Stereotype Threat in the Marketplace: Consumer Anxiety and Purchase Intentions
Kathleen D. Vohs
Journal of Consumer Research
How do consumers react when they believe that a transaction partner will view them through the lens of a stereotype? We predicted and found that being aware of a negative stereotype about a group to which one belongs (e.g., gender) made consumers sensitive to whether service providers were in-group versus out-group members and lowered purchase intentions when the provider was an out-group member. We observed stereotype threat effects across diverse marketplace settings: financial services (experiment 1), automobile repairs (experiment 2), and automobile purchases (experiment 3). Furthermore, we found that reluctance to purchase from out-group (vs. in-group) members was caused by heightened anxiety. The presence of a soothing scent, as a situational factor to alleviate anxiety, mitigated stereotype threat effects on marketplace decisions.