Essays examining role-based behavior
Paul, Iman MI
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My dissertation examines role-based behavior in consumption contexts, with a particular focus on integrating contemporary social-role and identity theories with other, seemingly disparate theories such as tokenism and mental accounting. In addition to contributing to broad literature on identity-based consumption, my essays take a more granular approach by demonstrating that the relation between our consumption choices and “who we are” in terms of our social roles and social identities is more nuanced than previously thought. My essays are linked by the idea that social roles and identities affect judgments, attitudes, and private evaluations across a wide array of consumer contexts. Essay 1: Perceived Role Integration Increases the Fungibility of Mentally-accounted Resources While the literatures on mental accounting and social roles are vast, few (if any) scholars have examined their intersection. Bridging the gap, this essay examines how the extent to which an individual’s life roles (e.g., “employee” and “wife”) are integrated (i.e., the extent to which psychological barriers between life roles are permeable and frequently traversed) influences the fungibility of funds corresponding to those life roles (“role-aligned accounts”). Specifically, I show that funds in role-aligned accounts become more fungible as the corresponding life roles become more integrated. Accordingly, individuals with more integrated roles are: (i) more able to circumvent constraints typically imposed by mental accounts, and (ii) more likely to utilize resources from a mental account corresponding with one role to service the needs of the other role. I present evidence that the effect arises because integrated roles are perceived to share psychological properties like beliefs, values, goals, which allow the costs incurred in one role to be offset by benefits gained in the other. Essay 2: The Influence of Incidental Tokenism on Private Evaluations of Stereotype-Typifying Products In this essay, I argue that being an incidental token member of a transient group (e.g., a woman in a store queue that consists of mostly men) influences evaluations of products associated with the tokenized identity. Across five studies, I find that incidental tokenism activates negative stereotypes of the tokenized identity, which in turn create motivation to disassociate from identity-linked products that typify those stereotypes. Importantly, the motivation does not extend to identity-linked products in general. Similar results emerge when negative stereotypes are activated directly, and the effect is attenuated when tokenized individuals are given the opportunity to self-affirm. Extending past research in public and performance-based domains, my results demonstrate the nuanced consequences of tokenism for private evaluations in subjective, preference-based domains.