Department of Management

The Abercrombie & Fitch effect: The impact of physical dominance on male customers’ status-signaling consumption

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Tobias Otterbring, Karlstad University
  • ,
  • Christine Ringler, University of Alabama, United States
  • Nancy J. Sirianni, University of Alabama, United States
  • Anders Gustafsson, Karlstad University, Sweden

Consumer lay theory suggests that women will spend more money than men in the presence of a physically dominant male employee, whereas theories of intrasexual competition from evolutionary psychology predict the opposite outcome. A retail field study demonstrates that male customers spend more money and purchase more expensive products than their female counterparts in the presence (vs. absence) of a physically dominant male employee. This effect has a more powerful impact on male customers who lack bodily markers of dominance (shorter stature or measures linked to lower levels of testosterone). When confronted with other physically dominant (vs. nondominant) men, these male customers are particularly prone to signal status through price or logo size. Their elevated feelings of intrasexual (male-tomale) competitiveness drive them to spend more money on status-signaling, but not functional, products and to prefer and draw larger brand logos. Because pictorial exposure is sufficient for the effect to occur, these findings are not limited to in-store interactions with dominant male employees but have broad implications for marketing and advertising.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Marketing Research
Pages (from-to)69-79
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • 2D:4D digit ratio, 4TH DIGIT RATIO, BEHAVIOR, CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION, EVOLUTION, HYPOTHESIS, MEN, POWER, SELF, SEXUAL SELECTION, WOMEN, evolutionary psychology, field study, physical dominance, status-signaling consumption

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