumption has downstream consequences for audience engagement on Instagram (Studies 5a and 5b). This research sheds light on how to cultivate interpersonal warmth in marketing communication and personal branding.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1179-1196
JournalJournal of Marketing Research
Issue number6
Early online date13 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

User-Defined Keywords

  • indulgent consumption
  • consumer signaling
  • interpersonal warmth
  • marketing communication
  • social media


Dive into the research topics of 'Indulgent Consumption Signals Interpersonal Warmth'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this