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Does “hot” lead to “not so hot?”

Chun-Tuan Chang (Department of Business Management, National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan)
Dickson Tok (Department of Marketing and E-commerce, Nanjing University Business School, Nanjing, Jiangsu, China)
Xing-Yu (Marcos) Chu (Department of Marketing and E-commerce, Nanjing University Business School, Nanjing, Jiangsu, China)
Yu-Kang Lee (Department of Political Economy, National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan)
Shr-Chi Wang (Department of Business Management, National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 26 November 2020

Issue publication date: 11 May 2021




This paper aims to examine how exposure to sexual images activates the urge to yield to temptation in a subsequent unrelated context.


In Study 1, this paper uses empirical data based on an automobile expo to examine the correlational relationship between sexual imagery and indulgence. In Studies 2 and 3, this study examines the moderating effects of self-construal and gender differences on indulgent consumption, with different dependent measures. Study 4 distinguishes the sexual images into gratuitous sex and romantic love and tests the mediating role of sensation seeking.


For men, an independent self-construal increases indulgent consumption. In contrast, an interdependent self-construal facilitates women’s indulgent consumption. Having an interdependent self-construal has the opposite impact on indulgent consumption for the two genders: sexual images of romantic love attenuate the effect on men but boost the effect on women. Perceived sensation-seeking serves as the underlying mechanism.

Research limitations/implications

This paper contributes to the literature on sex, reward-processing, context effects in marketing and indulgent consumption.

Practical implications

Advertisers, retailers, food courts and restaurants may use sexual imagery to promote more indulgent consumption with gender and self-construal as segmentation variables. Public policymakers and other concerned parties should also raise consumers’ awareness of the priming effect found in this research.


This research advances the literature on sex by demonstrating the priming effects of sexual imagery and further considers the simultaneous impacts of gender and self-construal on consumers’ subsequent indulgent consumption.



The first author would like to thank Jiun-Chen Wu for his suggestions regarding the research. The authors would also thank the Research funding from the Ministry of Science and Technology of Taiwan granted to Chun-Tuan Chang [MOST#: 105–2410-H-110 –027 -MY2] and the research funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China [71902083] and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities [010414370114] granted to Xing-Yu (Marcos) Chu.


Chang, C.-T., Tok, D., Chu, X.-Y.(M)., Lee, Y.-K. and Wang, S.-C. (2021), "Does “hot” lead to “not so hot?”", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 55 No. 5, pp. 1313-1337.



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