Marketing Papers

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Technical Report

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Journal of Consumer Psychology





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This research builds on the motivational aspects of identity salience, finding that social identities direct the allocation of attention in identity‐syntonic ways. Drawing from identity‐based motivation (Oyserman, 2009; Reed, et al., 2012) we suggest individuals use attention to enhance identity‐fit; selectively focusing on cues and stimuli that are identity‐consistent. In two studies we find that activating a social identity drives preferential attention toward identity‐relevant stimuli. Using a novel paradigm, Study 1 demonstrates that individuals strategically focus attention on identity‐consistent emotional stimuli, while also shifting attention away from identity‐inconsistent emotional stimuli. Using a dot‐probe paradigm, Study 2 extends these results to show that individuals allocate attention toward both emotional and non‐emotional (semantic associates) stimuli that are identity‐consistent, and away from those that are incompatible. Consistent with theories suggesting cognition and perception are constructed (James, 1890/1983) and that identities direct and influence meaning‐making (Oyserman, 2009; Reed et al., 2012), we find that social identities drive attention allocation, with identity‐consistent stimuli receiving greater attention; suggesting that an identity's sense‐making begins with motivated attention toward perceiving an identity‐consistent environment.

Copyright/Permission Statement

This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: Coleman, N.V. & Williams, P., "Looking for My Self: Identity-Driven Attention Allocation," Journal of Consumer Research 25, no. 3: 504-511, which has been published in final form at

This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions:


social identity, attention, emotion



Date Posted: 15 June 2018

This document has been peer reviewed.