The Self-Activation Effect of Advertisements: Ads Can Affect Whether and How Consumers Think about the Self
Comparing consumption with nonconsumption situations, we propose and test the self-activation effect of advertisements, which holds that attractiveness-relevant products in advertisements can increase consumer self-activation and lower consumer self-evaluation. Four experiments provide support for this effect by showing that after viewing advertised beauty-enhancing products, but not advertised problem-solving products, thoughts about the self are more salient and self-evaluations are lower, compared with viewing the same products outside of an advertisement context. The findings hold for different products and different manipulations. We also present evidence for the mediating role of appearance self-discrepancy activation as a potential mechanism underlying the effect. The findings suggest that advertisements for attractiveness-relevant products may at times constitute social comparison standards, with which consumers compare themselves.
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