Identity-based perceptions of others’ consumption choices

Jenny G. Olson, Brent McFerran, Andrea C. Morales, Darren W. Dahl

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Identity has traditionally been studied at the level of the “self”: How consumers’ own beliefs about their identities influence their choices, values and behavior. However, identities exist within a social context where they are both signaled by “actors” and perceived by “observers.” Importantly, the authors propose that consumers, as observers, use identity-relevant information to evaluate actors’ consumption choices, ultimately demonstrating that identical behavior can be evaluated differently as a function of actors’ perceived identities. They illustrate these points by focusing on income identities and ethical consumption choices. Their experiments demonstrate that while low-income consumers receiving government assistance (welfare recipients) are viewed as less moral, wealthy consumers are seen as more moral for the same choices. The wealthy identity is associated with “spending freedom”; the welfare identity is associated with “should be frugal and seeking employment.” Identity judgments extend beyond aid recipients themselves, and even have consequences for organizations supporting low-income groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Research on Identity Theory in Marketing
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781788117739
ISBN (Print)9781788117722
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Psychology(all)


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