A Sex-Role Explanation of Purchase Intention Differences of Consumers Who Are High and Low in Need For Achievement


E. Laird Landon, Jr. (1972) ,"A Sex-Role Explanation of Purchase Intention Differences of Consumers Who Are High and Low in Need For Achievement", in SV - Proceedings of the Third Annual Conference of the Association for Consumer Research, eds. M. Venkatesan, Chicago, IL : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 1-8.

Proceedings of the Third Annual Conference of the Association for Consumer Research, 1972      Pages 1-8


E. Laird Landon, Jr., University of Colorado

[I wish to acknowledge Harold FT. Kassarjian for nine-tenths of everything I know, and the UCLA campus comPUting network and the University of Colorado bureau of Research for generous support.]

[The author is Assistant Professor of Marketing, School of Business, University of Colorado.]

Need for achievement (n ach) as a personality variable, has received considerable attention in the psychological literature. While n ach has not been used as extensively in marketing studies, several researchers have examined its impact on various marketing phenomenon. Evans (1959), Koponen (1960), Robertson and Myers (1969), have used various measures of n ach in tandem with measures of other personality variables to explore differences between Ford and Chevrolet owners, consumer innovators and later adopters, and smokers and non-smokers. These studies have examined n ach, largely because measures have been available as part of general psychological batteries (i.e., the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule and the California Psychological Inventory). Landon (1971) used a more thorough measure of n ach to study product perception differences of high and low need for achievement consumers.

Landon's results indicate that high and low n ach consumers do differ in the way they perceive products in relation to their self- and ideal self-images. The present study presents additional findings which bear on whether or not high and low n ach consumers differ in terms of intentions to buy products and in terms of intended timing of those purchases.


Of the several measures of n ach available, the Mehrabian (1968) test was administered to all subjects for the following reasons: (a) it is easy to administer and score, (b) it has a high test retest reliability, (c) it has separate scales for males and females, and (d) it appears to validly measure the need to achievement.

Each subject also rated a list of products using a five-point scale to measure purchase intentions. The first four points on the scale divided a reasonable time horizon for the purchase of the product into four divisions. For example. the four points on the scale for a carton of cigarettes were 1 week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, and more than 3 weeks, For products purchased less often, different scales were used. The purchase of an automobile was rated on the following four points: 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and more than 3 years. The various scales to be used with the products were each pretested to develop time horizons which were reasonable for the sample of consumers used. The fifth point on each scale (never intend to buy) was the same regardless of the product.

The products which were used for the male and female groups are presented in Tables l and 2, respectively. These products were chosen by five expert judges to be most likely to be related to need for achievement ,rom n much longer list of products (Landon. 1971).

Collection and Analysis of the Data

The data used to test the hypotheses were all collected in the 1970 fall term at the University of California at Riverside. One hundred eighty-five male and 175 female freshmen and sophomores completed the questionnaire. Two forms of the questionnaire packet were used for males and two forms for females. Within each sex, the products were Presented in a randomized order and the reverse of that order.

The use of college students has made it necessary to focus the study Upon consumer intentions to buy rather than more directly measuring purchase behavior. In light of the limited opportunities of college students to purchase a representative assortment of products, the researcher must either l) limit the kinds of products to be studied, 2) measure what the subjects would like to buy, or 3) measure what they plan to buy in the future. There are always discrepancies between purchase intentions and purchase actions; however, purchase intentions may be revealing of future behavior.

Each questionnaire was placed into a high or low n ach category determined by splitting the sample at the median value of need for achievement for each sex.


Ownership Aspirations

To determine whether high and low n ach consumers differ in terms of which products they plan to buy, the number of "never intend to buy" responses were tabulated and a chi-square analysis was performed. Tables 1 and 2 present the results for the male and female respondents, respectively.

In the male groups, the relationship is significant beyond the .01 level; in the female groups the relationship is not significant, While there appears to be a strong relationship between need for achievement and products in terms of the expectation of ever purchasing the product for males, the relationship is not a simPle one to interpret, Of the 25 products used, 11 received more "never intend to buy" responses in the high n ach group (i.e., low n ach males will buy more of the product than will high n ach males)--while 14 of the products received more "never intend to buy" responses in the low n ach group.

