The Influence of Age, Race and Gender on the Ability to Sell a Product
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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THOMPSON, B. M. (2004). The Influence of Age, Race and Gender on the Ability to Sell a Product. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 7. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved July 21, 2017 .

The Influence of Age, Race and Gender on the Ability to Sell a Product
BARBARA M. THOMPSON
-NONE- DEPARTMENT OF

Sponsored by: ELIZABETH HAMMER (eyhammer@loyno.edu)
ABSTRACT
Seventy-four participants from Loyola University New Orleans, varying in age, race, and gender, reported likelihood to buy a product was measured in this study. The three hypotheses were that people’s reported willingness to buy would increase if there was congruence between the age of the consumer and the vendor, congruency in race, and if the two individuals were of the opposite sex. However, the hypotheses were not supported by the results and there was no significance. A small participant pool, confounds in the survey and survey questions, and the inability to find past research on this topic were limitations found throughout the study.

INTRODUCTION
Even though discrimination and prejudice have been addressed various times throughout history, the both have been, and still remain, prevalent factors in American society. Discrimination is depicted when others are treated differently or negatively based on their personal traits and characteristics, including differences in race, age nationality, handicaps, religion, political standing, sexual orientation, and gender (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=discrimination). Prejudice is defined as “detriment or injury caused to a person by the preconceived, unfavorable conviction of another or others.”(http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=prejudice). The fight against prejudice and discrimination has been an on going battle for many figure heads such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Abraham Lincoln. Women’s fight for equality all began when they gained the right to vote. For years women have been push aside and have not been able to have the same benefits and the same level of respect as men have had and the prejudice and discrimination still remains today. Women are still paid less than men, even if they have been hired to do the same job. African Americans still have difficulty finding jobs because people feel they can’t be trusted. These two factors in our society have been considered a problem by many, yet absolutely meaningless by others. Society has fought to eliminate racism, sexism, and in many instances, ageism has also become a growing problem for many in the world today. However, prejudice is also defined as simply “a preconceived preference or idea” (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=prejudice), therefore the question arises whether or not certain levels of prejudice could actually be beneficial and if they could possibly help people in a social or economic aspect. Are having certain ideas about people or a group a way to ensure safety in shaky situations? Could assigning gender specific roles be more effective in the business world than having none at all? There may be people that are more comfortable dealing with people of their own race. These questions and speculations revolve around the concern for the nation’s economy and supposed well being. They are based on whether or not certain people should hold certain positions at an agency or organization in order to improve income. This is why companies want to know whom the consumer will listen to and whom they will be able to relate to. According to Frieden (as cited by Wolin, 2003), the gender of a sales representative should not establish the likelihood of the consumer buying a product. However, women have been portrayed in advertisements in a full body stance more often than men, whereas the male population is usually depicted in profile form. Is this due to the fact that women are considered to be more of a sexual object than men? Is there still a sense of superiority in the male gender? Are men seen as authority figures and deserve that shot up close? A study by Allen (2003) shows that people will have a better response level to an advertisements or article when the figure portrayed holds similar or equal characteristics of the consumer or the observer. They tend to develop a personal outlook on the ad and register the message better than if the individual in the picture were someone quite unlike themselves (Allen, 2003). This is a reason why advertisements that are targeted to sell Tickle Me Elmo dolls probably would not have anyone over the age of thirty running their commercials and why African Americans are being largely portrayed in new McDonald’s commercials. They want to draw a crowd. Can these tactics found in the advertisement and business world be considered forms gender bias, racism, or are they simply ways to make money and keep the economy going? Age has also been a major issue when targeting a specific audience. Ageism is a term used to define prejudice toward people because of their age (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=ageism). In most cases, the elderly are seen as society’s main target. However, it appears that there has been a rise in discrimination toward a younger population of workers as well. “New Ageism” is a term that has been developed referring to discrimination and prejudice directed to both old and young workers in a field (McVittie, McKinlay, &Widdicombe, 2003). Older members are still struggling to fight for equal opportunities and have difficulty finding jobs, regardless of their talent and level of expertise (McVittie et. al, 2003). At times, young workers have trouble gaining the respect and attention they deserve and may not be taken as seriously by those higher in command because of their lack of experience. Glover, Branine, and Morrow (2003) mention that, “ younger people are major victims of ageism”. The young and the old have not received equal opportunities but seem to be struggling in similar ways. There are many negative aspects related to ageism, and considering the difficulties they have caused for numerous individuals, ageism has also been utilized whenever money is to be involved. Again, comfort and reliability are the key elements that an organization is looking for when reaching out to a consumer. Race is also a predominant factor when referring to consumer behavior. Since there has been so much discrimination and racism displayed throughout history, strong feelings toward those of equal and differing races or ethnicities have developed. This mind-set may be caused by either fear, lack of understanding, or mere ignorance. According to Basow and Howe (as cited by Appiah, 2001), the source of these actions is due to the identification theory, where people tend to cling on to any available form of congruence between themselves and another individual. They are able to relate to that person on a more personal level and can see themselves in that state. When looking through a consumer perspective, people can see themselves buying a product or following a lifestyle because of the fact that the person being portrayed is an image of him or herself. Appiah (2001) also makes a point to address the distinctiveness theory which states that people categorized as minorities, such as African Americans, Hispanics, or Asians, are more likely to detect someone’s ethnicity than those found in the majority pool of the population. Minorities are also more likely to relate with other minorities, and the majority of society is more likely to relate to those most like themselves (Appiah, 2001). Society seems to have become more aware of these human tendencies over the years because there has been a gradual increase of minority portrayals and depictions in the media, as well as an increase in job availability for minorities. Organizations know that African Americans will listen to another African American if seen on television rather than listen, or trust, a Caucasian American. There is a greater sense of comfort. The question remains where this level of comfort derives from and whether or not this method or manipulation of discrimination is worthwhile. Race, age, and gender of sales representatives and promoters of a product have become tools in fields such as advertising, marketing, and sales promotion. The studies previously mentioned have been done to understand how men and women are portrayed through sales, and how race has been used to create a bond between the consumer and the agency. But what lies behind that connection and why people feel drawn to stick to what they know? Even though the previous information states consumer behavior and the roles that gender, age, and race play in today’s society, what influence do these elements have on the consumer when they are offered a product? The study being conducted serves to determine if people tend to be partial to a specific race, age, or gender, based on previous knowledge, and to study the influence the sales representative may have on that individual. Is a Hispanic individual more likely to agree on a sale if the vendor is of another race? Do older members of society find younger adults trivial in what they have to say? Are men drawn to a product if they feel a closeness or attraction to a female vendor? It is hypothesized that the sale of a product will be more successful if the age of the vendor and the consumer is congruent. It is also hypothesized that the sale will be successful if the two individuals are of the same race. However, the third hypothesis states that the sale will go through if the two individuals are of the opposite sex rather than of equal genders.


