Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Anand Kumar, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

David J. Ortinau, Ph.D.


Different selves, Intrinsic motives, Automobiles, Qualitative study, Reference groups


This dissertation consists of three essays on the role of identity centrality in the formation of consumer self-brand connections. It contributes to a better understanding of how consumers negotiate multiple identities in the marketplace when making brand choices. This is significant as much of the research on the self-concept and consumer behavior has focused on isolated self-dimensions or have examined single consumer identities in isolation.

Theoretically grounded in identity process theory (Breakwell 1986), which suggests individuals construct their identity through multiple identity motives influencing identity centrality, enactment, and affect; this dissertation addresses these gaps by answering two specific questions: 1) What are the various identity motives that influence a consumer's individual and group identity centrality leading to enhanced self-brand connections? 2) How does identity centrality influence reference group brand associations in the formation of self-brand connections? In Essay 1, a framework for conceptualizing the influence of multiple identity motives on self-brand connections is proposed driven by findings from consumer in-depth interviews. The framework suggests identity centrality mediates the relationship between the satisfaction of multiple identity motives on self-brand connections, and moderates self-brand connections when reference group brand associations are considered.

Fourteen propositions are presented, and are empirically tested in Essays 2 and 3. In Essay 2, identity motives from identity process theory along with others identified in Essay 1 are empirically validated, using both hierarchical linear modeling and hierarchical multiple regression. The findings support the influence of two identity motives informing identity centrality, namely: recognition and continuity. This is significant, as prior research in consumer behavior has largely focused on the self-esteem and self-consistency motives (Grub and Grathwohl 1967; Sirgy 1982). Essay 3 investigates the moderating effect of identity centrality on the formation of self-brand connections as reference group brand associations are considered. It is found that the when the ingroup identity is highly central, stronger self-brand connections result. On the contrary, when the ingroup identity is low in centrality self-brand connections are mitigated.

The differential effects of self-brand connections due to identity centrality provide insight into intra-group differences when the brand is consistent with the ingroup image. The results support a general importance of the role of identity centrality at both the individual and group levels, providing a catalyst for future studies examining the role of the self-concept in consumer behavior.