Special Session Summary Individual Differences in Gender and Age: Theory Enhancement and Some Important Consequences

Rui Zhu, University of Minnesota
Joan Meyers-Levy, University of Minnesota
[ to cite ]:
Rui Zhu and Joan Meyers-Levy (2001) ,"Special Session Summary Individual Differences in Gender and Age: Theory Enhancement and Some Important Consequences", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, eds. Mary C. Gilly and Joan Meyers-Levy, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 294.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, 2001     Page 294



Rui Zhu, University of Minnesota

Joan Meyers-Levy, University of Minnesota

The objective of this session is to further our understanding about individual differences, particularly gender and age, and how they affect consumers’ processing of information, perception, and judgments. The session consists of three papers.

First, Joan Meyers-Levy, Carolyn Yoon, Rui Zhu and Michelle Lee examine gender differences in processing pictorial data that vary in relational coherence. They posited that because males’ processing tends to focus on salient cues or singular subsets of highly available information, they may be inclined to neglect and respond relatively unfavorably to ad pictures that are low in relational coherence, with males instead directing their processing to the clearer, factual verbal claims. By contrast, because females tend to process information more elaborately, they should process the pictorial ad information extensively regardless of the picture’s degree of relational coherence and whether such picture processing subsumes resources otherwise devoted to accompanying verbal claims. As such, females’ extensive and likely extra-stimulus processing of the low relationally coherent ad pictures may lead females to produce impaired recall of the accompanying verbal ad data, high levels of both valid and false intrusions in picture recall, and relatively favorable thoughts and judgments about the advertised product. A study assesses these predictions for several products and generally finds support for the theorizing.

Second, Ian Skurnik, Norbert Schwarz, and Denise Park explore age differences in the "illusion of truth" effect, a memory distortion whereby people think that vaguely familiar information is probably true, even when it was originally identified as false. Based on the distinction between two types or uses of memories, namely recollection, which involves detailed memory for a claim and its context at the time of acquisition, versus familiarity, which entails a vague, context-free trace for a claim, they hypothesize and find that when people are exposed either once or repeatedly to health and medical claims that are identified explicitly at exposure as true or false, younger people tend to misremember false claims as true after three days but not immediately. In addition, repeated claim exposure helps younger adults correct their false memories at both time periods. By contrast, older individuals tend to misremember flse claims as true both immediately and after a delay. Moreover, while repeated warnings about false claims enable older adults to correct their erroneous memories immediately, such repetition does not do so after a delay. In fact, paradoxically, repetition tends to increase the illusion of truth effect among older adults after a three-day delay.

Third, Aimee Drolet and Patti Williams also explore age differences by examining why older individuals tend to focus more on emotional than non-emotional information. While some researchers have suggested that this focus on emotional data is attributable to older individuals’ declining cognition and thus presumed reliance on peripheral, emotional information, the research in this presentation investigates a different possibility. Specifically, older individuals’ increased attention to emotional information may reflect the increased diagnosticity or relevance of such emotional data as opposed to a decline in older people’s cognition. That is, because older individuals are likely to anticipate and/or experience emotion-laden changes such as their own or peer’s declining health and approaching death, emotional data may take on greater significance or precedence compared to other, less affective information. Three experiments are reported that test and find some support for this theorizing.

Finally, Christie Nordhielm synthesized the three pieces of research and highlighted topics within individual differences that merit further investigation.