Purchase Timing

Those subjects who planned, sometime in the future, to buy the products were then studied to determine whether high and low n ach consumers differ in terms of when they plan to buy the products. Tables 3 and 4 present the unequal cell size analysis of variance results, If high and low n ach consumers do indeed differ on purchase timing plans, the interaction between n ach and products should be significant. That is, on some products high n ach subjects might plan to buy sooner than low n ach subjects, but on others low n ach subjects might plan to buy sooner. The male consumers do not show a significant interaction, but the female consumers do. Table 5 shows the average time of intended purchase for each product by the high and the low n ach female respondents. Even though each product used a different time horizon, the products may be compared by interpreting low averages as indicating consumers who plan to purchase the product relatively sooner than consumers with high averages. It may be inappropriate, however, to conclude that a product with an average of 2.05 will be purchased sooner than a product with an average of 3.10.

It must be kept in mind that the results of this study indicate that need for achievement and the products measured interact in a manner which shows that purchase intentions differ. If one examines the column totals in Tables l and 2, it becomes apparent that with both males and females, high n ach consumers do not plan to buy more or fewer products, on the average, than do low n ach consumers. [Interestingly enough, however, it does appear that the female subjects plan to bus more products, in total, than do the male subjects!] Comparably, with the purchase timing data, high n ach consumers do not plan to buy products on average, any sooner or later than do low n ach consumers. The nonsignificant main effect due to need for achievement in Tables 3 and 4 present this finding. However, the results of this study do suggest, that high n ach male consumers plan to buy more of some kinds of products than do low n ach male consumers. Also, high n ach female consumers do plan to buy some products sooner and some products later than do low n ach female consumers.












There seems to be a Pattern in the male data Examining Table 1, it appears that subjects high in need for achievement tend to favor products which might be thought of as virile and masculine--such products as boating equipment, straight razor, skis, and push lawn mower. On the other hand, the male subjects scoring low in need for achievement tend to favor products which might he thought of as meticulous or fastidious--products such as automatic dishwasher, headache remedy, mouthwash, electric toothbrush, and deodorant. These differences turn out to be significant. The average probability that a high n ach subJect will give a "never intend to buy" response to a "masculine" product is .32, while the probability of a low n ach male is .46 (O <: 03) A similar analysis on the five "feminine" products reveals probabilities of ,22 and ,12 in the high and low n ach groups, respectively (n <,04).

The female purchase timing data, on the other hand, do not present any clear-cut pattern. Table 5 presents the product means for the high and low n ach females. Masculine type products such as automobiles, cigarettes, and beer are not consistently purchased sooner by either of the females. It also appears that the feminine type products will not be purchased any sooner by either high or low n ach college students.

Need for achievement is probably more closely related to the male sex role than it is to the female sex role. Men are supposed to be aggressive and competitive; but women are not. These data are consistent with this reasoning, Males who are high in need for achievement strongly identify with their sex role and project themselves via products which symbolize their sex. Females do not seem to follow this pattern. High n ach females are neither more nor less inclined toward masculine products than their low n ach counterparts, It might even be that the social stigma attached to a competitive aggressive female would force high n ach females to not express their need through purchase intentions,

If these norms toward sexual identity and need for achievement are correct, then males, in the process of internalizing norms, may come to express them through product perception and buyer behavior. The female need for achievement difference in terms of purchase timing seems not to be directly related to sex role identification.


Evans, E.B. Psychological and ObJective Prediction of Brand Choice. Journal of Business, 1959, 32, 340-69.

Koponen, A. Personality Characteristics of Purchasers. Journal of Advertising Research, 1960, 1, 6-12.

Landon, E.L.,Jr. Need for Achievement, Self-Concept, and Product Perception. Unpublished Phd, dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles. 1971.

Mehrabian, A. Males and Female Scales of the Tendency to Achieve. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 1968, 28, 493-502.

Robertson, T.S., & Myers, J.H. Personality Correlates of Opinion Leadership and Innovative Buyer Behavior. Journal of Marketing Research, 1969, 6, 164-168.



E. Laird Landon, Jr., University of Colorado


SV - Proceedings of the Third Annual Conference of the Association for Consumer Research | 1972

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