Differential Effects of Labelling on the Processing of Ambiguous Stimuli

Trudy Kehret, Northwestern University
Richard Yalch, University of Washington
ABSTRACT - Two strategies are available to the marketer whose product may transfer to its possessor either a favorable or an unfavorable image: 1) direct the potential consumer's thoughts to positive attributes of the product; 2) direct thoughts to choice-consistent aspects of the consumer's self-image. The study reported investigated the second strategy.
[ to cite ]:
Trudy Kehret and Richard Yalch (1982) ,"Differential Effects of Labelling on the Processing of Ambiguous Stimuli", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 09, eds. Andrew Mitchell, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 147.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 9, 1982      Page 147

DIFFERENTIAL EFFECTS OF LABELLING ON THE PROCESSING OF AMBIGUOUS STIMULI

Trudy Kehret, Northwestern University

Richard Yalch, University of Washington

ABSTRACT -

Two strategies are available to the marketer whose product may transfer to its possessor either a favorable or an unfavorable image: 1) direct the potential consumer's thoughts to positive attributes of the product; 2) direct thoughts to choice-consistent aspects of the consumer's self-image. The study reported investigated the second strategy.

OVERVIEW OF THE STUDY

Consumption symbolism -- the study of how consumers use products to communicate aspects of their identity -- has attracted such marketing scholars as Belk, Calder, Hirschman, Holbrook, Holman, and Levy. Our study investigated a situation in which product choice is problematic because the symbolism of making a particular choice is ambiguous or the dimension of favorability: the message it communicates about the consumer may be favorable or unfavorable.

Acquisition of a unique product in the presence of desirous others may be interpreted as the act of either a unique or a selfish person. The investigators predicted that subJects would be significantly more likely to choose a unique product if their thoughts at the time Of choice were focused on their own uniqueness, and that this effect would be significant for females but not for males, and for children under 11, but not for children over 11.

These predictions were based on 1) the association in consumer information processing theory between choice and the availability and favorableness of meanings in memory and 2) the association in human development theory between tasks requiring metacommunicative awareness and perspective taking skill, an ability differentially distributed, and differentially cued, by age and sex.

The labelling manipulation used to focus thoughts on uniqueness was predicted to be more effective with children under 11 whose less well developed perspective taking skills make them more likely than older children to accept adult evaluations. Similarly, this manipulation uas predicted to be more effective with females, who are more sensitive than males to the tone of evaluative labels, and for whom the determination of sex-appropriate behavior is an important goal of perspective-taking.

The study bore out the predictions.

----------------------------------------