To self-enhance or self-verify? How choice difficulty influences product preference for low self-esteem consumer

  • Hoi Ching CHAN

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


One of the core stones in marketing is that consumers use different products to build and manage their self-images. Traditional view in marketing suggests that consumers want to increase positivity of their self-images; therefore, they are attached to products associated with favorable user image and avoid consuming products connected with unfavorable user images. Notably, a recent paper from Stuppy and her colleagues (2020) suggested that the mentioned self-enhancing motivation should only be applicable to consumers with high self-esteem, whereas those with low self-esteem would rather pursue the self-verification motivation and prefers inferior product, symbolizing a less positive consumer image, to superior products.

The objective of this study is to investigate and demonstrate an unexplored boundary condition by proposing the role of product choice difficulty in influencing how low self-esteem consumers choose a superior vs. an inferior product. Specifically, we propose that low self-esteem consumers would pursue a self-enhancement motive when as choice becomes more cognitively difficult. Consequently, their choice between a superior and an inferior product would depend on the relative strength between a self-enhancement and a self-verification motive. Four studies, including two pilot studies and two full studies, provided supports for our theoretical framework.

It is expected that findings of this paper can redress the gap in literature about consumer behavior of low self-esteem consumers and serve a guide for marketer to stick with the needs of this special group of consumers.
Date of Award21 Jul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lingnan University
SupervisorYu Jen CHEN (Supervisor)

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