METHOD
Participants There will be a minimum of 80 participants in this study consisting of undergraduate students, teachers, and staff members at Loyola University New Orleans’ campus. They will range from the ages of 18 and older and will be both male and female. We will attend different organizational meetings and individuals on campus, contact them via e-mail, and will also ask them to participate if it is beneficial to their qualification in a particular class.Materials There will be two versions of a survey distributed: Survey A and Survey B. The researchers will explain to the participants that the survey they are taking will contain questions regarding feelings and opinions toward different races, ages, and gender. There will also be questions asking the participants their age, gender race, and sexual orientation and will include questions based on personal opinion also based on other races, ages, and genders. The questions in both of the surveys will remain the same, but the pictures designated to the situational questions will vary in order to maintain a counterbalance throughout the study. A Likert scale ranging from one to seven will measure whether the participant will definitely, probably, or will definitely not agree with the scenario or question stated. The independent variables manipulated in this study include the factors of race, age, and gender and the dependent variable being measured includes the success of the sale and the strength of the opinions determined by the survey.Design and Procedures The researchers will conduct the study as a correlational, non-experimental design. The results will be based on the responses on the Likert scale. The researchers will approach the participants at random in their designated meeting rooms/offices or on an individual basis with either Survey A or Survey B. The participants will be given the time necessary to fill out the survey. The participants taking the surveys will then be asked to fill out the questions based on whether or not they definitely, probably, or definitely do not agree with the scenario or question at hand. When they are done answering the survey, both the document of informed consent and the surveys will be collected into two separate envelopes. Finally, the participants will be debriefed and the researchers will inform them that the survey they have just filled out is to gather a better understanding of how age, race, and gender can be predominant influences when selling a product. They will also be told that the opinion-based questions are to gather the information on people’s feelings and dispositions toward those of equal or opposite age, race or gender.


