Theses Doctoral

Buying Into Distortions: Individual Agency and Identity-Based Consumption

Dawson, Chloe

The ways in which individuals act within the world around them and the ways in which individuals engage with commodities as consumers play a vital role in providing insight into innate human values and opportunities for growth. By exploring the seemingly mundane and small but meaningful ways individuals engage in the consumer process and space, fruitful data display an interconnected outline of cyclical pathways toward mending the gap between reality and desired individual values, identity, and behaviors. Building on literature from both sociological and adult learning fields, diverse avenues for decision making and strategic outcomes are highlighted to isolate an array of individual consumer experiences and subsequent triggers for ongoing learning and reflection.
While consumer research has an extensive theoretical history, by dissecting the nuanced nature of the individual experience, this literature adds a vital layer to the evolving consumer narrative by integrating the hidden fruit of perceived failure. To achieve this, an exploratory study was designed to dissect the lives of 20 individual consumers and their experiences with the intersectionality between their values, identity, and learned consumption behaviors. Several prevalent findings of the study included the identification of self-directed learning as a driving force for enacting agency and lifelong development, the essential nature of motivational drivers that sustain overt and covert degrees of commitment to individual values and the vital presence of coping mechanisms as accessible entry points to engage with the identification and confrontation of shifting values and identity.
By tracing socialized behaviors through seemingly mundane acts of consumerism, individuals unlock opportunities to evolve through the increased exposure of varying experiences of others. As such, by adopting practices grounded in radical transparency with self, innate barriers to aligned behaviors can transform into stepping stones for growth, deep renewal, and empowerment. Thus, by capturing identities and values in action, this narrative displays a portraiture of the distorted consumer space and the individuals that consume and are consumed within it.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Yorks, Lyle
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 6, 2019