The Shaping of Social Identity: Assimilation/Contrast Responses to Ad Exposure

Three experiments investigate the impact of exposure to age-targeted advertising on consumers’ self-concepts as measured with Implicit Association Tests. Two factors were identified that determined whether consumer self-concepts shifted toward (assimilation) or away from (contrast) the presented user imagery: (1) the objective discrepancy between the consumer and the depicted user imagery, and (2) the perceived relevance of the depicted user imagery. In experiment 1, consumers assimilated toward moderately discrepant imagery and contrasted with extreme imagery, but only when the consumers first evaluated their target market status thus increasing imagery relevance. In experiment 2, the role of relevance in this process was clarified by demonstrating that the effects could be removed if consumers directed their attention to dissimilarities with the imagery. In experiment 3, these imagery-based self-concept effects were shown to also influence evaluation of products matching the activated self-concept.


Mark Forehand, Andrew Perkins, and Americus Reed II (2009) ,"The Shaping of Social Identity: Assimilation/Contrast Responses to Ad Exposure", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 36, eds. Ann L. McGill and Sharon Shavitt, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 45-48.


Mark Forehand, University of Washington, USA
Andrew Perkins, Rice University, USA
Americus Reed II, University of Pennsylvania, USA


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 36 | 2009

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