When Does Identity Salience Prime Approach and Avoidance?

A Balance-Congruity Model

Authored by: Justin W. Angle , Mark R. Forehand , Americus Reed II

The Routledge Companion to Identity and Consumption

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  January  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415783064
eBook ISBN: 9780203105337
Adobe ISBN: 9781136253522

10.4324/9780203105337.ch38

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Abstract

Identity salience is defined as the activation of a particular identity dimension within an individual’s social self-schema and typically heightens sensitivity to identity-relevant stimuli. For example, being at work (home) might increase the salience of one’s organizational (family) identity. In addition, being consciously or non-consciously exposed to symbols, words, pictures, ideas, brands or people can increase the salience of any identity related to these cues. Indeed, identity salience generally follows consumer evaluation of relative similarity or dissimilarity (cf. Eiser et al. 2001; Forehand et al. 2002). Interestingly, some instances of this self-categorization process may undermine one’s basis for identification (e.g. if one’s ethnic identity salience is increased by exposure to a threatening stereotype prime). Although such self-categorizations can threaten the consumer’s identification with a group, the literature shows both approach behaviors, such as seeking high-status products when power identity is threatened (Rucker and Galinsky 2008) and avoidance behaviors, such as shunning gender-associated products after gender identity is threatened (White and Argo 2009; White et al. 2012), are possible. Given these mixed findings, the extant literature would greatly benefit from a theoretical exploration of when identity salience is threatening and what factors determine whether such threats prompt approach or avoidance.

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