Look for the Signature: Using Personal Signatures as Extrinsic Cues Promotes Identity-Congruent Behavior

Keri L. Kettle and Antonia Mantonakis


We investigate the novel premise that a personal signature – an individual’s own handwritten version of their name – can prime identities when used as an extrinsic cue. Evidence from seven studies, including two retail field experiments, shows that adding a personal signature as an extrinsic cue promotes identity-congruent behavior, and thus produces different effects on behavior depending on the consumer’s identity. For example, adding a personal signature to a product label leads to more favorable product evaluations among consumers with an associative identity, but less favorable evaluations among consumers with a dissociative identity. We pinpoint identity salience as the process underlying this phenomenon by showing that adding a personal signature as an extrinsic cue influences behavior in an identity-diagnostic context unrelated to the personal signature. We advance the consumer identity and extrinsic cues literatures, and we offer practical business implications.

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