Last Updated 04 Jul 2021

Self-Image and Consumer Behavior

Essay type Research
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In this article, David Dunning questions whether or not beliefs, wants, and needs are the keys to decision making in a consumer’s mind. He believes in a decision making technique called belief harmonization. With this, Dunning means that in order to reach a decision , it may require arranging and revising one’s beliefs, needs, and preferences into a network of cognition that produces little tension among its elements. He states that this allows for two major influences on decision making.The first influence is if people hold a bias to favor one decision over another, then that will alter how they perceive the product. They will solely make a decision on that bias and keep to it.

In our book, it explains this with brand equity. The outcome shows that a consumer will decide based on the belief that this brand is better than all of the others and not think twice to purchase. The second influence involves the beliefs that the consumer want to maintain, called sacrosanct beliefs. This is one claiming that the self is a moral, lovable, and capable individual.Dunning states that many decisions in the consumer world are based on this belief of self-image, even when the decision at hand has no relevance to the self. We buy to highlight or hide aspects of our self. Evidence for Decision Making as Belief Harmonization There is much evidence that suggest that judgment and decision making, including consumer behavior decision making, is known to be belief harmonization.

Dunning stated that through the 1940s and 1960s, people depended on the consistency theory, balance theory, and the cognitive dissonance theory.However, it has been known that belief and other connections are applied as well. This would be referred to as connectionist modeling or parallel-constraint satisfaction. He gives a certain example of a young woman buying a car and the positive and negative factors based on buying this car. There can be some direct and indirect contradictions in the harmonization process. What people do is revise what they believe in and make connections with the decision. It may lead towards the negative factors or the positive factors in this decision.

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Dunning states that the best decisions should be based on the beliefs that the person possesses and will be the best indicator for it. Beliefs are equally able to influence and be influenced by other beliefs. The Influence of Decision Outcomes on Perceptions of “Input” Variables Emerging evidence demonstrates just how easily the causality in decision making can run in reverse. A preliminary opinion leaning toward one conclusion tends to alter how people evaluate evidence in decision making. This also is a part of product choice as well.The Influence of Logically Irrelevant “Outside Beliefs” Any belief can bias people to initially favor one over another. These beliefs are called “outside” beliefs and tend to be irrelevant when it comes to the decision making process.

Dunning talks about how a juror decides on whether or not someone should be sued for posting negative comments on the internet. They looked at both positive and negative sides of the defendant and never based their decision on if the defendant was a nice guy or not. Work in the consumer world has also found similar bias due to outside beliefs.Evidence for Sacrosanct Beliefs about the Self People commonly approach every decision with the belief that their decision takes precedence and that they are honorable individuals. They want their decisions to be positive so that their self-image is positive. In class, we learned about impression management, which means that we work to “manage” what others think of us. This is a factor in our self-image.

Evidence for Positive Self-Beliefs Researchers have showed that people have upbeat self-images, even to an unrealistic degree.Our psychological process that might help leave people with flattering views is a constant engagement in belief harmonization anchored on a self-belief. Research on self-evaluation also shows what type of moves or decisions people make for a positive self-image. This goes in hand with the ideal self portrayal and our concept of what we would like to be. With consumers, they easily adapt to certain products to help us reach our ideal self and have a positive outcome in our beliefs. Evidence for Belief Harmonization with Positive Self-BeliefsBeliefs about the social world are harmonized with flattering self-views. The judgment of people will affirm the positive impression of self.

Culture is a big factor in the consumer world, and that is where the beliefs and self-image become intertwined together. In our book, it talks about how in some cultures, women are supposed to foster harmonious relationships and men are supposed to be assertive and have certain skills. These beliefs make the positive self-image in the culture that the male and female are in. Definitions of Social Traits and JudgmentThere are many social traits out in the consumer world today. The article talks about how people tend to emphasize specific attributes and talents that they have and de-emphasize those they do not. These beliefs guide people’s judgments. They align their attribution for success and failure to affirm about the self and the image it portrays.

