Redefining home: How cultural distinctiveness affects the malleability of in-group boundaries and brand preferences

Carlos J. Torelli, Rohini Ahluwalia, Shirley Y.Y. Cheng, Nicholas J. Olson, Jennifer L. Stoner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


In a world of increasing global mobility, we investigate how feelings of cultural distinctiveness-feelings of being different and separated from the surrounding cultural environment-influence consumers' preferences for brands that symbolize a related cultural group (i.e., a group that is geographically proximal and/or shares sociohistorical and cultural roots with one's own cultural group). Results from seven studies demonstrate that consumers experiencing cultural distinctiveness are likely to evaluate favorably and prefer brands associated with a related cultural group, in a choice set or consumption situation, even if they are not the favored option in the choice set. This pro-in-group bias for culturally related brands is driven by a heightened desire to connect with "home," which prompts consumers to expand their in-group boundaries to include the related cultural group within a broadened definition of home. However, this pro-in-group bias is attenuated when the salience of intergroup rivalries is high, where experiencing cultural distinctiveness can backfire and result in less favorable evaluations of brands associated with a related cultural group. This research is the first to demonstrate that cultural consumption is a dynamic process, and that in-group boundaries can be malleable and expandable, depending upon the motivation of the consumer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-61
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2016.


  • Brand preferences
  • Cultural distinctiveness
  • Cultural symbolism
  • Culture
  • In-group bias


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