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Impact of sexual stimuli on men's purchase intentions toward discounted conspicuous goods.

Marketing strategies involving sexual stimuli are very common (Duncan, 2002); regardless of whether or not the sexual stimuli are relevant to the advertised products they are used to attract consumer attention and to increase the effectiveness of an advertisement (Dahl, Sengupta, & Vohs, 2009). In existing research on sexual stimuli in marketing the focus has been primarily on sex appeal in advertisements (see Dahl et al., 2009; Duncan, 2002; Sengupta & Dahl, 2008). Researchers have argued that both men and women dislike gratuitous sex appeal in advertising (Peterson & Kerin, 1977), but findings in some research have suggested that men show positive feelings toward female nudity in print advertising (LaTour, 1990). Moreover, in constrained processing conditions that allow spontaneous and gut-level reactions, men and women with a liberal attitude toward sex reported more positive attitudes toward gratuitous sex appeal than toward appeal that was nonsexual in advertisements (Sengupta & Dahl, 2008).

From the perspective of evolutionary psychology, research findings have suggested that sexual stimuli can trigger mating motives (Bergh, Dewitte, & Warlop, 2007; Griskevicius & Kenrick, 2013) that elevate men's interest in status products (Griskevicius et al., 2007; Janssens et al., 2011; Sundie et al., 2011) and boost women's overt benevolence, such as helping others (Griskevicius et al., 2007). The theoretical basis underlying the male reaction is costly signaling theory, according to which men consume status products in a way similar to male peacocks flaunting their beautiful tails to attract peahens, in order to present desirable mating qualities, such as wealth, status, or the ability to obtain resources, to women they find attractive, ultimately serving their mating goals (Griskevicius et al., 2007). In summary, findings in research have suggested that men exposed to sexual stimuli when purchasing status products intend to present a desirable impression with a high mating value (Griskevicius & Kenrick, 2013; Leary & Kowalski, 1990). This intention can trigger men's interest in status products (Griskevicius et al., 2007; Janssens et al., 2011; Sundie et al., 2011) because these goods favor the presentation of their mating value. At the same time, this intention may also depress men's interests in discounted products because these goods may be unfavorable for their mating value presentation.

Similar to the idea that the marketing strategy of offering coupons for redemption may convey a negative impression of cheapness and stinginess (Ashworth, Darke, & Schaller, 2005; Kim & Yi, 2016), men may negatively associate discounted goods with low status and stinginess (Griskevicius & Kenrick, 2013), believing that discounted goods are unfavorable for their mating value. Thus, we proposed that men who form a negative impression association of low status, cheapness, or stinginess with discounted goods will avoid buying these goods when exposed to sexual stimuli in the marketplace.

Our purposes in the current research were to examine whether or not men exposed to sexual stimuli tend to avoid buying discounted conspicuous goods, and whether or not a negative impression association moderates the impact of sexual stimuli on men's intention to purchase discounted conspicuous products. We hypothesized that, compared to men who form a weak negative impression association (who do not tend to associate discounts with low status, cheapness, or stinginess), men with a strong negative impression association (who tend to associate discounts with low status, cheapness, or stinginess) would be more likely to be affected by sexual stimuli.

Theoretical Background and Hypotheses

Marketers in the modern commercial environment prefer advertising strategies involving sexual stimuli because they can attract consumer attention and build positive connections between products and spokespeople (Dahl et al., 2009). Adoption of sexually stimulating marketing strategies may occur even when the sexual elements of the strategy have no connection to the products advertised (Reichen & Lambiase, 2006). In addition to advertisements, many other types of sexual stimuli exist in the commercial environment, such as employing saleswomen who are considered to be sexy and attractive to men in the retail context.

Exposure to sexual stimuli, especially interactions with salespeople of the opposite sex whom they find attractive, can arouse men's mating acquisition systems and activate their mating goals (Griskevicius & Kenrick, 2013). These goals might guide their sexual attentions and behaviors toward the desirability of others as potential romantic partners and affect the perception of their own attractiveness. Given that conspicuously consuming status goods can reflect one's desirability, such as societal status (Han, Nunes, & Dreze, 2010), the presence of sexual stimuli can enhance men's purchase intention toward acquisition of status products.

