An Eriksonian approach to consumer identity

Sandra R Rathod, Purdue University


Ego development is the fifth stage in Erikson's Lifecycle Development theory (1959) and is a major psychosocial stage beginning in adolescence and lasting into emerging adulthood. Past research based upon Marcia's Ego Identity Status Paradigm (1996) has investigated a number of ideological and interpersonal domains relevant to one's ego identity, however in today's consumer societies, where what you have is at least as important is who you are or what you do, an Eriksonian approach to consumer ego identity (CEI) has never been broached. This study is intended to establish a reliable and valid measure of consumer ego identity based upon Marcia's Ego Identity Status Paradigm (1966) and to investigate the relationship between one's consumer ego identity (CEI) status and consumer behavior, specifically consumer decision making. A sample of 320 students took part in the study. Participants completed the Extended Objective Measure of Ego Identity Status (EOMEIS-2; Adams, Bennion & Huh, 1989) with a number of additional questions designed to measure consumer ego identity (CEI) status, the Consumer Styles Inventory (CSI; Sproles & Kendall, 1986) and a short demographic questionnaire. The 16-item CEI scale was evenly distributed across the four CEI statuses. The scale developed had desirable psychometric properties with Cronbach's alphas ranging from .67 to .86 and split-half reliability Spearman-Brown coefficients ranging from .76 to .93. Factor analysis with a Promax rotation was conducted to reveal a 9-factor solution: Perfectionist, Hedonic, Brand Conscious, Impulsive, Confused by Overchoice, Habitual, Variety Seeking, Value Conscious and Fashion Conscious consumer decision making styles. Each participant's CEI status was assessed along with their scores for each of the consumer decision making styles. A series of one-way Analysis of Variance (ANOVAs) were carried and, as predicted, significant differences were revealed between the CEI statuses and 5 of the 9 consumer decision making styles. In addition, a series of multiple regression analyses were conducted. The CEI statuses and the demographic variables, age and sex as covariates, were regressed upon the 9 consumer decision making styles to more fully understand the predictive relationship between the variables. As predicted, significant results were found for 6 of the 9 multiple regression models. Several of the hypotheses were supported. The consumer ego identity statuses are good predictors of the consumer decision making styles that individuals rely upon in the marketplace. Findings are discussed in the context of understanding individual consumer development in a consumer society.




Feinberg, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Business administration|Marketing|Psychology

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