Do people judge others based on the brands they use? Prior research finds evidence to this effect, yet we argue this phenomenon is far from universal. Drawing on research on implicit self-theories, we find that only entity (but not incremental) theorists are prone to judging people based on their brand use (Studies 1 and 2). We show that entity theorists infer that people use brands to signal who they are to others, thereby forming perceptions of these people based on the personality of the brands they use, but incremental theorists are reluctant to make inferences about brand users’ signaling motives (Studies 3, 4, and 5). When tendencies to make signaling inferences are reduced, entity theorists no longer judge people based on their brand use (Studies 3 and 4). Furthermore, even incremental theorists judge people based on their brand use when given the information that their brand use is not driven by situational forces, but is potentially driven by a signaling motivation (Study 5).
- Implicit self-theories
- Person perception