The Recycled Self: Consumers' Disposal Decisions of Identity-Linked Products
Posted: 12 May 2016
Date Written: March 25, 2016
It has been known for some time that consumers’ identities influence purchasing decisions and people form strong identity connections, or “links,” with products and brands. However, research has yet to determine whether identity-linked products are differentially treated at disposal in comparison to products that are not identity linked. Across seven studies, the current research shows that when an everyday product (e.g., paper, cups, aluminum cans) is linked to a consumer’s identity, it is less likely to be trashed and more likely to be recycled. Further, the tendency to recycle an identity-linked product increases with the strength and positivity of the connection between the consumer and product (or brand). Finally, the disposal behavior can be explained by consumers’ motivation to avoid trashing a product that is linked to the self because it is viewed as an identity threat. In sum, consumers will be more likely to recycle (rather than trash) a product if the product is linked to a consumer’s identity. This occurs because placing an identity-linked product in the trash is symbolically similar to trashing a part of the self, a situation consumers are motivated to avoid.
Keywords: recycling, sustainability, identity, disposal, decision making
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