For instance, Janssens et al. (2011) showed that interaction with a woman wearing clothing that was sexy helped male students remember status goods more accurately than when the woman was wearing unsexy clothing. Similarly, Griskevicius et al. (2007) found that activating respondents' mating goals by asking them to select the most desirable romantic partner from photographs of three attractive members of the opposite sex, can make men spend more money on items that conspicuously convey their financial resources. Researchers have also found that men in mixed-sex situations reported a higher valuation of their material wealth than did men in same-sex situations (Roney, 2003).

In costly signaling theory (Grafen, 1990; Zahavi, 1975) and in research based on this theory (e.g., Bird & Smith, 2005; McAndrew, 2002) it is suggested that men often engage in costly behaviors, that is, they spend a lot of their financial resources, energy, and/or time conveying their positive qualities as being desirable as a mate to a person of the opposite sex. In impression management theory, Leary and Kowalski (1990) argue that individuals always gauge the impressions that other people form of them. In certain circumstances, individuals are motivated to control how other people see them; according to Leary and Kowalski (p. 35), "once motivated to create certain impressions, they may adjust their behaviors to affect others' impression of them." Under conditions in which sexual stimuli are present, men may be motivated to present a high mating value to women whom they consider to be attractive and will display behaviors meant to promote this impression of high value as a mate, such as buying status goods and avoiding behaviors they deem to be unfavorable to promoting this impression.

In contrast to the wealth and financial resources that are signaled by status goods, discounted conspicuous goods might be associated with cheapness. Men may think buying goods at a discounted or reduced price conveys an impression of low social or economic status (Griskevicius & Kenrick, 2013), possibly making them appear penny-pinching or stingy (Ashworth et al., 2005; Kim & Yi, 2016). Purchasing goods at a discount is a transaction that can be easily observed by others, such as salespeople. Consequently, if the retail context includes sexual stimuli, like attractive salespeople of the opposite sex, it is possible that male buyers may not choose to purchase discounted conspicuous goods. In situations involving sexual stimuli, men may interpret buying goods at a discount in front of others, and thereby appearing to be lacking financial resources, having a low status, or being stingy, as unfavorable for attracting a mate (Li & Kenrick, 2006). Thus, exposure to sexual stimuli might depress men's purchase intention toward discounted conspicuous products.

Hypothesis 1: Compared to a control condition of nonsexual stimuli, exposure to sexual stimuli will depress a man's purchase intention toward discounted conspicuous goods.

Furthermore, we hypothesized that the negative effect of sexual stimuli on men's purchase intention toward discounted goods would be greater among men with a strong negative impression association because they might regard buying at a discount as a handicap to their ability to attract a mate after their mating goals were induced, whereas men with a weak negative impression association might not. Discounts are offered as a financial incentive and have the psychological benefit of transaction utility (Ashworth et al., 2005; Thaler, 1985). Accordingly, individuals who are vulnerable to the incentive of discounting and to transaction utility may not associate discounts with cheapness. Thus, the purchase intention of these individuals toward discounted conspicuous goods might not be depressed by sexual stimuli. Thus, we proposed that the strength of men's negative impression association might have a moderating effect on their purchase intention toward discounted conspicuous products when sexual stimuli are present.

Hypothesis 2: Sexual stimuli will have greater suppressive effects on the purchase intention for discounted conspicuous goods of men with a strong negative impression association than for men with a weak negative impression association.

The Current Research

We conducted three studies to test our two hypotheses. In Study 1 we examined whether or not exposure to explicit sexual stimuli versus stimuli that were nonsexual would depress men's purchase intention toward a discounted watch. In Study 2 we investigated whether or not exposure to a photograph of a saleswoman who had been categorized as the most attractive out of nine alternatives by a group of male students, and another whom they had categorized as the least attractive (subtle sexual stimuli) would also reduce men's purchase intention toward discounted conspicuous items. In Study 3 we tested whether or not negative impression association would moderate the suppressive effect of sexual stimuli.

Study 1

Method

Participants and design. For this experiment we recruited 54 men, ([M.sub.age] = 21.72 years, SD = 1.55), who were students in introductory marketing classes at a large university in northeast China and offered them extra course credits for their participation. Participants came to a research laboratory in groups of from two to six men and were each seated at individually partitioned computer terminals running Qualtrics experimental software. They provided informed consent and were randomly assigned via Qualtrics to one of two between-subject conditions: sexual stimuli or nonsexual stimuli.

