Subtle Signals of Status on Social Network Sites: Evidence From China

Wangshuai Wang, Tiantian Shao, Yanxi Yi, Shijiao Fang, Jingyi Song, Zucheng Yu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Social network sites (SNS) have been indispensable channels for people to access information, present themselves, and conduct commercial activities. Existing literature on online consumer behavior mainly focus on Western consumers and on explicit conspicuous signals. However, reports have shown that SNS users in China have exceeded 370 million, ranking the first in the world. Meanwhile, more and more consumers display status in more implicit ways nowadays. To fill these gaps, the present research was conducted to investigate the subtle signals of status for Chinese consumers on SNS. We proposed that frequent SNS posting leads to higher status perception among Chinese consumers. The psychological process of this effect is perceived busyness. These hypotheses received convergent support in a set of three studies. Study 1 used secondary data to preliminarily verify the positive correlation between SNS posting frequency and perceived social status. Studies 2A and 2B adopted the causal chain method to test the underlying mechanism of the effect, and to provide causal evidence for the entire relationship chain. Specifically, Study 2A examined how SNS posting frequency affects perceived busyness. Furthermore, Study 2B explored whether the differences in perceived busyness will affect social status perceptions. Implications of these findings and potential extensions in future are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number741602
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Chinese consumers
  • SNS
  • perceived busyness
  • social status
  • subtle signals

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