RESULTS
The first hypothesis that the congruency in age of two individuals would allow an increase in comfort levels and an increase in the likelihood of a sale was not supported. Through the use of the Pearson Correlation Matrix, the age scale showed no correlation between willingness to buy the product and the age group of the participants. There was no significance in the results(r = -.138, n.s). Also, the second hypothesis stating that opposite genders would increase the likelihood of a sale was not supported. On a Male vs. Female scale, which measured specifics attitudes toward either men or women based on the gender reported, women tended to be more positive toward men rather than women according to their responses. Unlike the Male vs. Female scale (Table 2), the Opposite Sex scale (Table 3), which was used to measure attitudes toward people of the opposite sex specifically from the gender reported on the survey, showed no significance amongst the responses given (t (72)= .762, n.s). When responding to Question 10 on Form - 1 and Form – 2, male participants showed that there was a slight increase in the comfort level and increase in likelihood of the sale when the individual shown was a woman. However, Question 10 showed very little difference in the responses given to the male and female images. Finally, the race scale that was used to measure the comfort levels amongst varying races showed that there was a significant difference between groups (F (4,69)=2.6, p<.05). According to the Tukey HSD Post Hoc test was performed, there was an approaching significance found between participants in the Caucasian American group and the Asian American group, showing that those of Asian American descent tended to be less positive toward those of Caucasian American descent (Table 5). However, based on these results our hypothesis was not supported because there was no significance (p= .077). The only significance retrieved from the photo/ scenario questions given in the surveys was found in Questions 27 – 29 where the individual portrayed in the two surveys differed in race. The individual in Form - 1 was of Caucasian American decent whereas in Form - 2 the individual was of African American descent. Based on group statistics, Questions 27 – 29 showed that people were more positive toward the African American male rather than the Caucasian American male in that Question 27 had t (72)= 3.157,p<.05, Question 28 had t (72)=3.392,p<.05, and Question 29 had t (72)= -2.089,p<.05.


