Special Session Summary in the Mood: the Influence of Emotional State on Consumers’ Consumption Behaviors

Jacqueline J. Kacen, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, U.S.A.
Susanne Friese, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
[ to cite ]:
Jacqueline J. Kacen and Susanne Friese (1999) ,"Special Session Summary in the Mood: the Influence of Emotional State on Consumers’ Consumption Behaviors", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, eds. Bernard Dubois, Tina M. Lowrey, and L. J. Shrum, Marc Vanhuele, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 73-76.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, 1999      Pages 73-76

SPECIAL SESSION SUMMARY

IN THE MOOD: THE INFLUENCE OF EMOTIONAL STATE ON CONSUMERS’ CONSUMPTION BEHAVIORS

Jacqueline J. Kacen, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, U.S.A.

Susanne Friese, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

SESSION OVERVIEW

Researchers have long recognized the influence of consumers’ emotional states on consumption behavior. More recently, consumers’ self-regulation of their emotional states through shopping behaviors has been a subject of interest. Anecdotal evidence about consumers’ use of shopping as an emotional coping response is widespread (e.g., Langer 1983; Lehman 1994).

Yet empirical investigations of consumers’ mood- and emotion-driven consumption behaviors remain underrepresented in the literature. While it is widely accepted that consumers’ moods and emotions play a key role in many consumer purchase decisions and a variety of consumption behaviors (e.g., Babin, Darden, and Griffen 1994; Hirschman and Holbrook 1982; Weinberg and Gothwald 1982), a better conceptual understanding of the process by which consumers’ emotional states influence consumption is needed. Furthermore, key questions concerning what is consumed, and how various situational factors impact the consumption decision remain unanswered.

The three papers in this session explain how moods and emotions are regulated through consumption behavior. The authors focus on current conceptual approaches to the regulation of emotional states through consumption and empirical investigations of consumers’ self-regulating behaviors both in the U.S. and in Germany. Our research is intnded to stimulate researchers’ interest in emotion-regulating behavior and to foster a better understanding of consumers’ consumption behaviors.

The first paper presents a conceptual overview of the emotion-regulation process that leads to consumers’ use of products to regulate their emotional states. Drawing on insights from schema and script theory (Graumann and Sommer 1984; Rumelhart and Ortony 1977; Schank and Abelson 1977), Beckmann describes the process by which emotional consumption behavior is initiated via automatic and strategic cognitive processes. Her schematic conceptualization explains how automatic (unconscious) adaptation mechanisms and strategic (conscious, intentional) stabilization processes lead to the instantiation of an emotion schema, which in turn generates behavioral change scripts. One common behavioral script in consumer societies is shopping. It is used as a way to compensate for negative mood states or to elevate and maintain a positive arousal level. Therefore, a likely outcome of this emotion-regulation process is the purchase of self-gifts. From the model proposed by Beckmann, it is hypothesized that conscious, intentional stabilization processes are more likely to result in true self-gifts, whereas automatic adaptation mechanisms are unlikely to offer real satisfaction because of the lack of mediation that takes place. An additional negative effect of automatic adaptation processes is that consumers lose sight of other behavioral options. Over time they may come to rely on just one regulation process which creates a possible danger of consumers becoming addicted to the behavior.

With this "blueprint" of the emotional regulation process in mind, the second paper provides an empirical investigation of consumers’ emotion-regulating consumption behaviors. Kacen and Friese explore the influence of negative moods on German and American consumers’ buying behavior. Adopting Mehrabian and Russell’s (1974) Pleasure-Arousal-Dominance paradigm, Kacen and Friese show that buying something results in a significant change in consumers’ felt pleasure, arousal, and control (dominance). They find that consumers are in more pleasurable, less aroused, and more dominant mood states after making a purchase indicating that the purchase has fulfilled its intended purpose. In other words, it has been a true self-gift. Furthermore, measures of satisfaction with the purchase remained high some time after the purchase. This is expected in a sample of "normal" consumers because it can be assumed that buying behavior is for them a strategic option that they will choose only occasionally. Furthermore, situational factors such as special (i.e., sale) prices or cash on hand were not found to be significant factors in the purchase decision because the main purpose of engaging in buying at this moment is to regulate a negative mood state. Therefore, all other concerns are secondary. The findings for the two country sample illustrate that the prevalence of consumers’ engagement in shopping behaviors in order to manage a negative mood state is not limited to U.S. consumers but is a more global phenomenon for Western-style consumer societies.

While engaging in buying behaviors in order to manage a negative mood state can lead to a positive change in mood, such behavior can also have more serious implications as has already been implicated in the Beckmann paper. The third paper by Reisch explores potential negative consequences of consumers’ self-regulation of their emotional states through consumption behavior. Special emphasis is given to the question of why some consumers are more likely to use automatic rather than strategic regulation mechanisms, and why women seem to be more likely to rely on buying rather than on other compensation mechanisms. The author presents the findings from her investigation of addictive buying behavior among German consumers.

