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The majority premium: Competence inferences derived from majority consumption

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Abstract

Observers infer consumers' values and personality from their consumption behaviors. Recent literature highlights the benefits of minority consumption, typically by comparing several qualitatively different options. In seven studies (total N = 1555; one pre-registered), the current research instead compares inferences derived from the acquisition of the same products, framed as either bought by a numerical minority or a numerical majority, which eliminates any potentially different associations of the majority and minority options. Majority consumers (i.e., who purchase products bought by a large majority) are perceived as more competent - but not warmer - than minority consumers. This positive effect of majority consumption on purchasers' perceived competence is mediated by expected product quality, such that the majority options appear to be of higher quality than minority options, which prompts the more favorable competence inferences about buyers. This effect persists for functional products, but not for hedonic products. The data and materials for all studies are available at osf.io/u6zmn/.

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... Three parallel streams of literature have emerged showing that consumer evaluations of and behaviour towards brands are influenced by stereotypical perceptions of brands (Aaker, Vohs and Mogilner, 2010;Kervyn, Fiske and Malone, 2012), brands' country of origin (Halkias and Diamantopoulos, 2020;Magnusson, Westjohn and Sirianni, 2019) and users of brands (Antonetti and Maklan, 2016;Ziano and Pandelaere, 2018), ...
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Chapter
This chapter presents an integrated understanding of various impression formation processes. The chapter introduces a model of impression formation that integrates social cognition research on stereotyping with traditional research on person perception. According to this model, people form impressions of others through a variety of processes that lie on a continuum reflecting the extent to that the perceiver utilizes a target's particular attributes. The continuum implies that the distinctions among these processes are matters of degree, rather than discrete shifts. The chapter examines the evidence for the five main premises of the model, it is helpful to discuss some related models that raise issues for additional consideration. The chapter discusses the research that supports each of the five basic premises, competing models, and hypotheses for further research. The chapter concludes that one of the model's fundamental purposes is to integrate diverse perspectives on impression formation, as indicated by the opening quotation. It is also designed to generate predictions about basic impression formation processes and to help generate interventions that can reduce the impact of stereotypes on impression formation.
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This research examines how people react to nonconforming behaviors, such as entering a luxury boutique wearing gym clothes rather than an elegant outfit or wearing red sneakers in a professional setting. Nonconforming behaviors, as costly and visible signals, can act as a particular form of conspicuous consumption and lead to positive inferences of status and competence in the eyes of others. A series of studies demonstrates that people confer higher status and competence to nonconforming rather than conforming individuals. These positive inferences derived from signals of nonconformity are mediated by perceived autonomy and moderated by individual differences in need for uniqueness in the observers. An investigation of boundary conditions demonstrates that the positive inferences disappear when the observer is unfamiliar with the environment, when the nonconforming behavior is depicted as unintentional, and in the absence of expected norms and shared standards of formal conduct.
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Virtually all discussions and applications of statistical mediation analysis have been based on the condition that the independent variable is dichotomous or continuous, even though investigators frequently are interested in testing mediation hypotheses involving a multicategorical independent variable (such as two or more experimental conditions relative to a control group). We provide a tutorial illustrating an approach to estimation of and inference about direct, indirect, and total effects in statistical mediation analysis with a multicategorical independent variable. The approach is mathematically equivalent to analysis of (co)variance and reproduces the observed and adjusted group means while also generating effects having simple interpretations. Supplementary material available online includes extensions to this approach and Mplus, SPSS, and SAS code that implements it.
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Consumers assess their well-being subjectively, largely by comparing the present state of their lives to the state of comparable others and to their own state earlier in time. The authors suggest that consumers similarly assess their financial well-being, and when these evaluations highlight a deficit in their financial position, they pursue strategies that mitigate the associated sense of financial deprivation. Specifically, consumers counteract the relative deficit in their financial resources by acquiring goods that are consequently unavailable to other consumers in their environment. The results from five studies suggest that the inferiority and unpleasant affect associated with financial deprivation motivates consumers to attend to, choose, and consume scarce goods rather than comparable abundant goods. These effects diminish when scarce goods are limited because other people have already obtained them and when consumers attribute their unpleasant feelings to a source unrelated to financial deprivation.
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Alcohol consumption and cognitive impairment frequently co-occur. We propose that the relationship is so familiar that exposure to alcohol cues primes expectations of cognitive impairment. Across five studies, we find that in the absence of any evidence of reduced cognitive performance, people who hold an alcoholic beverage are perceived to be less intelligent than those who do not, a mistake we term the imbibing idiot bias. In fact, merely priming observers with alcohol cues causes them to judge targets who hold no beverage at all as less intelligent. The bias is not driven by a belief that less intelligent people are more likely to consume alcohol. We find that the bias may be costly in professional settings. Job candidates who ordered wine during an interview held over dinner were viewed as less intelligent and less hireable than candidates who ordered soda. However, prospective candidates believe that ordering wine rather than soda will help them appear more intelligent.
