The double-edged sword of envy: Effects of envy type and regulatory focus on consumer decision making

Rajat Roy, Fazlul Rabbanee, Diana Awad, Vishal Mehrotra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


This study aims to investigate the fit of a promotion (prevention) focus with malicious (benign) envy and how this fit influences positive and negative behaviours, depending on the context.

Four empirical studies (two laboratory and two online experiments) were used to test key hypotheses. Study 1 manipulated regulatory focus and envy in a job application setting with university students. Study 2 engaged similar manipulations in a social media setting. Studies 3 and 4 extended the regulatory focus and envy manipulations to the general population in pay-what-you-want (PWYW) and pay-it-forward (PIF) restaurant contexts.

The findings showed that a promotion (prevention) focus fits with the emotion of malicious (benign) envy. In the social media context, promotion and prevention foci demonstrated negative behaviour, including unfollowing the envied person, when combined with malicious and benign envy. In the PWYW and PIF contexts, combining envy with a specific type of regulatory focus encouraged both positive and negative behaviours through influencing payments.

Research limitations/implications
Future research could validate and extend this study’s findings with different product/service categories, cross-cultural samples and research methods such as field experiments.

Practical implications
The four studies’ findings will assist managers in formulating marketing strategies to enhance their positioning of target products/services, possibly leading to higher prices for PWYW and PIF businesses.

The conceptual model is novel as, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, no prior research has proposed and tested the fit between envy type and regulatory foci.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2024


Dive into the research topics of 'The double-edged sword of envy: Effects of envy type and regulatory focus on consumer decision making'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this