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The Differences Between Men and Women--Part II: Stereotyping and Its Effects on Product Perception

By: Guy Lewis, PhD
Posted: June 6, 2008, from the February 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Recent evidence on types of online shoppers suggest women dominate the “click and mortar” types who shop online but buy offline while male shoppers dominate the “hooked” and “hunter-gatherer” types who use online shopping the most.1 While women have come to dominate household roles as shoppers, they also are under increasing pressure from role overload.2 Evidence shows that even when market wages increase—for example, in dual-career professional families—household tasks do not shift significantly.3 Actual disparities in husbands and wives’ participation in household work indicate normative constraints such as male and female stereotypes.4

Berk also found that when the product is relatively more expensive, technical or new, such as a DVD player, the gender association reverses itself. More males are associated with the purchase of DVD players while more females are associated with the purchase of music CDs, which are relatively less expensive and less technical. Outlet type was less important as the difference was marginally significant. Purchase reason—for self or as a gift—did not appear to make a difference on the gender stereotypes. The overriding factor influencing attribution of personal characteristics is the gender stereotype held by the respondent. The male buyer is seen to be more technical, more spontaneous and less reliable. Both male and female respondents make similar attributions, particularly when the respondent’s gender matches the reported gender of the diarist.

So, what indeed does all this information reveal? A common assertion in the field of social sex role psychology is that these stereotypic messages tend to be fostered and and held to be a reliable source of information.

Defining men

The trend in the spa industry has borne witness to the large growth of male clients who are visiting spas for the first time. Knowing that recent research supports the notion of stereotypic consumer trends, it is important to remember that little boys who received consistent message about their sex role grow up to be consumers who are driven by the well-founded schema of these stereotypes:

A man is the strong, silent type, who doesn’t ask for directions and is hesitant to appear in “image-reducing roles.” He has strong need for the appearance of being correct and won’t show defeat, for real men can take anything. Men, as compared to women, are slow to show emotions and don’t express emotional needs; they are uncomfortable being doted on by women around other men. Thus, men won’t express discomfort, and are less likely to return to an uncomfortable environment.