Variety in Self-Expression Undermines Self-Continuity
© 2019 The Author(s). From dating profiles and social media accounts to online streaming services, consumers are often asked to express who they are by constructing an assortment. Apple Music, for example, asks new users to indicate "two or more" of their favorite types of music when they create an account. But while consumers might create such self-expressive assortments to communicate who they are, could the composition of these assortments also affect how people see themselves? Seven studies demonstrate that perceiving greater variety in a self-expressive assortment undermines self-continuity. This occurs because variety leads consumers to infer that their preferences are less stable, thereby decreasing the belief that their identity stays the same over time. Variety's effect generalizes across multiple domains of self-expression (e.g., books, music, television) and has downstream consequences for service evaluation and even unrelated decision-making (e.g., intertemporal tradeoffs). The findings advance understanding of how choice shapes identity, the role of variety in consumers' lives, and factors that affect self-continuity. The results also have implications for the marketers who encourage (and the consumers who construct) self-expressive assortments.
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