Do the Clothes Make the Man? How Gaps Between Current and Ideal Self Goals Shape Product-Related Perceptions and Behavior
I present a framework that describes how perceived discrepancies from an ideal, or hoped-for, self influence how people view and behave with products associated with identity attainment (i.e., "symbolic props"). In the first half of this framework, I demonstrate that individuals who perceive that they are more discrepant from their aspired identity (i.e., more aspirationally discrepant individuals) view symbolic props as more "instrumental," or useful, in helping them achieve identity goals. I demonstrate that this effect is egocentric, mediated by motivation, and only occurs when the perceived rate of progress toward one's aspirational goals is high enough to merit engagement toward the goal. In the second half of the framework, I show that for more aspirationally discrepant individuals, the use of symbolic props may actually limit effort on goal-relevant tasks. These studies suggest an ironic effect whereby aspirational discrepancy may lead to acquisition of goal-relevant props to the detriment of performance-relevant effort.
Public Policy and Social Welfare
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