Gender Identity in Consumer Behaviour

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Palan / Gender Identity in Consumer Behavior Research
Gender Identity in Consumer Behavior Research: A Literature Review and Research Agenda Kay M. Palan Iowa State University
Kay M. Palan is associate professor of Marketing, Iowa State University, 300 Carver, Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-9526, e-mail: This article is part of a special issue on "Gender Issues in Consumer Research" edited by James Gentry, Seungwoo Chun, Suraj Commuri, Eileen Fischer, Sunkyu Jun, Lee McGinnis, and Michal Strahilevitz. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Consumer researchers have been examining the impact of gender identity—the degree to which an individual identifies with masculine and feminine personality traits—on various consumer variables for nearly four decades. However, significant gender identity findings in consumer research have been rare, perhaps because of (1) operationalization problems (Palan, Kiecker, and Areni 1999), (2) inappropriate interpretation and application of gender identity to consumer variables (Gould 1996), or (3) blurring gender categories (Firat 1993). This paper presents a thorough review, grounded in theoretical models of gender identity, of consumer behavior studies in the marketing literature that have examined gender identity. Based on the literature review, the paper evaluates whether gender identity research is still warranted, and proposes specific research questions to guide future research. Terminology in Gender Identity Research

Several different terms have been used over the course of gender identity research to signify gender identity. This creates confusion about what is being studied. This review only includes studies that have specifically examined the degree to which an individual identifies him- or herself with masculine and feminine personality traits. The term "gender identity" is used throughout the paper to refer to this definition, regardless of what it might have been called in previous studies. Theoretical Background of Gender Identity

Gender identity is considered to be a two-dimensional model, with masculine traits comprising one dimension, and feminine traits the other. Psychologists believe that varying degrees of these traits coexist within an individual (Gill et al. 1987). Two instruments, created in the mid-1970s, have dominated gender identity research, the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) and the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ). With either instrument, individuals can be categorized according to which set of gendered traits they primarily identify with. There are two competing gender identity theories impacting the conceptualization of consumer research. Bem’s (1981a) gender schema theory posits that individuals acquire and display traits, attitudes, and behaviors consistent with their gender identity, so gender identity is predictive of broad gender-related constructs. Spence (1984) posits that gender identity is multifactorial with gendered traits constituting but one factor; therefore, gender identity is predictive only of situations in which gendered traits are likely to have impact. If one wants to understand other gender constructs, e.g., gender role attitudes, a measure specific to that construct would have to be used. Related to these theories is gender salience, the idea that a gender-related self-concept has to be activated in order for gender identity to be meaningful in a particular context. Gender Identity Studies in Consumer Behavior

Thirty-one studies, dating from 1963-2001 are included in the literature review. Gender identity has been significantly linked to several different consumer variables (e.g., leisure activities, sex-role portrayals, shopping behavior), but biological sex was often significant when gender identity was not. Gender identity was more likely to be significant when studies were carefully conceptualized. Academy of Marketing Science Review All rights reserved.

Volume 2001 No. 10 Available:...
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