Special Session Summary the Impressionable Self: Micro and Macro Social Influences on Consumer Judgments

Geeta Menon, New York University
Sankar Sen, Temple University
[ to cite ]:
Geeta Menon and Sankar Sen (1998) ,"Special Session Summary the Impressionable Self: Micro and Macro Social Influences on Consumer Judgments", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, eds. Joseph W. Alba & J. Wesley Hutchinson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 10-11.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, 1998      Pages 10-11

SPECIAL SESSION SUMMARY

THE IMPRESSIONABLE SELF: MICRO AND MACRO SOCIAL INFLUENCES ON CONSUMER JUDGMENTS

Geeta Menon, New York University

Sankar Sen, Temple University

Social comparisons [Social comparison is defined as "the process of thinking about information about one or more people in relation to the self" (page 520-521, Wood 1996).] play an important role in consumption behavior (e.g., Bearden and Etzel 1982; Bearden and Rose 1990). Whereas much research in psychology has focused on the processes involved in seeking social information (cf. Woods 1996), a clearer delineation of the effects of social comparisons on consumer judgments, and the key factors that moderate this relationship remains elusive. The objective of this session was to more fully understand the effects of social comparisons on consumer judgments by focusing on two key characteristics of the social interaction(s) that produce such comparisons: (a) the level of aggregation of the social "other" (i.e. micro/individual versus macro/group), and (b) the interaction dynamics, ranging from the anticipation of a single interaction to the effects of one interaction on another. Consumers’ social interactions range from the micro: another, unfamiliar individual (Sen and Menon), and dyadic interaction between couples (Bickart et al.), to the macro: focus groups (Schlosser and Shavitt) and opinion poll groups (Pluzinski and Morwitz). The dynamics of the interaction include consumers’ mere anticipation of a social encounter (Schlosser and Shavitt), a single passive encounter (Pluzinski and Morwitz), an active, interactive encounter (Bickart et al.) and two sequential encounters (Sen and Menon).

In the first paper, Sankar Sen and Geeta Menon investigated the effects of social comparisons in consumers intentions to respond to opposite sex personal ads. They manipulated social comparisons through pre-exposure to same sex ads and demonstrated that people’s likelihood of responding to a personal ad is an interactive function of their evaluation of the person in the ad on elevant dimensions and their self-evaluations on the dimensions perceived to be important to the opposite sex. Importantly, both these evaluations are susceptible to social comparisons engendered by the same sex ad. Next, in a study involving couples in long-term relationships, Barbara Bickart and her colleagues find that self-memory changes as a function of discussions with another person, to be replaced by a shared-memory structure. The accessibility of this shared-memory structure, in turn, adversely affects the accuracy of reported information about oneself and one’s partner, at the same time enhancing the extent of convergence between partners. Thus, social comparisons in an active social interaction with a close other appears to distort subsequent recall in specific, predictable ways. Ann Schlosser and Sharon Shavitt then examined the effects of anticipating a focus group discussion on people’s attitudes. They find that when individuals anticipate participating in a focus group (vs. a personal interview), they pay more attention to "appropriateness" cues provided by the researchers that render the information more socially desirable. That is, the anticipation of a social interaction appears to stimulate self-presentation motives. Finally, Carol Pluzinski and Vicki Morwitz examined how people’s intentions to consume a range of new products are shaped by public opinion polls regarding these products. They find that the effect of polls on an individual’s trial intentions is jointly determined by the poll margins and the perceived distance between the polled group and that individual. Thus, social comparisons with the polled group appear to interact with the poll results in determining the degree of influence polls exert on purchase intentions.

 

SHORT ABSTRACT - S

I LIKE YOU, DO YOU LIKE ME? THE PERSUASIVE POWER OF PERSONALS

Sankar Sen, Temple University

Geeta Menon, New York University

We investigate how consumers’ preferences for members of the opposite sex is influenced by prior encounters with members of the same sex. We propose that consumers’ likelihood of responding to personal ads is an interactive function of their evaluation of the person in the ad based on the relevant dimensions, as well as their evaluation of themselves on the dimensions that they perceive to be important to the advertiser. Two experiments provide support for this dual role of the same-gender description in consumer reactions to the other-gender ad. Implications for social comparison theory and "people" consumption are discussed.

 

THE EFFECTS OF DISCUSSION AND JUDGMENT STRATEGY ON PEOPLES’ ABILITY TO RECALL THEIR OWN AND OTHERS’ BEHAVIOR

Barbara Bickart, Rutgers University

Geeta Menon, New York University

Joan Phillips, University of Kentucky

Seymour Sudman, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Johnny Blair, University of Maryland

In this paper, we examine the role of discussion on consumers’ memory for their own behavior and for the behavior of significant others. In a laboratory experiment conducted with 102 couples in long-term relationships, we test the idea that increasing discussion about a behavior impedes peoples’ ability to recall specific occurrences of their own behavior, but improves their ability to accurately recall another person’s behavior. Our findings provide some support for the notion that discussion creates a shared memory structure, which respondents later use in constructing behavioral frequency reports for themselves and their partner. We discuss the theoreticaland practical implications of these findings.

 

EFFECTS OF ANTICIPATING A FOCUS GROUP DISCUSSION ON RESPONSES TO A FOCAL PRODUCT

Ann Schlosser, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Sharon Shavitt, University of Illlinois at Urbana-Champaign

Three experiments were conducted to assess how anticipating a focus group discussion influences responses toward a product. In each study, participants read a restaurant review and then anticipated responding in a focus group or individually. Across the studies, various cues regarding the type of information appropriate for discussion (utilitarian versus social identity) were manipulated. Those anticipating a group discussion listed relatively more thoughts congruent with the cue and relatively fewer thoughts incongruent with the cue than those not anticipating discussion. This group-anticipation effect was specific to listed thoughts, suggesting that they were strategically edited in preparation for the approaching discussion.

 

DOES TRUTH LIE IN NUMBERS AND WHO HOLDS THE TRUTH? THE IMPACT OF POLL CONTENT ON ATTITUDES AND INTENTIONS

Carol Pluzinski, Yale University

Vicki Morwitz, New York University

Three experiments were conducted to examine how the characteristics of the poll sample and the content of the polls affect the attitudes and intentions of those exposed to the polls. Specifically, this research investigates the possible mechanism by which polls serve as persuasive tools by manipulating whether the polled sample was drawn from a peer group, a distant social group, or a (neutral) national sample, whether the majority agreed or disagreed with the poll issue, and the margin of majority agreement/disagreement with the issue. Hypotheses are derived from social comparison theory.

REFERENCES

Bearden, William O. and Michael J. Etzel (1982), "Reference Group Influence on Product and Brand Purchase Decisions," Journal of Consumer Research, 9 (September), 183-194.

Bearden, William O. and Randall L. Rose (1990), "Attention to Social Comparison Information: An Individual Difference Factor Affecting Consumer Conformity," Journal of Consumer Research, 16 (March), 461-471.

Wood, Joanne V. (1996), "What is Social Comparison and How Should We Study It," Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 520-537.

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