Overall, the three papers in this session seek to unravel the mystery of how consumers’ emotional states influence their buying behaviors and more importantly, how buying behaviors effet a change in consumers’ emotional states. The topic is approached both through a theoretical exploration of emotion-regulation processes, and two empirical studies of consumer buying behavior in both the U.S. and Germany. It is hoped that these studies provide useful insights for consumer researchers by broadening our understanding of the role that moods and emotions play in consumer purchase decisions.

 

SCHEMAS AND SCRIPTS FOR THE SELF-REGULATION OF EMOTIONS THROUGH THE CONSUMPTION OF GOODS

Suzanne C. Beckmann, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

This paper is concerned with the emotional aspects of consumer experience. More precisely, it attempts to answer the question of why consumers use products, experiences, and services to regulate their emotions. This self-regulatory behavioral process often results in self-gifts and can, under certain circumstances, turn into compulsive/addictive consumption patterns.

In this paper, a schema-theoretical approach to explain self-regulation of emotions through consumption behavior is presented. The model starts from the assumption that emotions and cognitions are inseparably intertwined memory units (Grunert 1993), and as such subject to automatic and strategic processing in an interdependent manner. It is suggested that the interaction structure between affective and cognitive computations consists of memory units such as schemas and scripts (Graumann and Sommer 1984; Rumelhart and Ortony 1977) activated by emotional arousal and containing proposals for action. Two principal inference processes are discussed: automatic adaptation mechanisms and strategic stabilization processes (Bargh 1984; Posner and Snyder 1975). The differentiation between these inference processes allows for the prediction of behavioral differences in response to emotional arousal.

The model developed is called the cognitive representation of emotions. The starting point is a personenvironment encounter that provides data from events, persons, objects, and/or mental imagery. The type of schema sought is an appraisal schema containing factual knowledge whose instantiation permits an evaluation of the situation as being irrelevant-neutral, beneficial-positive or harmful-negative for the individual. If the encounter is appraised as irrelevant-neutral, no further inference processes will follow as neither the emotional state nor the individual’s "action readiness" (Frijda 1988) is changed. The two other appraisals lead to the instantiation of an emotion schema. As soon as the emotion schema is instantiated, scripts will be accessed that contain procedural knowledge about how to handle the corresponding emotion. In the case where a schema of negative emotion is instantiated, one or more regulation schemas in the form of change scripts will be accessed which include guidelines for action with the objective of changing the unpleasant state. The instantiation of a schema of positive emotion invokes the access of one or more regulation schemas in the form of maintenance or enhancement scripts which comprise corresponding behavioral routines that uphold or increase the pleasant state.

In the context of consumption behavior, the distinction between schematic and aschematic individuals (Markus 1982; Markus, Hamill, and Sentis 1987) helps to clarify which type of regulation schemas and thereby which choice of action will occur. Schematics have highly elaborated and often-utilized schemas for emotions which often contain only a few possible courses of action. Because schemas provide criteria for evaluation, it is assumed that individuals with highly developed schemas make more confident and extreme evaluations more quickly than do individuals without schemas relevant to the actual encounter. On the other hand, aschematic individuals have less elaborated regulation schemas comprised of several alternative actions, thus their emotionally induced behavior will vary considerably.

 

AN EXPLORATION OF MOOD-REGULATING CONSUMER BUYING BEHAVIOR

Jacqueline J. Kacen, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, U.S.A.

Susanne Friese, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Consumers’ use of shopping as an emotional coping response has been discussed in the impulse shopping literature (e.g., Dittmar, Beattie, and Friese 1995; Gardner and Rook 1988; Weinberg and Gothwald 1982), the compulsive buying literature (e.g., Friese and Koenig 1993; O’Guinn and Faber 1989; Pirie 1997), the self-gift literature (Mick and DeMoss 1990; Sherry, McGrath, and Levy 1995), and in the popular press (e.g., Lehman 1994). Previous research has revealed that consumers’ moods and emotions play a key role in many consumer purchases (e.g., Hirschman and Holbrook 1982; Thompson, Locander, and Pollio 1990), but how a purchase occasion effects a change in a consumer’s mood or emotional state remains unclear.

This study explores the influence of negative moods on consumers’ buying behavior. We examine consumer purchases that were made in order to relieve a negative mood. Two surveys were conducted among students in the U.S. (n=195) and in Germany (n=155). Overall mean age was 22 years (range 18B46 years). The characteristic nature of the bad mood experienced by these consumers, and the change in mood effected by the purchase, was measured using Mehrabian and Russell’s (1974) Pleasure-Arousal-Dominance paradigm. The findings indicate that following the purchase consumers felt significantly more pleasure, less arousal, and more control (dominance). This suggests that consumers do use buying behaviors to regulate their mood states and that such behavior is effective in changing aversive mood states.

