The country-of-origin effect and social identity, the ways an individual's national identity affects product preferences

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Lantz, Garold
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As the globalization of the world's economies proceeds apace, an area of interest is the influence the country of origin effect has on prospective purchasers of products. The country of origin (COO) effect refers to the evaluation consumers may make of a product based upon the country where it was made. The specific focus of this dissertation is on the portion of the COO effect relating to the preference consumers often express for domestic products. Chapter One begins with a general introduction of the COO effect and then proceeds to specific issues. Recent literature has begun to focus on factors making distinctions between countries where products are manufactured and countries where companies' headquarters are located (Samiee 1994). These more finely drawn definitions have become necessary due to the proliferation of companies engaging in multinational sourcing, multinational production of subassemblies and locating assembly plants outside the home country. The primary objective of this dissertation is to use the social identity approach and specifically self-categorization theory to enrich the theoretical foundation underlying this relatively unexplored part of the COO effect. While the social identity approach is also useful in explaining stereotype development, which represents a large part of the COO effect, the focus of this dissertation is on the preference consumers have for domestic products, which will be referred to as the home country bias. The home country bias has been observed on numerous occasions (Shimp and Sharma 1987; Han and Terpstra 1988) and although exceptions have been cited (Heslop and Papadopolous 1987) its existence remains unrefuted (Samiee 1994). This dissertation seeks to increase this depth by using the social identity approach to explain consumers' acqu sition of their national identity and relating this to the home country bias. The "social identity approach" is an umbrella term encompassing social identity theory and self-categorization theory (Hogg and Abrams 1990). Social identity theory involves intergroup relations and the propensity for individuals to see themselves, and the groups with which they identify, in a positive light in regard to other groups. The closely related self-categorization theory involves the process by which people define themselves in terms of the groups with which they identify. Essentially, the premise expressed in this dissertation is that a purchase intent to buy a product is influenced by country stereotypes in the evaluation of product quality and by the consumer's degree of identification with the nation. Chapters One and Two lay a foundation for Chapter Three which integrates social identity/self-categorization theory with the country of origin effect and offers specific research hypotheses. Chapter Four will introduce the methodology to be used in the empirical study. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)