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Undermining the Restorative Potential of Compensatory Consumption: A Product’s Explicit Identity Connection Impedes Self-Repair

Nimish Rustagi, L J Shrum, Darren W DahlEditor, Linda L PriceEditor and Derek D RuckerAssociate Editor

Journal of Consumer Research, 2019, vol. 46, issue 1, 119-139

Abstract: When people experience threats to important aspects of their self-concept (e.g., power, intelligence, sociability), they often compensate by consuming products that symbolize success, mastery, or competence on the threatened self-domain (within-domain compensatory consumption). Our research examines whether such compensatory consumption is effective in repairing the self-concept. Across seven experiments, we show that whether compensatory consumption is effective depends on the extent to which the connection between the compensatory products and the threatened domains is made explicit. When the connections are made explicit (e.g., through product names and marketing slogans), self-repair is impeded, but when the connections are only implicit (product is inherently symbolic of self-threat domain), self-repair can be successful. We further show that these differential effects of product connection explicitness are mediated by rumination: explicit connections induce rumination about the self-threat, which undermines self-repair, whereas implicit connections cause no rumination, facilitating self-repair. Our research provides a reconciliation of conflicting findings on self-repair in previous research, and also shows that despite the differences in efficacy, consumers compensate regardless of whether product connections are implicit or explicit, which has implications for consumer well-being.

Keywords: self-concept; identity; compensatory consumption; materialism; self-threat; self-discrepancy (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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