Mimesis, Psych 201 and Jeans

Deep Glamour’s “What Your Jeans Say About You” (other than, “These are the only ones I could find that fit me …”) reports on a ground-breaking study in the Journal of Consumer Research that finds that our ‘attachment’ styles determine what jeans we wear:

“See, when you were but a wee babe in your mother’s arms you honed one of two attachment styles, ‘anxiety and avoidance,’ the authors explain. Anxious people view themselves as positive or negative and avoidance people view others as positive or negative.

Anxiously attached individuals are more influenced by “brand personalities,” the idea that a brand possesses humanlike traits, such as sincerity or excitement. “Because of a low view of self, anxious individuals use brands to signal their ideal self-concept to future relationship partners and therefore focus more on the personality of the brand,” the authors write.’

The study seems to look only at people whose styles are attachment-related anxiety and attachment-related avoidance. The study summary says nothing about the jeans preferences of people whose ‘attachment style’ isn’t anxiety, i.e., those with a ‘secure’ style; how do they make these ultra-important decisions? I couldn’t find a free version of the full-text article to learn more.

The reason I’m posting about it is that I take online surveys offered by several companies several times per week, and often these surveys ask me to describe a cereal, store, bank, insurance company, beauty product, or beverage in human terms, which stumps me every time. Can cereal be ‘friendly,’ ‘angry,’ or ‘aloof’? How? I try to find the descriptors that could conceivably translate to a product, like ‘reliable’ or ‘interesting,’ and choose those just to tick one or two boxes from the 40 or so I’m presented with. (In most surveys, you have to tick at least one box per page or the survey gets stuck.) I’ve often wondered what these human characteristics were doing in my survey. Now I see that the surveyors are apparently operating on the belief that people who like to take online surveys are ‘anxiously attached individuals.’ (Curious, I took an online attachment style quiz to see where I fall on this scale, which was squarely in the ‘secure’ quadrant. The other quadrants, defined by level of anxiety and avoidance, are called preoccupied, fearful-avoidant and dismissing.)

Paige Phelps at DG notes that the study seems seriously flawed in offering only two brands of jeans, Abercrombie & Fitch and Gap. Too true. And it’s even more flawed because — secure though I am, based on one self-administered online quiz — I can become avoidant when anxious, and I wear only one flavour of Gap jeans, which I buy used on eBay or at Goodwill. I thought it was because they fit me best, having worn, over the years Lee, Levi, Style & Co., St. John’s Bay, Covington (Sears), and lots of others whose names and humanlike qualities I can’t recall. (They all seem ‘blue’ to me. :-)) But who knows. Maybe I think my jeans signal “secure, Christmas-loving, dog-empowered, tea-drinking, hopelessly pragmatic, mellow rationalist’ to those who observe me.

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