Procedure. The sexual stimuli manipulation was adapted from Chen, Zhu, and Zheng (2013). Participants assigned to the sexual-stimuli condition were told the following: "A swimsuit company is now designing some new styles, and they have invited several female models to have their photographs taken wearing the new swimsuits. Please help the company to choose the sexiest picture." The men were then presented with four pictures of female models wearing the swimsuits and selected the image they judged to be sexiest. Next, they were told: "For these swimsuit products, the company has designed two advertising slogans--'Sexiness flows in your heart' and 'Only you can appreciate my charm.' Please indicate which slogan you prefer." The purpose of slogan-selection task was to further strengthen the sexual stimuli for the participants by giving them a choice.

Participants assigned to the nonsexual-stimuli condition were told the following: "A travel company is designing print advertisements and they need to choose some good pictures of landscapes. Please help the company to choose the best background picture." They were then presented with four landscape pictures and asked to indicate which they liked best. Next, participants were told: "For these print advertisements, the company has designed two advertising slogans--'Beauty of nature' and 'Heaven and earth aura.' Please indicate which slogan you prefer."

It should be noted that all the research materials in each of the three studies were presented to the participants in Chinese. They were translated according to the procedure recommended by Brislin (1970). The translated Chinese materials were translated into English by the authors, and an associate professor who earned his doctorate in Australia was asked to back-translate the English version into Chinese. Discrepancies in the translations were carefully checked and corrected.

Pretest. To ensure that the sexual stimuli elicited the mating goals of the participants in the main study, we conducted a pretest with a separate group of 32 male students, assigning 16 of the men in this group to each of the two conditions, using the same procedure described above. After reading the cover story relating to their assigned condition, the participants indicated to what extent they experienced romantic arousal, sexual arousal, desire for a romantic partner, and desire to be attractive to attractive women (Griskevicius et al., 2007). Responses were evaluated using a 7-point scale, ranging from 1 = not at all to 7 = very much. Compared to the nonsexual-stimuli condition, participants in the sexual-stimuli condition indicated that they felt significantly more romantic arousal, [M.sub.sexiial] = 4.17, [M.sub.nonsexual] = 1.60, p < .001; significantly greater sexual arousal, [M.sub.sexual] = 3.83, [M.sub.nonsexual] = 1.20, p < .001; a stronger desire for a romantic partner, [M.sub.sexual] = 4.67, [M.sub.nonsexual] = 2.60, p < .001, and stronger desire to be attractive to attractive women, [M.sub.sexual] = 4.50, [M.sub.nonsexual] = 2.80, p < .001. Thus, participants' mating goals were successfully triggered by the sexual stimuli.

Discounted product purchase intention. After completing the manipulation tasks, participants in the main study were asked to indicate their purchase intention towards a digital watch being offered with a 70% discount on the price on a 12-point scale, ranging from 1 = would certainly not buy it to 12 = would certainly buy it.

Data analysis. We used one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) to test the effect of sexual stimuli on the participants' purchase intention toward the discounted watch. The data were processed through IBM SPSS 19 software.

Results and Discussion

Results of the analysis showed that the participants exposed to the sexual stimuli reported significantly less purchase intention toward the discounted watch than did those exposed to nonsexual stimuli, [M.sub.sexual] = 4.55, [M.sub.nonsexual] = 6.19, F(1, 53) = 4.54, p = .038, d = -.58. These results supported H1.

In Study 1 we manipulated respondents' mating goals using images of women modeling sexy swimsuits versus images of landscapes and found that explicit sexual stimuli can significantly depress men's purchase intention toward a discounted watch. However, in the context of real-world retailing, the sexual stimuli consumers encounter are generally not as strong as was the case in our manipulation. Therefore, Study 2 was conducted to determine whether or not a relatively subtle sexual stimulus from saleswomen would also depress men's purchase intention toward discounted items.

Study 2

Method

Participants and design. For this experiment we recruited 92 men ([M.sub.age] = 22.43 years, SD = 1.47) who were students in management classes at a comprehensive university in northeast China and offered them extra course credits for their participation. This study had a 2 x 2 mixed-factorial design, in which saleswoman attractiveness (attractive vs. unattractive) was the between-participant factor, and price (discounted vs. full price) was the within-participant measure.

