Faculty of Business Administration

MMI Brown Bag Seminar

“I See Non-People”: How Consumers Use Dehumanization to Manage Embarrassment in Service Encounters

Prof. Yixia SUN
Assistant Professor of Marketing
School of Management at Zhejiang University

Date:          18 November, 2019 (Monday)

Time:         15:00~16:00

Venue:       E22-2010


The current research investigates dehumanization as a way consumers manage feelings of embarrassment experienced in retail and service contexts. The results of seven experimental studies (three in a field setting and four conducted online) provide converging evidence that when consumers buy embarrassing products or require an embarrassing medical service, they dehumanize the service provider. Specifically, when in an embarrassing service interaction, consumers engage in mechanistic dehumanization, perceiving service providers as more mechanistic and less capable of deliberate thoughts and emotional reactions than when in a non-embarrassing service interaction. The studies also show that when faced with embarrassing retail or service situations, consumers prefer service providers who show a mechanistic demeanor over those who are chatty and looking to build rapport. These findings extend the dehumanization literature by providing an example of a subtle, everyday form of mechanistic dehumanization, and contribute to the research on embarrassment by identifying a unique way that consumers manage their feelings of embarrassment in retail and service encounters.


Professor Yixia SUN is an assistant professor of marketing in the School of Management at Zhejiang University. Prof Sun received her PhD in marketing from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She is known for her innovative research in how dehumanization affects consumer behaviors and marketing.