The positive effect of physical constraints on consumer evaluations of service providers

Yael Steinhart, Irit Nitzan, Jacob Goldenberg, David Mazursky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Consumers tend to have negative perceptions of service providers that limit their freedom. People might therefore be expected to respond particularly negatively to service providers that physically limit their freedom of movement. Yet, we suggest that physical constraints that a service provider unapologetically imposes with no obvious logical justification (e.g., closing a door and restricting consumers to stay inside a room) may, in fact, boost consumers’ evaluations of the service provider. We propose that this effect occurs because consumers perceive such constraints as creating a structured environment, which they inherently value. Six studies lend converging support to these propositions, while ruling out alternative accounts (cognitive dissonance, self-attribution theory). We further show that the positive effect of physical constraints on evaluations is reversed when consumers perceive the constraints as excessively restrictive (rather than mild). These findings suggest that service providers may benefit from creating consumption conditions that mildly restrict consumers’ freedom of movement.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0275348
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10 October
StatePublished - Oct 2022


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