Some research suggests that identity is actively created by consumers, while other research suggests that identity constructs exist beyond consumers’ awareness and are created passively. Research has yet to investigate how the two perspectives might lead to different understandings of how consumer identity is created. This affects consumers’ interaction with brands. The authors investigate how each research position is grounded in very different assumptions related to whether consumers are active versus passive users of mental models as toolkits for generating sense of self (identity) and brands. They raise and discuss the question of whether cognitive processing ultimately is governed by a “meta-cognition” which roams free in the mind, and chooses among lower-lying mental models along with associated language tropes, metaphors, metonyms; or a meta-cognition that is determined by yet another mental model that provides the scripts of how to meta-cognize. Finally, they discuss the consequences these insights have for identity-building as well as how consumers make sense of brands.
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