DISCUSSION
Discussion Overall, this study brought about no support for any of the three hypotheses that were stated. The first hypothesis did not show that the congruency in age might increase the success of selling a product. The second hypothesis based on race congruency was not supported either. There was also no significance in the third and final hypothesis stating that there would be an increase in the success of the sale if the vendor and the consumer were of the opposite sex. There were no results that would support the statements given by Basow and Howe (as cited by Appiah, 2001) regarding the identification theory which states that people tend to identify with characteristics in other people that are similar to their own. We were also not able to show any significance regarding minority groups and their identification with themselves as did Basow and Howe (Appiah, 2001) in their establishment of the distinctiveness theory. There are many factors that may have contributed to limitations and inability to support any of the three hypothesis, including confounds in the survey, problems regarding specific questions, small number of participants, as well as the inability to connect past research with the study. One of the main reasons that there was a lack of support in our study was because of the numerous confounds that can be identified throughout our survey, specifically regarding the photo scenario questions. First, there were many questions that should and possibly could be restated in order to provide more clarity as to what is being asked. This would make it easier for the participant to respond and understand where the researcher is coming from, and would make it easier for the researcher to understand where the participant was coming from with their responses. Second, there were photo/scenario questions, where it was difficult to determine the main comparison that was being looked at between the two surveys that were administered. For instance, question seventeen draws out a scenario where the participant would approach a department store clerk for assistance. In Form –1, the focus of the question is being directed to an older Caucasian woman, whereas in Form – 2, the focus is on a younger black woman. The results could have been confounded due to the fact that the comparison between the two forms could either be determined through a racial point of view or a comparison between their ages. It is not a fixed difference between the two women that are being portrayed, therefore, causing an uncertainty from a researcher’s perspective because there isn’t a determinant factor as to where the participant is coming from with their answers. The researcher is not sure whether the participant is focusing on the topic at hand, race, age, or gender, or if the expression on the individual’s face, their clothing, or their attractiveness might have swayed the participants in their responses. Another confound that may have obstructed the results of this survey would have to do with the fact that there was a very limited amount of participants involved in the study. In addition to a low participant count, specific groups, particularly race, were very limited in range. There was a large pool of Caucasian Americans that were involved in the study in comparison to Asian Americans, of which their were only three. This confounds the results by not allowing a balanced view on opinions and answers given. The answers are mainly based on only one race and do not allow interpretation and understanding of opinions of other races. This limitation can also be applied to the age aspect of the study. There were very few participants that were over the age of 30, being that most of the participants that were involved were students at Loyola University New Orleans. Also, a defensive attitude toward the study may have developed when the participant became aware of the racially directed questions throughout the survey. People may have answered what is considered socially correct and may have not put down precisely what it is that they feel about those of other races. One last confound that should be mentioned is inability to establish the focus that the participant had when answering the photo/scenario questions. It is uncertain whether or not the participant was even considering the race, age, or gender of the individual being depicted, and may have just focused on whether or not the price of the product being distributed was a fair one, whether or not the individual looked suspicious, or if they simply felt they didn’t know this individual well enough to trust them in the first place. In order to reduce the number of confounds and to be able to possibly conduct a similar study in the future, there would have to be an even comparison found between the photo scenario questions between the two forms, a larger pool of participants is necessary so that there is a higher chance that the racial groups would be balanced, and make sure that the questions are clearly either positive or negative in character. Finally, there needs to be a way that the one could determine what the focus of the participant was throughout the survey and whether or not they truly were focusing on either the race, age, or gender of the individual shown. For instance, if there were a description of the individual being shown based on the characteristics or trait that the researcher would want the participants to focus on. There could be definite sections for race, age, and gender, and inform the participant in the instructions that that is the main focus of that section. That way, there could be less of a chance that the participant may be distracted from the main topic of the survey. If conducted correctly, a study of this sort can be applied to a real situation through either a business perspective or simply to develop a greater understanding of the underlying thoughts of individuals when dealing with different people with differing characteristics. It would allow those in the work force to understand what it is that attracts an audience and could possibly help them to increase sales and their income by knowing their public. It would help agencies determine whether or not it is safe to turn toward prejudice in order to move a product or if they should stray away from such a sensitive area. Companies can relate this study to hiring employment and help for their particular services when they are focusing and a specific age range, gender, or race. Also, people may begin to understand what it is about prejudice that makes and breaks society. It may be able to answer the question of whether or not all prejudice is harmful. Is the level of comfort that we have toward people of the same race or gender healthy and should we continue to follow this mentality. Will this mind frame allow us to better ourselves, better the economy, or cause us to regress altogether? In conclusion, there can be many more studies done regarding the business world, our economy, and our stance on prejudice in society. If studies continue, people would soon discover whether or not we have been overlooking the effects of prejudice in our society and whether or not it is safe for some of them to continue. Prejudice has been referred to negatively throughout history and it is important that one has to determine whether or not people are being prejudice or simply that people have a liking for those that are like or equal to themselves. However, it is important to take into consideration as large of a population as possible when conducting this study because such a sensitive issue can not be reduced in validity and should have a focus on all levels, including cultural and racial groups, ages, and must involve men and women, or else the strength of the results will weaken.