Furthermore, we investigated several situational factors related to the buying occasion (e.g., credit card use, attention to sale prices, whether the purchase is bought for oneself or for someone else), the impulsive versus planned nature of the shopping behavior, and the degree of satisfaction with the purchase. Situational factors like price or cash at hand did not have a significant influence on consumers’ purchasing behavior, because the foremost need demanding satisfaction is the regulation of the negative mood state. U.S. consumers did purchase items on sale more, and were more likely to use a credit card than were German consumers. These differences are likely due to the more widespread availability and use of credit cards in the U.S., and U.S. retailing practices that allow sales at all times of the year.

In addition, the majority of the purchases (over 90%) were self-gifts, i.e., purchased for personal use, consistent with the mood management hypothesis and self-gift literature. Most consumers were satisfied immediately after making the purchase, with U.S. females being the most satisfied. Satisfaction with the purchase remained high after time had elapsed, with the greatest shift towards dissatisfaction among U.S. consumers.

The influence of consumers’ moods and emotions on behavior has long been recognized (e.g., Maslow 1968; Tompkins 1970). Buying is one of the preferred mechanisms by which consumers in both the U.S. and Germany regulate their negative mood states because both countries are advanced capitalistic societies. In a previous study of West German consumers, Scherhorn, Reich, and Raab (1992) showed that 25% use buying as a regular means of compensation. The study presented here expands upon the findings from the self-gift, impulse, and compulsive buying literatures by illustrating how purchasing behaviors help consumers manage their mood states.

 

GENDER AND COMPENSATORY CONSUMER BEHAVIOR: THE CASE OF ADDICTIVE BUYING

Lucia A. Reisch, UniversitSt Hohenheim, Denmark

The self-help book press (e.g., Damon 1988; Wesson 1990; Witkin 1988) as well as scientific investigations of addictve buying behavior suggest that this type of compensatory, dysfunctional consumer behavior is typically a female issue (e.g., Glatt and Cook 1987; Krueger 1988; Lawrence 1990; O’Guinn and Faber 1989). Empirical research has regularly found more women in groups of self-identified "shopaholics" (e.g., Elliott 1994; Faber and O’Guinn 1989; Haubl 1996; Scherhorn, Reisch, and Raab 1990). Moreover, in different studies, women generally scored higher on scales that measure addictive buying tendencies (e.g., d’Astous 1990; Lange 1997; Valence, d’Astous, and Fortier 1988; Roberts 1998; Scherhorn et al. 1990) which was interpreted as a higher propensity to compensatory buying (Scherhorn et al. 1990).

Even taking into account the experience of therapists that women in general feel less resistance in reflecting and reporting unfavorable behaviors, this cannot explain the results of the representative studies that have been carried out. Research into sex-role socialization as well as research concerning the diverse functions of buying such as self-gifts (Mick and DeMoss 1990), identity building (Friese forthcoming), and mood management (Kacen 1998) offers a range of arguments to support the plausibility of the assumption that addictive buying is a "female addiction."

Earlier research (Reisch and Scherhorn 1996) put this view into perspective. Two representative surveys carried out in Germany in 1991 had shown no significant gender differences in a group of heavily at-risk addictive buyers. It was argued that once buying changes into an addiction, gender differences in perceptions and attitudes towards buying become very small. This blurring of gender differences in consumption-relevant personality traits such as materialism in groups of buying addicts was also reported by other authors (e.g., Friese forthcoming). Yet, in buyer groups less disposed to becoming addicted, significant gender differences remained. Moreover, the group of heavily at-risk addictive buyers was too small in absolute terms to be used for further statistical analyses. Hence, to rule out the possibility of a methodological artifact, the data of the representative survey carried out in Germany in 1991 (Scherhorn et al. 1992) was reassessed. In contrast to the earlier approach, cut-off points between groups of respondents with different propensities to addictive buying were now specified using confidence intervals. The analysis resulted in three distinctly different buyer groups.

Statistical analysis revealed the following: First, the mean values of men and women on the German Addictive Buying Scale (GABS) differed significantly. For all but four items, men’s and women’s mean values per item also showed significant differences. The mean value of women generally was higher. As the four items for which no gender difference was found also did not discriminate significantly between "normal" buyers and people at-risk of becoming addicted to buying, it can be concluded that these items also did not influence the gender question. Second, the reliability of the scale proved again to be very high and showed no gender differences. Third, frequency analysis of the three buyer groups revealed that women were underrepresented in the group with mean values significantly below the mean on the GABS and over-represented in the group with mean values significantly above the mean.

These findings were further supported by the results of two meta-analyses comprising about ten years of empirical research on addictive buying. As to the gender question, the assumption of a stronger female than male propensity to addictive buying was shown (Neuner and Reisch 1999). Possible reasons and implications as well as limitations of the study are discussed.

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