The Oreo Effect: Ritualistic Behavior Decreases Loneliness by Making Life More Meaningful

Despite its prevalence and its associated negative consequences, loneliness has received surprisingly little attention in the marketing literature. Based on research showing that lonely people often lack meaning in their life, we propose that ritualistic behavior that involves consumer products may reduce loneliness by making life more meaningful. Specifically, a series of studies finds that engaging in even trivial, unknown ritualistic behavior reduces loneliness among lonely, but not among calm or angry, consumers. Support for the important role of meaningfulness comes from results showing that the effect of rituals on loneliness is mediated by meaning in life, and that ritualistic behaviors no longer impact loneliness when the experience of meaningfulness can be derived incidentally.