Previous research finds that consumers classify in-group (but not out-group) members as integral to their social-self. The present research is the first to propose and find that consumers also classify owned (but not unowned) objects as integral to their personal-self (Experiment 1). Consequently, consumers judge product traits (e.g., masculinity) as consistent with their own traits (assimilation) if they own the product, but as inconsistent with their own traits (contrast) if they interact with the product but do not own it, even when owning the product is non-diagnostic of its properties (e.g., following random ownership assignment; Experiments 2–4). For example, less creative consumers who enter a drawing for an iPhone may judge it as less creative (assimilation) if they win the product, but as more creative (contrast) if they do not win the product. Individual and situational moderators of these effects are identified, and their theoretical and substantive implications are discussed.
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Weiss, Liad, and Gita Johar. "Egocentric Categorization and Product Judgment: Seeing Your Traits in What You Own (and Their Opposite in What You Don't)." Journal of Consumer Research 40, no. 1 (2013): 185-201.
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