Procedure. Before the formal experiment, we selected 15 photographs of saleswomen from the Internet (verified by their use of uniforms and the shop backgrounds) and asked a separate group of 14 male undergraduate students to evaluate their beauty, sex appeal, and charm on a 9-point scale ranging from 1 = lowest to 9 = highest. Scores were averaged to index the overall level of perceived attractiveness ([alpha] = .90) for each saleswoman. The image of the saleswoman who received the highest rating was used in the formal experiment as the sexual stimulus, and the image of the woman who received the lowest rating was used as the nonsexual stimulus, [M.sub.sexual] = 7.86, [M.sub.nonsexual] = 3.31, t(12) = 8.72, p < .001.

In the formal experiment, the 92 participants came into the laboratory in groups of from two to six men and were each seated at individually partitioned computer terminals. They provided informed consent and then read the following instructions: "Zhang (male) is buying an item in a shopping center, and a saleswoman who provides service for Zhang is as follows ..." Participants were then randomly presented with either the most attractive (sexual stimulus) or the least attractive (nonsexual stimulus) saleswoman image via Qualtrics randomization.

Pretest. In another group, 45 male students were tested with either the sexual or nonsexual manipulations of the formal experiment described above. This showed that, compared with the photograph of the saleswoman who had been selected as the least attractive, the group who saw the photograph of the most attractive saleswoman experienced significantly stronger feelings of romantic arousal, [M.sub.sexual] = 4.14, [M.sub.nonsexual] = 2.91,p < .001; and sexual arousal, [M.sub.sexual] = 4.33, [M.sub.nonsexual] = 2.85, p < .001; as well as feeling stronger desire for a romantic partner, [M.sub.sexual] = 4.52, [M.sub.nonsexual] = 3.52, p < .01, and to be attractive to attractive women, [M.sub.sexual] = 5.33, [M.sub.nonsexual] = 3.88, p < .001. These results indicated that a relatively subtle sexual stimulus can significantly activate men's mating goals.

Purchase intention measures. After completing the manipulation task, participants in the formal experiment were asked to indicate their purchase intention toward discounted and full-price products via a projective method. Specifically, respondents were asked to answer the following question on a 9-point scale ranging from 1 = would certainly not buy to 9 = would certainly buy: "To what extent do you think Zhang (male) will buy the following items?" The discounted items included: a 50% off name-brand watch, a 50% off name-brand item of sportswear, and a 50% off name-brand iPad; full-price items were: a name-brand watch, a name-brand item of sportswear, and a name-brand iPad. Respondent scores for the three discounted ([alpha] = .83) and three full-price (a = .89) items were averaged and used as indices of purchase intention toward discounted and full-price items (cf. Griskevicius et al., 2007; Wang & Griskevicius, 2014).

Data analysis. We employed repeated measures ANOVA to test the interaction effect of saleswoman attractiveness and price on men's purchase intention, and one-way ANOVA to conduct contrasts analysis. Data were also processed with IBM SPSS 19 software.

Results and Discussion

Repeated measures ANOVA revealed a two-way interaction between saleswoman and price, F(1, 90) = 6.55, p = .012, a = .068. As shown in Figure 1, men who had been shown the image of the most attractive saleswoman were more inclined to buy full-price products, whereas those who had been shown the image of the least attractive saleswoman were more inclined to buy discounted goods. The results of a series of planned contrasts revealed that participants subjected to the sexual stimulus (most attractive saleswoman) tended not to buy discounted items, [M.sub.full-price] = 5.36, [M.sub.discounted] = 4.24, t(45) = 1.95, p = .057, d = .50, and showed greater purchase intention toward full-price items, [M.sub.sexual] = 5.36, [M.sub.nonsexual] = 4.07, F(1, 91) = 7.62, p < .01, d = .56, relative to those exposed to the nonsexual stimulus (least attractive saleswoman). However, the difference between the purchase intention of both groups toward discounted products was not significant, F(1, 90) = 1.18, p = .28.

