Flexible Minds May Be Less Judgmental

In a culture filled with opportunities to judge another person’s social status or personality traits based on the use of brand names, a new study offers hope that not everyone lives by that standard.

The findings, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, show that people with a “flexible mindset” rather than a fixed mindset are less likely to judge others based on the brands they wear and use.

Someone with a flexible mindset believes that a human being’s behavior can vary significantly over time and across different situations. Because of this, those with flexible mindsets are less likely to make assumptions about strangers based on brand choice at any one point in time.

On the other hand, those with a fixed mindset tend to believe that one’s behavior is consistent over time and across situations, and thus can effectively predict a person’s personality. In fact, the researchers found that people with fixed mindsets were much more likely to make judgments about others based on the brands they used.

“Previous research has supported the idea that people universally form perceptions about others based on brands, but we have shown that it depends on an individual’s mindset about behavior,” said Dr. Ji Kyung Park, lead author and a marketing professor at the University of Delaware. Park worked with Dr. Deborah Roedder John, professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota, on the study.

In one of the experiments, participants looked at a picture of a man driving a car that was either a Mercedes Benz or a car without a visible brand name and were asked to rate the man according to a list of personality traits. Next, the volunteers answered a series of questions to determine whether each participant was more partial to a fixed or a flexible mindset.

The findings show that participants with a fixed mindset were more likely to rate the man driving the Mercedes as more sophisticated than the man driving a car without a visible brand name. However, participants with more flexible mindsets rated the two men as equally sophisticated.

The researchers observed the same effect when participants were asked to rate a woman eating a box of Godiva chocolates versus a box of chocolates with no visible brand name.

So while there are many individuals who don’t judge others based on brand use, there are still people with fixed mindsets whose perceptions of others are influenced by brand choices.

From a marketing standpoint, Park suggested that companies offer certain products that minimize the display of the brand’s name on the item to appeal to consumers who do not want to be judged by the fixed mindset population.

Source: Society for Consumer Psychology