Powerlessness, variety-seeking, and the mediating role of need for autonomy

Wangshuai Wang, Rajagopal Raghunathan, Dinesh K. Gauri*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


How does feeling powerless (vs. powerful) affect variety-seeking in retail contexts? Based on the notion that feeling powerless is associated with lower autonomy, and building on studies showing that having a wider choice set enhances autonomy, we predict—consistent with research on compensatory consumption—that low-power consumers (vs. those with high power) will exhibit greater variety-seeking. Findings across nine studies were consistent with this prediction. Further, while all nine studies provide evidence that low-power consumers seek greater variety, three studies (1A, 1B, and 1C) support the prediction that this effect is mediated by need for autonomy and not by any of eight other competing mechanisms, including other-orientation, need for uniqueness, and risk aversion. Studies 2 and 3 explore theoretically and managerially relevant ways, respectively, of reducing the tendency for low (vs. high) power consumers to seek greater variety, while study 4 provides external (real-world) validity for our prediction in retail (i.e., a restaurant) context. The theoretical and managerial implications of our research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)706-723
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Retailing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Need for autonomy
  • Power
  • Variety-seeking


Dive into the research topics of 'Powerlessness, variety-seeking, and the mediating role of need for autonomy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this