Individuality within the group: Testing the optimal distinctiveness principle through brand consumption

Jang Ho Moon1, Yongjun Sung2
1Department of Public Relations and Advertising, Sookmyung Women's University, Republic of Korea
2Department of Psychology, Korea University, Republic of Korea
Cite this article:  Moon, J. H., & Sung, Y. (2015). Individuality within the group: Testing the optimal distinctiveness principle through brand consumption. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 43(1), 15-26.

Volume 43 Issue 1 | e4241 | Published: February 2015 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.2015.43.1.15

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In optimal distinctiveness theory, it is suggested that individuals pursue an optimally distinctive identity at the personal level when their collective identity no longer sustains the balance between need for assimilation and differentiation. We tested this assumption via 2 online experimental studies in the context of brand consumption. In Study 1, with 86 participants, we found that individuals with a high need for uniqueness were less likely to purchase brands used by the majority of members of an in-group when the group was homogeneous and the product was identity relevant because of their need for arousal of differentiation under these conditions. In Study 2, we temporarily primed need states of 93 participants and results supported the relationships we had observed in Study 1. By using brands as an identity- signaling mechanism, we found that the need for internal balance would be activated at the collective or personal level to ensure an individual’s optimal distinctiveness.

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