Thumbnail Image

Income Stereotype Threat and the Consequences for Consumer Behaviour

Stereotype threat, the process in which we are vulnerable to the possibility of other people ascribing negative stereotypical characteristics unto us, is an increasingly popular psychological phenomenon. We are all affected by this threat, regardless of what social groups we are members of and what stereotypes are associated with them. Existing research into stereotype threat has closely examined how gender, age and race stereotypes have affected their targets, often discovering that academic performance and internal states such as self-esteem and anxiety are negatively impacted. While these studies have provided adequate explanation for individual failures across a range of academic fields, there is an apparent lack of research concerning stereotype threat in the marketplace and how marketing efforts may be encouraging this phenomenon to occur. There is also an absence of studies delving into the area of wealth and income stereotypes. Literature has shown wealth and income stereotypes to be of great importance within society, yet no current research has examined the possibility of income stereotype threat taking place, particularly within the domain of consumer behaviour. The purpose of the present study is to examine when and how income stereotype threat occurs within a retail environment, and how consumer and marketers may be affected. Using a quantitative approach, an online survey was conducted in order to discover what can trigger a consumer to experience income stereotype threat and the negative outcomes marketers face as a result of consumers experiencing this threat. The study revealed that income stereotype threat occurs when consumers make upward comparisons to another shopper who is seemingly wealthier than they are. As a result, purchasing likelihood, store return likelihood and perceptions of store quality all decrease in response to the threat. It was also discovered that interacting with a store shop assistant has no effect on the outcomes of stereotype threat, regardless of how helpful or friendly they are to the shopper. While an argument is also made for income stereotype lift in this study, this effect was not present, thus future research is suggested in order to gain a better understanding of when and if income stereotype lift is possible. Future research should also aim to understand what internal states mediate income stereotype threat as this will provide a deeper understanding of the threat and its effects on individuals.
Type of thesis
East, T. (2016). Income Stereotype Threat and the Consequences for Consumer Behaviour (Thesis, Master of Management Studies (MMS)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10807
University of Waikato
All items in Research Commons are provided for private study and research purposes and are protected by copyright with all rights reserved unless otherwise indicated.