Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Stephen Gould

Committee Members

Lauren Block

David Luna

Sara Williamson

Subject Categories



Most of us, at one point, have felt like a fraud. Usually we can overcome the negative feelings associated with feeling like a fraud by acknowledging why we deserve our accomplishments. However, there are times when, despite all external evidence, we still feel like an impostor. A person experiences the impostor phenomenon when they are unable to internalize their achievements and they have the constant fear of being exposed as a fraud. The current research examines each of the four behaviors associated with experiencing the impostor phenomenon and examines how they influence our consumption behavior. The impostor cycle is a model that shows how achievement related tasks lead to emotions and behaviors that perpetuate the impostor phenomenon. We examine how individuals experience the impostor cycle differently and how this impacts their consumption decisions. In eight studies, including one pretest, we demonstrate how the goal of avoiding detection as a fraud influences product preferences, and how the two different paths of progressing though the impostor cycle, self-handicapping or over-preparing, influences the willingness to pay for products.

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