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Title: Misrepresentation in the consumer context
Authors: Sengupta, Jaideep
Dahl, Darren W.
Gorn, Gerald J.
Keywords: Consumer communications
Symbolic consumption
Lying behavior
Issue Date: Jul-1999
Series/Report no.: Marketing Working Paper Series ; MKTG 99.145
Abstract: Research in social psychology suggests that motives such as self-bolstering and impression management can lead people to engage in deliberate misrepresentations during interpersonal communications. This paper extends our outstanding of such behavior to a new domain; that of consumer communications. We draw upon findings from research on both lying and symbolic consumption to suggest that misrepresentation about products and possessions is particularly likely to occur when these products/possessions are used to create a positive self-image in the context of social interaction. Experiments 1 and 2 use a scenario methodology to simulate a social interaction wherein misrepresentation about the purchase price of a product helps participants to manage impressions. A third experiment extends these findings by testing for wealth-related misrepresentation in the context of an interaction wherein participants actually communicate their family's wealth to a recipient. Consistent with predictions derived from existing research on symbolic consumption, all three experiments provide support for the critical importance of recipient status on the likelihood of misrepresentation. The first two experiments additionally examine the role of individual differences and brand differences; results on these dimensions are also supportive of our underlying theoretical premise regarding the antecedents of lying behavior. The implications for research on interpersonal communications, as well as for the literature on symbolic consumption, are discussed.
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