Lighting up the dark: How the scarcity of childhood resources leads to preferences for bright stimuli

Wangshuai Wang, Yanxi Yi, Jie Li, Gong Sun*, Mo Zhang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


A significant number of children live in poverty, even in modern society. Can the conditions of childhood resources affect one's decision-making in adulthood? This research documents a novel effect of childhood resources on sensory preferences as adults. Drawing on the compensatory consumer behavior theory, we proposed and found that people suffering from scarce childhood resources exhibit stronger preferences for bright stimuli in adulthood. The underlying mechanism for this effect is the desire for a bright future. Moreover, when individuals are reminded of the positive symbolic meanings associated with darkness, the effect of childhood resources on sensory preference is attenuated. A set of three experiments provided convergent evidence for these effects. Implications of these findings and possible extensions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1155-1164
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Business Research
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Childhood resources
  • Compensatory consumption
  • Embodied cognition
  • Sensory marketing

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