16 Nov 2017

"I' m in the love with the shape of me!" product Curvature Preferences as a Coping strategy

Prof. Tanuka Ghoshal
Tanuka Ghoshal is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Indian School of Business and teaches the courses Consumer Behavior and Marketing Communications Strategy in the PGP program. She serves as the Chair of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at ISB, and heads the Behavioral Lab. Prior to joining the ISB she obtained her Ph.D. in Marketing from Carnegie Mellon University, USA, following a 3-year stint at the Indian Market Research Bureau (IMRB). Professor Ghoshal’s research interests lie broadly in the domain of hedonic and sensory experiences in consumer judgment and decision-making. Her work has been published or is forthcoming at the Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Consumer Research and Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Her ongoing projects involve studying compensatory consumption, product design, and consumer behavior in the Indian context. Her research on sensory consumption won a grant from the Ernst & Young Institute for Emerging Market Studies in 2015-16. Professor Ghoshal is an active member of international academic societies such as Association of Consumer Research, Society for Consumer Psychology, Consumer Culture Theory Consortium and INFORMS Marketing Science, and regularly presents her research at their flagship annual conferences in North America and Europe.

This research investigates whether preference for product curvature or angularity may be influenced by self-perceptions about the curvature of one’s own body. For women, satisfaction with their body shape, or body shape self-esteem, determines whether there is assimilation or contrast with respect to their product curvature preferences. Comparative evaluation of own body image against idealized images subjects women to feelings of self-discrepancy. A subsequent product evaluation task affords a means of coping, with an affinity towards products that reflect either the “current satisfactory” or “ideal desired” body shape. When body shape satisfaction is high, there is a positive correlation (or assimilation) between one’s own curvature and preferred product curvature or angularity. However, when body shape satisfaction is low, there is contrast between own body shape and product curvature preferences - a dissociation coping strategy. In this case, women higher on body curviness show a higher (lower) preference for angular (curved) products.

Body-shape specific bolstering or affirmation can attenuate the negative correlation between own body and preferred product curvature by boosting body image satisfaction. However, given the significance of body image self-esteem for women, a general affirmation exercise, such as describing other important values in one’s life, demonstrated to negate self-threat in other domains, is unable to negate dissociation coping behavior with respect to product curvature preference.

Correlation between own body and preferred product curvature is present only when own body shape is salient, and such coping effects do not exist when body shape is not salient. Additionally, the correlation is significant only for self-referent products. This research adds to work studying compensatory consumption in response to appearance-related threat. It also contributes to an emerging body of work studying the relationship between products aesthetics and the self, with important implications for product design.