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The distinction between relatively independent versus interdependent self-construals has been strongly associated with several important cultural differences in social behavior. The current studies examined the causal role of self-construal by investigating whether priming independent or interdependent self-construals within a culture could result in differences in psychological worldview that mirror those traditionally found between cultures. In Experiment 1, European-American participants primed with interdependence displayed shifts toward more collectivist social values and judgments that were mediated by corresponding shifts in self-construal. In Experiment 2, this effect was extended by priming students from the United States and Hong Kong with primes that were consistent and inconsistent with their predominant cultural worldview. Students who received the inconsistent primes were more strongly affected than those who received the consistent primes, and thus shifted self-construal, and corresponding values, to a greater degree.
Article
The present work examines how experiencing high versus low power creates qualitatively distinct psychological motives that produce unique consumption patterns. Based on accumulating evidence that states of power increase focus on one’s own internal desires, we propose that high power will lead to a greater preference for products that are viewed as offering utility (e.g., performance, quality) to the individual. In contrast, extending past research showing that powerlessness fosters a compensatory motive to restore power; we demonstrate that the powerless prefer visible or conspicuous consumption that signals status to others. Regardless of whether high and low power were measured, episodically primed, or structurally manipulated, and regardless of how consumption patterns were measured (e.g., purchasing intentions, consumer attitudes, or creation of one’s own advertising slogan), five experiments support a parsimonious model for how different levels of power impact consumer behavior. Given the pervasiveness of everyday fluctuations in power, and the governing role of consumption in everyday life, these findings have potentially broad implications, from tailored advertising to different market segments to understanding the rise in consumer debt.
Article
Understanding communication processes is the goal of most communication researchers. Rarely are we satisfied merely ascertaining whether messages have an effect on some outcome of focus in a specific context. Instead, we seek to understand how such effects come to be. What kinds of causal sequences does exposure to a message initiate? What are the causal pathways through which a message exerts its effect? And what role does communication play in the transmission of the effects of other variables over time and space? Numerous communication models attempt to describe the mechanism through which messages or other communication-related variables transmit their effects or intervene between two other variables in a causal model. The communication literature is replete with tests of such models. Over the years, methods used to test such process models have grown in sophistication. An example includes the rise of structural equation modeling (SEM), which allows investigators to examine how well a process model that links some focal variable X to some outcome Y through one or more intervening pathways fits the observed data. Yet frequently, the analytical choices communication researchers make when testing intervening variables models are out of step with advances made in the statistical methods literature. My goal here is to update the field on some of these new advances. While at it, I challenge some conventional wisdom and nudge the field toward a more modern way of thinking about the analysis of intervening variable effects.
Article
It has been hypothesized and empirically supported that an individual's need for uniqueness is a factor that leads to the expression of innovative behavior. This need for uniqueness has been hypothesized to be environmentally, or culturally, based, raising concerns as to its stability across cultures. This study was conducted to investigate the possibility that the need for uniqueness varies in form across cultures. The results suggest that for collegiate business students the need for uniqueness does vary among cultural settings. This finding raises questions concerning the cross-cultural transferability of innovative behavior models that incorporate this need.
Article
Users of rating data have long been concerned about the "halo effect" (high intercategory correlations or low intercategory variance). Prominent sources of this ubiquitous effect are the true intercorrelation of categories and the illusory theories that raters hold about the extent to which categories covary. Cognitive distortions that increase the survival of illusory covariance theories are identified, including failure to adequately attend to hit rates, the differential ease of making "same" or "similar" vs "different" judgments, confirmatory bias in hypothesis testing, and the discounting of impression-inconsistent information. Nine methods (e.g., rating irrelevant categories) currently used to reduce illusory halo are reviewed, and it is concluded that increasing the sample of the ratees' current behavior is the most effective method in use. However, all methods probably leave residual illusory halo. A model of the rating process is described that attempts to direct research toward increasing understanding of the observation, encoding, storage, retrieval, and evaluation sequence, and to illuminate the paradoxical low positive correlation between halo and accuracy reported in 4 recent studies. (169 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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a b s t r a c t Using the two fundamental dimensions of social judgment, warmth and competence, we show that, con-trary to general models of impression formation, negative information on one dimension has positive consequences on the way a target is judged on the other dimension. Participants learned about two groups which were either congruent on warmth and competence (one group high on both and the other low on both) or they were compensatory (one group high on warmth and low on competence, the other high on competence and low on warmth). Our results show that in the compensatory condition, the groups were rated more extremely than in the congruent condition and that this was especially the case for the dimension on which the groups were high. Results are discussed both in terms of how they run counter to traditional theories of impression formation and what they tell us about the fundamental dimensions of social judgment.