In Study 2 we manipulated the degree of sexual stimulation using images of real-life saleswomen and participants indicated their purchase intentions using the projective method. The results revealed that men exposed to a subtle sexual stimulus reported less purchase intention toward discounted items compared to full-price items, supporting H1. Although participants exposed to the subtle sexual stimulus reported a lower purchase intention toward discounted goods relative to the participants exposed to the nonsexual stimulus, [M.sub.sexual] = 4.24; [M.sub.nonsexual] = 4.69, the difference was not significant. We believed this was attributable to differences in the level of negativity of the men's impression association among the individual participants. Specifically, we believed that negative impression association would moderate the influence of sexual stimuli on purchase intention toward discounted products; and in Study 3 we examined this proposition.

Study 3

Method

Participants and design. We recruited 136 men ([M.sub.age] = 22.13 years, SD = 4.14), who were students at another large university in China to participate in this study for extra course credits. This study had a 2 x 2 x 2 mixed-factorial design, in which saleswoman attractiveness (attractive vs. unattractive) was the between-subject factor and price (discounted vs. full price) and negative impression association (strong vs. weak) were within-subject factors.

Procedure. The general procedure for this study was very similar to that of Study 2. We used the same instructions and the same images to represent sexual and nonsexual stimuli. After completing the manipulation tasks, participants were asked to indicate their purchase intention for discounted and full-price products and to answer questions designed to measure the level of the negativity of their impression association.

Purchase intention measure. After reading the instructions and viewing the saleswoman images, participants were told that: "Zhang found two Tissot (world-famous brand) watches very suitable for him. The two watches are the same in quality, color, style, and other features, and the only difference is price: one is being sold at full price, the other has a discount of 20% off." Then, participants were asked to estimate as a percentage the likelihood that Zhang would buy the discounted or the full-price Tissot watch (0% = would certainly not buy; 100% = would certainly buy).

Negative impression association measure. To measure this construct, participants were asked to rate the following three items on a 7-point scale ranging from 1 = completely disagree to 7 = completely agree: "In public, I will associate discounts with (a) low status, (b) cheapness, or (c) stinginess." Respondents' scores on these three items were averaged to determine their negative impression association level ([alpha] = .90).

Finally, as a manipulation check, according to the procedure described in Studies 1 and 2, all participants were asked to rate their levels of romantic arousal, sexual arousal, desire for a romantic partner, and desire to be attractive to attractive women.

Data analysis. We employed repeated-measures omnibus ANOVA to test the interaction effect of saleswoman attractiveness, price, and negativity of impression association on men's purchase intention and one-way ANOVA to conduct contrasts analysis. Data were processed with IBM SPSS 19 software.

Results and Discussion

Results of the manipulation check showed that participants exposed to the sexual stimulus reported stronger romantic arousal, [M.sub.sexual] = 3.37, [M.sub.nonsexual] = 2.58, p < .05; sexual arousal, [M.sub.sexual] = 3.66, [M.sub.nonsexual] = 2.57, p < .001; desire for a romantic partner, [M.sub.sexual] = 4.08, [M.sub.nonsexual] = 3.48, p = .06, and desire to be attractive to attractive women, [M.sub.sexual] = 4.68, [M.sub.nonsexual] = 3.77, p < .01, relative to those exposed to the nonsexual stimulus, indicating that the manipulation task successfully triggered participants' mating goals.

The negative impression association variable was subjected to a mean split (cf. Sengupta & Dahl, 2008) and repeated-measures omnibus ANOVA, and the result indicated a three-way interaction among saleswoman attractiveness, price, and negativity of impression association as follows, F(1, 132) = 4.096, p = .045, a = .03 (see Figure 2).

Next, we also conducted a series of planned contrasts. First, participants exposed to the sexual stimulus (most attractive saleswoman) indicated less likelihood of buying the discounted Tissot watch than did those exposed to the nonsexual stimulus (least attractive saleswoman), [M.sub.sexual] = 53.65%, [M.sub.nonsexual] = 65.09%, F(1, 134) = 7.36, p < .01, d = .46. When the dependent variable was likelihood of buying the discounted Tissot watch, the interaction between saleswoman attractiveness and negativity of impression association was significant, F(1, 132) = 4.43, p = .037, [chi square] = .032. These results further demonstrated that exposure to sexual stimuli can significantly depress men's purchase intention toward discounted products, especially the purchase intention of men with a strong negative impression association. This held true even with a conspicuous status/luxury brand watch sold at a small discount of 20% off. These results also further supported H1 and H2 in that, compared to the nonsexual stimuli condition, exposure to even subtle sexual stimuli depressed the purchase intention of men with a strong negative impression association.

