Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration (PhD)

Degree Level





Elizabeth Howlett

Committee Member

Scot Burton

Second Committee Member

Ronn Smith


Social sciences, Consumer behavior, Social identity, Stigma, Weight


Research examining Social identity and consumer behavior often centers on groups with positive Social identities, exploring the influence of similar identities (i.e., shared values, shared gender, shared political affiliations, shared ethnicity…etc.) or desired identities (e.g., sports celebrities, actors, and actresses). For example, research has shown that people display an increased attention to identity-based stimuli following the activation of a Socially distinct identity (Forehand, Deshpandé, and Reed 2002) and that heightening the self‐importance of a consumer Social identity leads to a preference for identity-related brands (Reed 2004). An important but often overlooked aspect of the influence of Social identity on consumption, however, is the link between negative Social identity and consumer behavior.

This dissertation aims to address this gap in the literature by examining how Social stigmas influence the consumption outcomes of consumers who possess the negative identity (targets) and consumers who fear obtaining the negative identity (nontargets). Using weight status as the research context, I bridge Social identity (Tajfel and Turner 1979) and stigma (e.g., Goffman (1963) literatures to provide a framework for understanding how the objective and subjective aspects of Socially stigmatized identities affect consumers’ self evaluations and appraisals of identity-related products. In particular, I examine how an individual’s weight status coupled with the importance they ascribe to their weight identity, coincide to affect self-evaluation and identity-relevant consumption outcomes. In particular, I posit and find support for the assertion that following activation of the weight concept, target group members (i.e., overweight consumers) low in weight identity self-importance will express greater dieting self-efficacy and identity-incongruent evaluations of high calorie food items. I also experimentally manipulate weight identity self-importance to demonstrate that these effects can be generalized to members of a particular weight status group and examine the psychological processes associated with these effects. More specifically, I show that for overweight consumers, lowering weight identity self-importance boosts dieting self-efficacy perceptions and negatively impacts evaluations of unhealthy food products, but that this effect is attenuated under high cognitive load. I also show that for normal weight individuals, heightening weight identity self-importance leads to lower levels of dieting self-efficacy and less favorable evaluations of unhealthy food and that avoidance coping is the underlying mechanism driving these effects. Taken together, this research offers theoretical and practical implications for marketers, public policy makers, and consumer welfare advocates and provides direction for further research concerning consumer psychology and food-related judgments and consumption decisions.

Included in

Marketing Commons