Masculine or feminine: an experimental study of mortality salience effects on gender-stereotyped product evaluation

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Marketers are increasingly applying gender stereotypes to brands and products. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a surge in death anxiety, a feeling that exists since birth, continues throughout life, lies at the root of all fears, and develops after the awareness that people will no longer exist and that they can lose themselves and the world. From the perspective of terror management theory, reminders of mortality should increase stereotypical thinking to protect people against death-related concerns. For marketing researchers and practitioners, it is an important question whether death anxiety will trigger similar mechanism in consumer behavior.

The current thesis investigates the impact of mortality salience on perception, evaluation, and purchase intention of gender-stereotyped products. Three experiments were conducted to test various predictions derived from the terror management theory. The first experiment supported the hypothesis that consumers primed with mortality salience prefer a product perceived as masculine over the one perceived as feminine. Subsequent experiments revealed the underlying mechanism of this effect. Once consumers’ mortality was made salient, they believed that products perceived to be feminine were less competent and thus liked them less (Experiment 2). This effect of mortality salience on consumers’ attitude toward feminine products disappeared when an external focus of control was primed (Experiment 3), presumably because self competence is less important in coping with the threat of death when people believe that their fate is not in their hands. Theoretical as well as practical implications are discuss
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - May 2022
Event10th European Conference on Sensory and Consumer Research - Logomo Convention Centre, Turku, Finland
Duration: 13 Sept 202216 Sept 2022


Conference10th European Conference on Sensory and Consumer Research
Abbreviated titleEurosense 2022


  • mortality salience


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