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An investigation of the social identification process in reality television

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posted on 17.02.2017, 01:15 authored by Higgins, Angela Frances
The channels used for social interaction and social influence are increasing and diversifying rapidly. Further, the digital age has spurred a longing for realism, and a sense of contact (Fetveit, 1999). New channels often portray virtual social groups (Bagozzi, Dholakia, & Pearo, 2007), and virtual identities (Altheide, 2000) with which users can identify. As many of these new channels are commercially based, the influence of such channels has important implications for marketing research and understanding of consumer behaviour. There has considerable recent research on how social media creates social groups through social identification. There has also been a comparable amount of research investigating how television facilitates identification. However, the academic focus in the latter has been more on one-to-one identification, and less on how television may facilitate social identification. This is despite theorists’ proposals and modelling that have justified social identification as a purpose for television viewing. Such justification is taken from Uses and Gratifications theory that affirms audiences use media to satisfy psychological and social needs. Social Identity Theory posits that group members will adopt attitudes and behaviour through social comparison. The MasterChef brand has been credited with changing the attitudes and behaviour of consumers (its audience). Therefore, this thesis investigated if the success of the most popular show on Australian television may be credited, in part, to social identification. Such behaviour has previously been attributed to both their context-specific social identity, and the individual’s stable identity attributes. Further, individuals will judge themselves and other group members on common and significant identity attributes. Therefore, this thesis explored which significant attributes in the viewers and contestants of MasterChef Australia may facilitate the social identification process leading to changes in consumer attitudes and behaviour. The objectives of this study were investigated using a large-scale quantitative online questionnaire surveying MasterChef Australia 2010 viewers. Findings indicate that consumers of the MasterChef Australia brand do indeed social identify with contestants, and Identity, Authenticity, and Involvement may contribute to this process. As the first study of consumers of the MasterChef brand, an important conceptual contribution to consumer behaviour is made. Further conceptual contributions are made by the identification and definition of an additional construct in the social identification process, and by proposing additional theoretical linkages. Empirical contributions are made through measurement of the antecedents and consequences of consequences of viewer-television brand identification. Methodological contributions are made development of Structural Equation Model and testing of The Phantom Model approach.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Alan Lawton

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Gippsland. Marketing


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Business and Economics