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 article extends our understanding of such behavior to a new domain; that of consumer communications. Drawing on research on lying behavior and symbolic consumption, we suggest that misrepresentation about products and possessions is particularly likely to occur when these products or possessions are used to create a positive self-image in the context of social interaction. Experiments 1 and 2 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 3 experiments provide support for the critical importance of recipient status on the likelihood of misrepresentation. The first 2 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.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Psychology