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"Boys and dolls; girls and cars" : Children’s reactions to incongruent images in a retailer’s catalogue

Abstract : Purpose: French retailer Système U has triggered controversial debates among professionals and parents recently, by inserting visuals revolutionizing gender norms in their Christmas toy catalog, with boys nursing dolls or girls playing cars. As children’s perceptions have not been included in these debates, the purpose of this paper is to explore their reactions across age groups, regarding this catalog and its incongruent visuals. Design/Methodology/Approach: An exploratory qualitative study was conducted with 26 children aged 5 to 10, from middle to upper social class. The methodology combines, with each individual, participant observations and semi-directive interviews. First, each child is observed while freely flipping through the catalog and commenting. Second, after closing the catalog, children are asked what they recall and which visuals. Third, the interview focusses on 4 incongruent visuals of the catalog in turn, to further explore reactions. Findings: Results show first that incongruent visuals are not spontaneously noticed and memorized by children, except by girls aged 9-10. Second, children’s acceptance/rejection of these visuals and toys is influenced by (1) the stage of gender constancy when rigidity about gender intensifies (between 5-7), (2) children’s own flexibility towards gender roles at 8-10, and (3) the collective destination of the game. Originality/value: This paper adds to the literature in revealing children’s reactions to a toy catalog containing incongruent visuals, introduced recently. It provides new insight into how children notice and memorize these visuals, and about variables explaining their appreciation of these pictures and toys across age. It gives practical implications for retailers to better adapt their catalogs.
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Submitted on : Monday, March 18, 2019 - 3:28:18 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, March 9, 2022 - 3:50:02 PM



Ulrich I., Pascale Ezan. "Boys and dolls; girls and cars" : Children’s reactions to incongruent images in a retailer’s catalogue. Kids and retailing International Colloquium, Jun 2015, Budapest, Hungary. ⟨10.1108/IJRDM-08-2015-0131⟩. ⟨hal-02071357⟩



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