Rozenkrants, Wheeler, and Shiv studied how humans convey information about themselves through the products they choose. The researchers found that “Previous research has shown that material goods can help people self-express, either because the products are themselves self-expressive (e.g., a band t-shirt) or because the products are associated with a desired group.” The Rozenkrants lead team focused on how polarized opinions affect messages sent by objects. Polarization of opinions about products was described as occurring when “some people strongly like the product and other people strongly dislike the product.” Rozenkrants and colleagues found that “polarizing products are perceived to be more self-expressive and to serve as stronger indicators of one’s tastes and personality. . . . These effects emerge when the bimodal distribution [i.e., the polarizing factor] pertains to a self-expressive attribute (e.g., style) but not when it pertains to a non-self-expressive attribute (i.e., quality).”
Bella Rozenkrants, S. Wheeler, and Baba Shiv. “Self-Expression Cues in Product Rating Distributions: When People Prefer Polarizing Products.” Journal of Consumer Research, in press.