Second, relative to the participants exposed to the nonsexual stimulus, those exposed to the sexual stimulus indicated a greater likelihood of buying the Tissot watch at the full price, [M.sub.sexual] = 49.53%, [M.sub.nonsexual] = 37.25%, F(1, 134) = 7.86,p < .01, d = .46; when the dependent variable was likelihood of buying the full-price Tissot watch, the interaction between saleswoman attractiveness and negativity of impression association was marginally significant, F(1, 132) = 2.97, p = .087, a = .022. Compared to men with a weak negative impression association, [M.sub.sexual] = 41.57%, [M.sub.nonsexual] = 36.70%, F(1, 72) = .69, p > .4, the promoting effect of the sexual stimulus (most attractive saleswoman) was significant only for men with a strong negative impression association, [M.sub.sexual] = 57.76%, [M.sub.nonsexual] = 37.97%, F(1, 60) = 9.58, p < .01, d = .78.

General Discussion

From an evolutionary psychology standpoint, findings in research on men's purchase intentions have revealed that activation of mating goals can elevate men's, but not women's, attention and purchase intention toward status or luxury products, as the men make an effort to display desirable mating values of status and abilities, and to gain resources by showing their ability to consume status goods (Griskevicius et al., 2007; Janssens et al., 2011; Sundie et al., 2011). Moreover, because the consumption of expensive goods signals that the purchaser has the ability to achieve a high social status and to acquire corresponding resources (Colarelli & Dettmann, 2003), consuming expensive goods signals the mate quality of the male (Saad, 2007). Thus, the symbolic meaning associated with consumption of expensive luxury goods rather than cheap goods, such as goods being offered at a discounted price, is very important when male mating goals are activated (Song, Huang, & Li, 2014). Consistent with the theories of costly signaling and impression management, we proposed that consumption of discounted goods in public may be counter to male mating values, causing men to decide against purchasing discounted goods. We tested this proposition in a series of three experiments and revealed its boundary conditions.

Specifically, in Study 1 we found that, compared to participants who were exposed to landscape pictures, participants exposed to explicit sexual stimuli of swimsuit model images reported significantly less purchase intention toward a common, discounted watch. In Study 2 we investigated the effect of subtle sexual stimuli using images of real saleswomen and found a significant interaction between saleswoman attractiveness and offered price. Participants exposed to this subtle sexual stimulus showed less purchase intention toward discounted items than toward full-price items. However, the main effect of saleswoman attractiveness on men's purchase intention toward discounted items was nonsignificant. We believed that this could be attributed to a moderating effect of negative impression association such that sexual stimuli were having a greater suppressive influence on purchase intention for the discounted product among the men with a strong negative impression association than among those with a weak negative impression association and we tested this proposition in Study 3. Men with a strong negative impression association exposed to the most attractive saleswoman reported less likelihood of purchasing the discounted name-brand (luxury) watch compared to the full-price watch.

Our results enabled us to identify a trade-off between economic benefit and signaling value for discounted goods. In traditional economic theory it is indicated that consumers often show interest in discounts as they involve a financial incentive (Ashworth et al., 2005). Results in research based on the costly signaling theory have illustrated that, in an effort to display a high mating value to the desired opposite sex, men show great concern for the signaling value of goods when their mating motives are induced (Griskevicius et al., 2007; Janssens et al., 2011; Sundie et al., 2011). Men eager to display high mating value may associate discounts with a negative impression of their status (i.e., low status, cheapness, and/or stinginess; Ashworth et al., 2005; Griskevicius & Kenrick, 2013), which they perceive as unfavorable for their mating value presentation (Leary & Kowalski, 1990). Thus, these men will not buy discounted items when exposed to sexual stimuli. Our findings supported this line of reasoning, suggesting that there is a trade-off between signaling value of discounted goods and their economic benefit for men when sexual stimuli are present. Furthermore, our findings in the current research demonstrate that this trade-off is more likely to be an influence for men with a strong negative impression association related to discounted products than for men with a weak negative impression association.

