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When identity projects go wrong - an exploration of identity-inconsistent consumption using techniques of neutralisation

Du, Yuanqing

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Authors

Yuanqing Du



Abstract

The research relates to identity projects and the question of why consumers still purchase identity-inconsistent products. Specifically, the research aims to explore what happens when identity projects goes wrong.

Identity projects is the theory that consumers actively seek to create, enhance, transform or maintain a sense of identity (Belk 1999). Much research in the literature focuses on how identity constructs help consumers positively while the research on the stigmatisation of individual responsibility of ‘wrong identity’ remains scarce (Larsen and Patterson, 2018).

This research borrows the theory of neutralisation (Sykes and Matza, 1957) from criminological studies to explore what happens when identity projectsion goes wrong. Specifically, the research seeks to investigate how consumers view and justify their identity-inconsistent purchases. Despite its popularity, the theorisation of neutralisation is still largely understudied. The majority of research on neutralisation tends to only focus on additional techniques, while the question of where these techniques are intended for is left unasked (Maruna and Copes, 2005). This research aims to enrich the literature by investigating the function and purposes of each neutralising technique in consumer behaviour.

Using 48 semi-structured in-depth interviews on 24 female university students’ fashion consumption, the findings confirm that neutralising techniques have been used widely to shield consumers from the guilt arising from identity-inconsistent consumption. Further analysis indicates consumers do not always relate consumption with their identity projects, thus challenging identity projects’s strong position in terms of an ‘active concern of identity creation’. Rather, through the technique of neutralisation, consumers create a sense of narrative for future identity inconsistent consumption.

Citation

Du, Y. When identity projects go wrong - an exploration of identity-inconsistent consumption using techniques of neutralisation. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from https://uwe-repository.worktribe.com/output/1490947

Thesis Type Thesis
Publicly Available Date Jun 2, 2020
Keywords neutralisation techniques, consumer research, identity project
Public URL https://uwe-repository.worktribe.com/output/1490947

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