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The Red Sneakers Effect: Inferring Status and Competence from Signals of Nonconformity


  • Silvia Bellezza
  • Francesca Gino
  • Anat Keinan


This research examines how people react to nonconforming behaviors, such as entering a luxury boutique wearing gym clothes rather than an elegant outfit or wearing red sneakers in a professional setting. Nonconforming behaviors, as costly and visible signals, can act as a particular form of conspicuous consumption and lead to positive inferences of status and competence in the eyes of others. A series of studies demonstrates that people confer higher status and competence to nonconforming rather than conforming individuals. These positive inferences derived from signals of nonconformity are mediated by perceived autonomy and moderated by individual differences in need for uniqueness in the observers. An investigation of boundary conditions demonstrates that the positive inferences disappear when the observer is unfamiliar with the environment, when the nonconforming behavior is depicted as unintentional, and in the absence of expected norms and shared standards of formal conduct.

Suggested Citation

  • Silvia Bellezza & Francesca Gino & Anat Keinan, 2014. "The Red Sneakers Effect: Inferring Status and Competence from Signals of Nonconformity," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(1), pages 35-54.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jconrs:doi:10.1086/674870
    DOI: 10.1086/674870

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    Cited by:

    1. Ziano, Ignazio & Pandelaere, Mario, 2018. "The majority premium: Competence inferences derived from majority consumption," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 339-349.
    2. Chaouali, Walid & Ben Yahia, Imene & Souiden, Nizar, 2016. "The interplay of counter-conformity motivation, social influence, and trust in customers' intention to adopt Internet banking services: The case of an emerging country," Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 209-218.
    3. Palmeira, Mauricio, 2020. "Advice in the presence of external cues: The impact of conflicting judgments on perceptions of expertise," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 156(C), pages 82-96.
    4. Sara Kim & Rocky Peng Chen & Ke Zhang, 2016. "Anthropomorphized Helpers Undermine Autonomy and Enjoyment in Computer Games," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 43(2), pages 282-302.
    5. Seger-Guttmann, Tali & Vilnai-Yavetz, Iris & Wang, Chen-Ya & Petruzzellis, Luca, 2018. "Illegitimate returns as a trigger for customers’ ethical dissonance," Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 120-131.
    6. Gurzki, Hannes & Woisetschläger, David M., 2017. "Mapping the luxury research landscape: A bibliometric citation analysis," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 147-166.
    7. Nabi, Nazia & O’Cass, Aron & Siahtiri, Vida, 2019. "Status consumption in newly emerging countries: The influence of personality traits and the mediating role of motivation to consume conspicuously," Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 173-178.
    8. Daniel C. Brannon & Brandon W. Soltwisch, 2017. "If it has lots of bells and whistles, it must be the best: how maximizers and satisficers evaluate feature-rich versus feature-poor products," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 28(4), pages 651-662, December.
    9. Elodie Gentina & Thomas Li-Ping Tang & Qinxuan Gu, 2017. "Does Bad Company Corrupt Good Morals? Social Bonding and Academic Cheating among French and Chinese Teens," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 146(3), pages 639-667, December.
    10. Huachao Gao & Karen Page Winterich & Yinlong Zhang, 2016. "All That Glitters Is Not Gold: How Others’ Status Influences the Effect of Power Distance Belief on Status Consumption," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 43(2), pages 265-281.
    11. Chen, Yunqing & Wyer, Robert S., 2020. "The effects of endorsers' facial expressions on status perceptions and purchase intentions," International Journal of Research in Marketing, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 371-385.
    12. Shenjiang Mo & Chu-Ding Ling & Xiao-Yun Xie, 2019. "The Curvilinear Relationship Between Ethical Leadership and Team Creativity: The Moderating Role of Team Faultlines," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 154(1), pages 229-242, January.
    13. Vilnai-Yavetz, Iris & Tifferet, Sigal, 2015. "A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words: Segmenting Consumers by Facebook Profile Images," Journal of Interactive Marketing, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 53-69.
    14. Lee, Saerom & Bolton, Lisa E., 2020. "Mixed signals? Decoding luxury consumption in the workplace," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 331-345.

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