Two Essays on Consumer Identity and Prosocial Behavior




Gibbons, Emma

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Our attitudes and behaviors are driven, in large part, by our identities. This is true even in the realm of consumption. Prior research has shown that a consumer's identity impacts a variety of marketing-related variables, including response to advertisements, product usage, and brand choice. As pointed out by Reed et al. (2012), marketing researchers are publishing more top-tier articles on consumer identity and self-perception than ever before. However, many gaps in this literature stream still exist and are worth exploring empirically. One that is rather notable is the shortage of research exploring the role of consumer identity in prosocial decision-making, and specifically donation towards identity-related causes.

Across two essays, this dissertation explores how our identities, and their interactions with each other, impact our donation tendencies. Essay One begins with a meta-analytic approach to understanding how an identity's relative minority status impacts engagement in identity-driven consumption attitudes and behaviors. It also considers the circumstances that strengthen and weaken this effect by introducing identity context and culture as important moderators. This essay then moves to an extension section, where it experimentally tests if the results of the meta-analysis (both the main effect and moderating effect of culture) can be replicated with a unique identity-driven behavior as the dependent variable – donation intention.

Essay Two directly explores how identity conflict – the perceived incompatibility between the norms, values, or expectations of two identities held simultaneously – impacts donation decisions towards relevant causes. Across six studies, identity conflict is shown to have a positive effect on donation intention, but only to causes associated with the less powerful of the two identities at war. Mediating and moderating variables are also tested. Essay Two also provides and tests a novel approach to manipulating identity conflict, an important theoretical contribution.



donation, identity, identity conflict, minority, prosocial behavior