Dunning states that at times a behavior is clearly an underlying trait. People tend to adopt performance standards that place their own competence and character in a good light. Evidence for Belief Harmonization in ChoiceRecent developments in the consumer psychology literature provide strong hints that self-image motives may influence decision making in the marketplace. Here are some points that play an important role by self-image in decision making.

  • Self-Signaling: this is the notion that people reach their decisions with an eye toward bolstering their self-images is similar to another idea emerging from work in decision making and choice. This is to signal the type of person they are. This explains behavior that remains curious and has been an explanation for people’s behavior.
    Shafir and Tversky conducted this behavior in the Newcomb problem, where it showed that a participant in the experiment picked an economically inferior option to another option.
  • Endowment Effects: People place more value on an object once they own in. Handing a coffee mug to a college student causes them to more than double what the mug is really worth. Once products are associated with people, it confirms the positive impressions of that person and becomes valuable for them to have.
  • Compensation Effects: People buy to compensate for perceived deficits. For example, men buy toupees to make up for hair loss.People buy products to cover their shortcomings for others not to see.
  • Affirmation Effects: People express ideas that they are invulnerable to risk. Having self-esteem may prompt people to make choices with less concern.
  • Licensing Effects: Once people have gained solid evidence that they possess some sacrosanct trait, they act in a way that could potentially violate that they have that trait. This arises in consumer choice many times. Future Questions Dunning focuses on one specific sacrosanct belief, which is that the self is a lovable and capable person.He feels as though there could be other beliefs that exist as well. People possess personal self-esteem but also can possess collective self-esteem.

This very much indeed influences people’s decisions and behavior in the marketplace. Also, beliefs that people seek might involve specific ones or rather a more overall general one about the self as a whole. Willer studies on masculinity suggested that people bolster specific self-values. Also, many suggest that people are not as concerned with specific self-views as they are worried over a general sense of self-worth. Automatic versus Deliberative Nature of Self-Image MotivesAnother issue would be whether the impact of self-based sacrosanct beliefs is deliberative or automatic in nature. Dunning believes that the impact of self-beliefs might be more automatic in nature. He argues that the term automatic can be the case that the process of affirming favorable self-beliefs is beyond people’s control.

Also that is may be the case that this process occurs below people’s awareness; they may lack any insight that their choices are influenced by concerns over the self. However, people’s preferences can impose its influence below a person’s awareness.The Moderating Role of Self-Esteem For sacrosanct beliefs about the self to influence consumer psychology, people must presumably have those sacrosanct beliefs, and people with low self-esteem may not have positive views to maintain. In the consumer realm, one could ask whether low self-esteem people will work as energetically as their high self-esteem peers harmonize consumer decisions with positive views of self. The Moderating Role of Culture/Implications of Marketing As I discussed in this paper earlier, culture is another condition with how consumers make decisions.People in North America and Western Europe work to bolster their self-esteem. In the West, people seem more concerned with individuality and in the East; they focus on the collective self.

Self-Image concerns may also carry implications for effective marketing according to Dunning. People tend to state that they are motivated to do good work in their job for reasons like personal growth, whereas other people are more motivated by money. That is how it works with decisions in consumer buying. People are influenced by social status.This article suggests that marketers should be mindful of the motivations that people are likely to cite as prime considerations for their purchases. In conclusion, the article is about how consumer behavior is acted and what it is based upon. There are many different factors that the author speaks about in this article.

Self-Esteem and Culture are two main pieces of the puzzle when it comes to how consumers react to certain products. In the marketing world, we marketers have to look at these factors and how much insight it will provide us when we are trying to get into the minds of our consumers.Dunning makes very interesting arguments of how we cannot look at the picture as a whole, but yet as different segments of ourselves that all tie together with the decision making process. I thought this was a very interesting article because it shows how experiments and studies were done to prove that these are main factors with consumer behavior. It also showed me how we basically become the product and shine through the product for our own self-image. It could be even with becoming part of a group that reflects your personality, or just for your individual traits themselves.

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Self-Image and Consumer Behavior. (2018, Nov 29). Retrieved from

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