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Faculty & Research


Does Social-Self Threat Increase the Preference for Status Goods?

Working Paper
Many accounts in consumer research suggest that social-self threats lead to an increased preference for status-signaling products as compensatory behavior. However, work on consumer behavior under stress has suggested the opposite: a consumption focus on necessities and overall reduced willingness to pay. While marketing has treated social-self threat and stress as disconnected concepts, research in psychology has established a robust causal link that social-self threats lead to acute stress.This implies that there are competing predictions about whether or not self-threat and the stress it triggers increase or decrease preference for status-signaling products. The goal of this paper was to bridge the gap between these two streams of literature in consumer research and investigate their competing hypotheses. The authors manipulated social-self threat via an established social-evaluation protocol, then measured preference for status-signaling products and brands. Using an array of psychological and hormonal measures, they confirmed that self-threat was indeed characterized by a stress response. Our behavioral results, however, showed no evidence for an impact on consumer status preferences, whether or not we controlled for several theoretically motivated control variables. The authors discuss their findings in the context of brand management for luxury brands.

Associate Professor of Marketing

Associate Professor of Marketing