TABLES
Table 1Descriptive Statistics_____________________________________________________________Scale N Mean Standard Deviation__________________________Age 74 3.84 .6330Men v. Women 74 4.59 .9286Opp. Sex 74 2.98 .6923Race 74 6.16 .7777

Table 2 Men v. Women Groups Statistics___________________________________________________Gender N Mean Standard Deviation__________________________Male 39 4.47 .9388Female 35 4.73 .9104

Table 3Opposite Sex Scale Group Statistics_________________________________________________Gender N Mean Standard Deviation__________________________Male 39 2.92 .8316Female 35 3.05 .4979

Table 4Descriptive Statistics Race Scale___________________________________________________Race N Mean Standard Deviation______________Caucasian American 43 6.35 .1030African American 9 5.81 .3177Hispanic 12 6.02 .2116Asian American 3 5.19 .9048Other 7 6.14 .1590

Table 5Group Statistics Photo Scenario Questions____________________________________________Question Form N Standard Deviation Mean___________________10 1 41 1.71 4.90 2 33 1.86 5.274 1 41 1.41 5.59 2 33 1.11 5.6717 1 41 1.29 5.80 2 33 1.72 5.4818 1 41 1.69 4.05 2 33 1.72 4.7024 1 41 1.71 2.85 2 33 1.73 2.6125 1 41 1.45 2.95 2 33 1.54 2.8526 1 41 1.50 5.20 2 33 1.25 5.0027 1 41 1.53 4.51 2 33 1.39 3.4228 1 41 1.58 4.54 2 33 1.61 3.2729 1 41 1.84 4.34 2 33 .71 5.2130 1 41 1.55 4.61 2 33 1.96 4.1831 1 41 1.16 6.00 2 33 1.60 5.7932 1 41 1.56 3.83 2 33 1.34 3.9433 1 41 1.27 5.44 2 33 1.50 5.0634 1 41 1.67 4.17 2 33 1.11 4.12

Table 6Frequency Table – Age___________________________________________________________Age Frequency Percentage Cumulative Percentage_______________________18 7 9.5 9.519 24 32.4 41.920 17 23.0 64.921 11 14.9 79.722 8 10.8 90.524 1 1.4 91.927 1 1.4 93.232 1 1.4 94.639 1 1.4 95.950 2 2.7 98.666 1 1.4 100.0

Table 7Frequency Table – Gender________________________________________________________Gender Frequency Percentage Cumulative Percentage_______________________Male 39 52.7 52.7Female 35 47.3 100.0

Table 8Frequency Table Race__________________________________________________________Race Frequency Percentage Cumulative Percentage___________Caucasian American 43 58.1 58.1African American 9 12.2 70.3Hispanic 12 16.2 86.5Asian American 3 4.1 90.5Other 7 9.5 100.0

Table 9Frequency Table – Sexual Orientation_______________________________________________Sexual Orientation Frequency Percentage Cumulative Percentage_________________Heterosexual 70 94.6 94.6Homosexual 3 4.1 98.6Bisexual 1 1.4 100.0


REFERENCES
ReferencesAllen,C.A. (2003). Stereotypes in retail print advertising: The effects of gender and physical appearance on consumer perceptions. Dissertation abstracts international section A: Humanities & social sciences, 63(12-A), 4389.

Appiah, O. (2001). Black, white, hispanic, and asian american adolescents’ responses to culturally embedded ads. Howard journal of communication, 21(1), 29-48.

Glover, I., Branine, M., & Morrow, I.J. (2003). Ageism in work and employment. Personnel Psychology, 56(1), 265.

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=ageism

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=discrimination

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=prejudice

McVittie, C., McKinlay, A., & Widdicombe, S. (2003). Committed to (un)equal opportunities?: ‘New Ageism’ and the older worker. British journal of social psychology, 42, 595-612.Wolin, L.D. (2003). Gender issues in advertising—An overnight synthesis of research: 1970-2002. Journal of advertising research, 43(1), 111-129.

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