Our findings in the studies also enabled us to identify the boundary conditions of the promoting effect of sexual stimuli on men's purchase intentions toward status/luxury products. Previous researchers have shown that, after induction of mating goals, young men are inclined to choose, and spend more money on, conspicuous luxury items than they were before induction (Sundie et al., 2011; Griskevicius et al., 2007). Overall, our findings in Studies 2 and 3 supported the promoting effect of mating goals on men's purchase intention toward conspicuous luxury goods. However, we went a step further and found that the promoting effect of sexual stimuli was significant only for men who had a strong negative impression association related to discounted goods; for men with a weak negative impression association, the promoting effect of sexual stimuli on full-price luxury goods was nonsignificant (Study 3).

Implications, Limitations, and Future Directions

The current research has important implications for marketing and promotion of conspicuous products. It is not unusual to see marketers use discounts as a strategy to attract consumers because of the economic benefit and positive transaction utility of discounts (Ashworth et al., 2005). Accordingly, it seems logical that discounting should generally motivate consumers to buy more. However, our research suggests that, relative to full-price goods, discounting of conspicuous products after sexual stimulation may depress men's purchase intentions, especially for those with a strong negative impression association related to discounting. Therefore, conspicuous products should not be discounted when sexual stimuli are present.

The current research has some limitations. First, we focused on the influence of sexual stimuli on men's discount purchase intention. However, we did not examine the possible negative effect of sexual stimuli on men's purchase intention in public situations toward goods of poor quality that may also be associated with low status, cheapness, and stinginess, even when these goods are offered at the full price. Future researchers should explore this possibility.

Second, we did not test the possible influence of men's ethical attitudes toward sexual stimuli in marketing. Sexual strategies usually involve ethical problems (Sengupta & Dahl, 2008), and whether or not men react negatively to sexual stimuli might also moderate the impacts of sexual stimuli on men's purchase intention. Although additional research is still needed, other researchers have reported that, on average, compared to women, men possess more positive attitudes towards sex itself (Dahl et al., 2009; Sengupta & Dahl, 2008). Furthermore, we found similar negative effects of sexual stimuli across all three of our studies.

Another limitation of our research was its reliance on men of a single culture/ ethnicity. Considering the significant variations in cultures worldwide, it is possible that men of other ethnicities may not associate discounts with low status or other unfavorable qualities, even when mating goals are triggered. It is likely that culture plays an important role in determining male attitudes toward discounts on conspicuous goods. For example, the concepts of avoiding losing face, and conversely of gaining and maintaining face, are important in Chinese social activities. Chinese men have a stronger consciousness of the importance of face than do American men (Li & Su, 2007; Zhang, Cao, & Grigoriou, 2011) and tend to relate brands and price more potently to the face concept than do American consumers (Li & Su, 2007). Thus, Chinese men, or East Asian men in general, might have a stronger negative impression association with discounting of conspicuous goods than do their U. S. counterparts. Accordingly, the negative effects of sexual stimuli on purchase intentions for discounted conspicuous goods might not be as strong for North American versus Chinese men. Such speculations need to be examined in future studies.

https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.6110

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Chunhui Huo and Shaofeng Yuan

Liaoning University

Chunhui Huo and Shaofeng Yuan, Business School, Liaoning University. This study was supported by research grants from the National Social Science Foundation of China (13CGL045), and the Liaoning Provincial Committee of Education (W2015181). Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Shaofeng Yuan, Business School, Liaoning University, No. 58 Daoyi South Street, Shenbei New District, Shenyang, Liaoning 110136, People's Republic of China. Email: shaofengyuan@hotmail.com
Figure 1. Interaction effect of sexual stimuli on men's purchase
intention for products offered at a discounted price and at the
full price.

                      Attractive    Unattractive
                      saleswoman    saleswoman

Discounted products   4.24          4.69
Full-price products   5.36          4.07

Note: Table made from Bar Graph.

Figure 2. Influence of sexual stimuli on men's full-price and
discounted watch purchase intention relative to strong versus weak
negative impression associations.

Full-price watch purchase intention

               Strong negative          Weak negative
               impression association   impression association

Attractive     57.76%                   41.57%
saleswoman
Unattractive   37.97%                   36.70%
saleswoman

Discounted watch purchase intention

               Strong negative          Weak negative
               impression association   impression association

Attractive     45.10%                   65.67%
saleswoman
Unattractive   65.67%                   64.66%
saleswoman

Note: Table made from bar graph.
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Author:Huo, Chunhui; Yuan, Shaofeng
Publication:Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal
Article Type:Report
Date:Mar 1, 2017
Words:6273
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