Special Session Summary Culture and Consumption: Luxury and Leisure Consumption in Asia

Wai-Kwan Li, University of Texas-Pan American
Nancy Wong, University of Hawaii at Manoa
[ to cite ]:
Wai-Kwan Li and Nancy Wong (1998) ,"Special Session Summary Culture and Consumption: Luxury and Leisure Consumption in Asia", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, eds. Joseph W. Alba & J. Wesley Hutchinson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 209-212.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, 1998      Pages 209-212



Wai-Kwan Li, University of Texas-Pan American

Nancy Wong, University of Hawaii at Manoa


Interest in cross-cultural research in consumer behavior has been growing. However, an examination of the Table of Contents in the past five volumes of ACR Proceedings/Program shows that only nine out of the 340 sessions (2.6%) dealt with cross-cultural issues. Given the establishment of trading blocks along cultural/geographic divisions and the increasing role that they play in global trade, enhancing our cross-cultural understanding of consumer behavior is mandatory for managers and marketing practitioners. Furthermore, trade flows between the United States and Asian markets are growing faster than any other markets, which makes advancing our understanding of Asian consumers an important priority. The objective of this special session is to enhance our understanding of Asian consumers by examining how culture influence the way they spend their money (Ahuvia and Wong), make purchase decisions (Lee), and the way they use leisure time (Li).




Aaron Ahuvia, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Nancy Wong, University of Hawaii at Manoa

In the first paper, Ahuvia and Wong used Markus & Kitayama’s self theory (1991) to enhance our understanding in luxury consumption. Through the analysis of depth interview data, they offered an alternative interpretation to luxury consumption in Singapore due to different cultural orientations and self-concepts Specifically, the collectivistic and individualistic self-concepts could provide different motivation intra-culturally for the same luxury consumption and also result in different meanings of consumption. In looking at Singaporean women’s consumption of brand name luxury goods, they explored two different ways in which consumers consume, each linked to a different psychological view of the self. These two orientations were shown to reflect fundamentally different notions of what the self is and how the individual should relate to the broader society. In other words, "collectivistic and individualistic nations can both be materialistic" (p.74, Ger and Belk, 1996), albeit in different ways.



Julie Anne Lee, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Mark Patton, Curtin University of Technology

Jae Wook Kim, Korea University

Jacqueline Kacen, University of Michigan-Dearborn

This paper develops and tests a framework for the investigation of cultural influences on consumer purchasing behavior, by examining the psychological processes that intervene. The model is empirically tested with a camera purchase decision survey of both students and non-students in Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Australia and the United States. The data support the etic or universal nature of the model by finding strong support at the pooled, national and individual difference (i.e. individualist and collectivist) levels. In addition, the theories of individualism and collectivism are applied to the model to derive specific cross cultural hypotheses.



Wai-Kwan Li, University of Texas-Pan American

Departing from the emphasis of individualism-collectivism (or independent-interdependent) theory, Li examined the effects of hedonism and intellectualism on leisure time consumption in the third paper. Li applied Schwartz and Bilsky’s (1990) theory on universal content and structure of human values in understanding the cross-cultural differences in leisure time consumption. She argued that consumers who value hedonism more than intellectualism (Australians) are likely to spend more time on entertainment activities than self-improvement activities, but the reverse is true for consumers who value intellectualism more than hedonism (Singaporeans). Results from the survey (conducted in Singapore and Australia) confirmed these hypotheses.



Richard P. Bagozzi, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Bagozzi started his synthesis by highlighting the contributions of Li’s paper. First, Li documented the time consumption literature. Second, she applied Schwartz’s value theory in explaining how fundamental values shaped behavior. Third, this cross-cultural study enhanced our understanding in time usage across cultures. Bagozzi suggested that future research on time consumption could explore the importance of time in different culture; different ways of experiencing hedonism (e.g. to Chinese, eating is an enjoyment vs. to Americans, eating is to "fill the belly"). He also recommended using more specific measures rather than universal scales to test the models.

On the second paper, Bagozzi agreed with Lee that Triandis’ theory is more comprehensive and predictive, as compared to Fishbein’s model. This cross-cultural study enhanced our understanding of sole vs. joint purchase attitude. He suggested examining the moderating effects of past experience and referent norms on purchase attitude; and the moderating effects of referent norms on purchase intention. He noted the limitation of the Individualism-Collectivism scale, as the final four-factor solution presented only xplained 40% of the variance. Future research is needed for a better conceptualization of the scale.

Bagozzi highlighted the contributions of Ahuvia and Wong’s study, including, luxury consumption as self-extensions; the existence of individualists in collectivistic culture; confirming the validity of the individualism-collectivism construct; and products as reflection of self-identities. While Ahuvia and Wong used "standing out by fitting in" to describe the motives of interdependent-oriented consumers’ luxury consumption, Bagozzi felt "fitting in by standing out" was a more accurate description. Future studies should address what identity is, and how we can study it. Previous theories, such as social identity theory (Tajfel 1981), and dramaturgical self adopted the atomistic approach (e.g., either a parent’s role or flight attendant’s role). He suggested conceptualizing the self-identity as a dialectical self, (e.g., both parent’s and flight attendant’s roles) by using a more inclusive approach rather than the duality approach. The validity of dialectical self is illustrated in Ahuvia and Wong’s and Lee’s papers.

To conclude, Baggozzi encouraged more cross-cultural studies. Cross-cultural studies can extend the generalizability of theories and models across different cultures; discover culture-specific theories; provide a context for natural experiments; unconfound variables; and provide personal and social benefits by a depth understanding of cultures.


Ger, Guliz and Russell W. Belk (1996), "Cross-Cultural Differences in Materialism," Journal of Economic Psychology, 17, 55-77.

Markus, H. and S. Kitayama (1991), "Culture and the Self: Implications for Cognition, Emotion, and Motivation," Psychological Review, 98(2), 224-253.

Schwartz, Shalom H. and Wolfgang Bilsky (1990). "Toward A Theory of the Universal Content and Structure of Values: Extensions and Cross-Cultural Replications," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58(5), 878-891.

Schwartz, Shalom H. (1992), "Universals in the Content and Structure of Values: Theoretical Advances and Empirical Tests in 20 Countries," Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 25, 1-65.

Singelis, Theodore M., (1994), "The Measurement of Independent and Interdependent Self-Construals," Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20(5), 580-591.

Tajfel, Henry (1981), Human Groups and Social Categories: Studies in Social Psychology. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Triandis, Harry C. (1995), Individualism and Collectivism: New directions in social psychology. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.