Article
People want to have fun, and they are more likely to have fun if the sit-uation allows them to justify it. This research studies how people's need for justifying hedonic consumption drives two choice patterns that are observed in typical purchase contexts. First, relative preferences between hedonic and utilitarian alternatives can reverse, depending on how the immediate purchase situation presents itself. A hedonic alterna-tive tends to be rated more highly than a comparable utilitarian alterna-tive when each is presented singly, but the utilitarian alternative tends to be chosen over the hedonic alternative when the two are presented jointly. Second, people have preferences for expending different combi-nations of time (effort) and money for acquiring hedonic versus utilitarian items. They are willing to pay more in time for hedonic goods and more in money for utilitarian goods. The author explores the topic through a combination of four experiments and field studies.
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This paper uses daily data on the ranking by sales of the top 100 apps sold through Apple’s App Store to provide evidence of the causal impact of today’s bestseller rank information on tomorrow’s demand. The estimates indicate that the willingness to pay of consumers is about $4.50 greater for a top ranked app than for the same unranked app. The results also indicate that the effects of bestseller status on willingness to pay decline steeply with rank at the top ranks, but remain economically significant for the apps in the first half of the top 100 list.
Article
Many phenomena of interest to political scientists involve what may be termed impersonal influence; that is, influence that derives from individuals'' perceptions of others'' attitudes, beliefs, or experiences. Others in this case refers not to the close friends and acquaintances that concerned the authors of classics such asThe People''s Choice andPersonal Influence, but rather to the anonymous others outside an individual''s realm of personal contacts. Modern mass media facilitate the influence of anonymous others by devoting considerable time and attention to portraying trends in mass opinion. This study explores the rationale for theories of impersonal influence, synthesizing existing research findings falling under this general theoretical framework, and investigating its psychological underpinnings using experiments embedded in representative surveys.
Article
Individuals conspicuously consume to signal their wealth. As a variant to this economic explanation, four studies explored individual’s psychological need for self-integrity as a potential motivating force for these consumption decisions. Relying on both field and experimental studies, and employing multiple instantiations of high-status goods and self-threat, we demonstrate that individuals consume status-infused products for their reparative effects on the ego. Individuals under self-threat sought ownership of high-status goods to nurse their psychological wounds (Study 1), and when afforded an alternate route to repair their self-integrity, sought these products less (Study 2). Furthermore, among a representative sample of US consumers, low-income individuals’ lowered self-esteem drove their willingness to spend on high-status goods (Study 3). Finally, these high-status goods serve the purpose of shielding an individual’s ego from future self-threats (Study 4). The compensatory role of high-status goods has important implications for consumer decision-making and public policies aimed at reducing consumer debt.
Article
This study examined how wealth cues and the social image concerns of the perceiver influence interpersonal attributions about others. American college students (N=150) read vignettes that described a man or a woman in either an affluent or not so affluent home setting. They then evaluated the target person on 20 personal qualities and indicated their desire to have the target's lifestyle. The affluent target was evaluated as having more personal ability (e.g., intelligence, self-discipline), more sophisticated qualities (e.g., cultured, successful), and a more desirable lifestyle than the not so affluent target. However, an “affluent people are not nice” stereotype seemed to be evoked, as the affluent target was rated as less considerate of others (e.g., less kind, likable, honest) than the not so affluent person. The appearance of affluence, at least in the American culture, is a powerful and unmistakable social testament to a person's ability, sophistication, and considerateness. The impact of personality differences in self-monitoring, social identity, and materialism were small relative to the impact of affluence cues.
Article
When facing a decision, people often rely on advice received from others. Previous studies have shown that people tend to discount others’ opinions. Yet, such discounting varies according to several factors. This paper isolates one of these factors: the cost of advice. Specifically, three experiments investigate whether the cost of advice, independent of its quality, affects how people use advice. The studies use the Judge–Advisor System (JAS) to investigate whether people value advice from others more when it costs money than when it is free, and examine the psychological processes that could account for this effect. The results show that people use paid advice significantly more than free advice and suggest that this effect is due to the same forces that have been documented in the literature to explain the sunk costs fallacy. Implications for circumstances under which people value others’ opinions are discussed.