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Men engage in self‐deceptive enhancement, whereas women engage in impression management

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Consumer surveys are integral to marketers' understanding of consumers' judgments, preferences, and choices. However, consumers often respond in socially desirable ways, making it difficult to accurately ascertain their true preferences and reactions. In this regard, research has produced conflicting findings on who engages more in socially desirable responding: men or women. Our research is at the intersection of psychology and marketing to understand the effect of gender differences on socially desirable responding. We tested hypotheses regarding the types of socially desirable responding of men versus women and the underlying motivations. Across three studies, we show that men (compared to women) have a greater tendency to engage in self‐deceptive enhancement—the tendency to provide inflated and honestly held self‐descriptions in response to questions—and a promotion focus mediates this relationship. In contrast, women (compared to men) have a greater tendency to engage in impression management—the tendency to distort responses to present themselves most positively to maintain a favorable image—and a prevention focus mediates this relationship. Consequently, gender differences in promotion versus prevention focus are likely to have important theoretical implications for a gender‐based explanation of different behaviors associated with regulatory focus. From a practical standpoint, marketers can utilize priming techniques to temporarily heighten gender identity and influence preferences for products that provide self‐enhancement or image‐protection benefits.
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Received: 12 April 2022
|
Accepted: 21 February 2023
DOI: 10.1002/mar.21805
RESEARCH ARTICLE
Men engage in selfdeceptive enhancement, whereas women
engage in impression management
Ashok K. Lalwani
1
|Hyejin Lee
2
|L. J. Shrum
3
|Madhu Viswanathan
4
1
Department of Marketing, Indiana
University Bloomington, Bloomington,
Indiana, USA
2
Department of Marketing, Sungkyunkwan
University, Seoul, South Korea
3
Department of Marketing, HEC Paris, Jouy
enJosas, France
4
Department of Marketing, Loyola
Marymount University (Emeritus, University
of Illinois, UrbanaChampaign), Los Angeles,
California, USA
Correspondence
Hyejin Lee, SKK Business School,
Sungkyunkwan University, #517 Business
Hall, 252 Sungkyunkwanro, Jongnogu,
Seoul 03063, South Korea.
Email: hyejinlee@skku.edu
Funding information
UTSA College of Business Summer Research
Grant
Abstract
Consumer surveys are integral to marketers' understanding of consumers'
judgments, preferences, and choices. However, consumers often respond in socially
desirable ways, making it difficult to accurately ascertain their true preferences and
reactions. In this regard, research has produced conflicting findings on who engages
more in socially desirable responding: men or women. Our research is at the
intersection of psychology and marketing to understand the effect of gender
differences on socially desirable responding. We tested hypotheses regarding the
types of socially desirable responding of men versus women and the underlying
motivations. Across three studies, we show that men (compared to women) have a
greater tendency to engage in selfdeceptive enhancementthe tendency to
provide inflated and honestly held selfdescriptions in response to questionsand
a promotion focus mediates this relationship. In contrast, women (compared to men)
have a greater tendency to engage in impression managementthe tendency to
distort responses to present themselves most positively to maintain a favorable
imageand a prevention focus mediates this relationship. Consequently, gender
differences in promotion versus prevention focus are likely to have important
theoretical implications for a genderbased explanation of different behaviors
associated with regulatory focus. From a practical standpoint, marketers can utilize
priming techniques to temporarily heighten gender identity and influence prefer-
ences for products that provide selfenhancement or imageprotection benefits.
KEYWORDS
gender, impression management, prevention focus, promotion focus, regulatory focus, self
deceptive enhancement, socially desirable responding
1|INTRODUCTION
At the intersection of marketing and psychology lies the phenome-
non of socially desirable respondingthe tendency of responding to
selfreported measures in ways that describe themselves in a positive
light (Paulhus, 1991). Owing to socially desirable responding,
participants often demonstrate significant differences in their
answers to survey questions and true beliefs on sensitive topics
such as COVID vaccination, climate change, or racial issues. For
example, most respondents indicate that they will purchase a product
from a company that assumes greater responsibility for social issues.
Companies have responded to this need by engaging in more social
activities (Whitler, 2021). However, this does not mean that
consumers will behave this way in the real world. This issue is critical
for marketers because their strategies are often based on customers'
survey responses.
There were differences in socially desirable responding between
men and women. For example, consider some survey findings on the
Psychol Mark. 2023;40:14051416. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/mar © 2023 Wiley Periodicals LLC.
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