Effects of Uniquely Purchase Information on Attitudes Toward Objects and Attitudes Toward Behaviors

Barbara Loken, University of Minnesota
ABSTRACT - In a laboratory setting, 72 subjects read a list of stimuli that included (1) information about the attributes of a product and (2) either favorable, unfavorable, or neutral information about a store where the product could be purchased. Favorable and unfavorable store information was relevant to purchasing the product. but was irrelevant to liking or disliking the product. The effects of information on attitudes toward the product (Ao) and on attitudes toward purchasing the product (AB) were investigated as well as the relationship between the two attitudes. Negative store information affected purchase, but not product attitudes. and yielded lower relations between the two attitudes as compared to neutral conditions. Implications for findings are discussed.
[ to cite ]:
Barbara Loken (1983) ,"Effects of Uniquely Purchase Information on Attitudes Toward Objects and Attitudes Toward Behaviors", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 10, eds. Richard P. Bagozzi and Alice M. Tybout, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 88-93.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 10, 1983      Pages 88-93

EFFECTS OF UNIQUELY PURCHASE INFORMATION ON ATTITUDES TOWARD OBJECTS AND ATTITUDES TOWARD BEHAVIORS

Barbara Loken, University of Minnesota

ABSTRACT -

In a laboratory setting, 72 subjects read a list of stimuli that included (1) information about the attributes of a product and (2) either favorable, unfavorable, or neutral information about a store where the product could be purchased. Favorable and unfavorable store information was relevant to purchasing the product. but was irrelevant to liking or disliking the product. The effects of information on attitudes toward the product (Ao) and on attitudes toward purchasing the product (AB) were investigated as well as the relationship between the two attitudes. Negative store information affected purchase, but not product attitudes. and yielded lower relations between the two attitudes as compared to neutral conditions. Implications for findings are discussed.

INTRODUCTION

Although the concept of a brand attitude is one of the most frequently measured concepts in consumer research, in recent years researchers have begun to replace this concept with attitudes more specific to behaviors of interest. such as an attitude toward purchasing the brand. Such adaptations are the result of theorizing by Fishbein and Ajzen (1975, Ajzen & Fishbein 1977) who argue that an attitude toward a behavior may often be a direct determinant of this behavior (and behavioral intentions), but that an attitude toward an object (e.g., a brand attitude) has no necessary relation to behavior. Nevertheless the Concept of a brand attitude is a useful one and not likely to be readily dispensed of by many marketing researchers. Researchers have argued. for example, that consumers may categorize, organize and/or chunk information with respect to brands (e.g., Cohen 1982, Olson 1977, Jacoby, Olson & Haddock 1971). The brand attitude, brand name, or brand "image" may serve as a composite summary of information about the brand. Perhaps an attitude toward purchasing a brand also serves as a composite summary of information, although the nature of this organization is less clear. Such a summary may include information about the product's attributes. But it may also include information that is uniquely relevant to buying the product, such as expectations about the shopping environment (cf. Bettman 1979) or purchase situation (cf. Hansen 1972, see also Monroe & Guiltinan 1975).

It seems clear, then that an attitude toward the purchase of a brand should be more likely than an attitude toward a brand to incorporate information about the purchase environment. Furthermore, research has shown that attitudes toward behaviors are better predictors than attitudes toward objects of actual behavior (Fishbein & Ajzen 1977, Ajzen & Fishbein 1980). The present research examines the information of these two attitudes by considering the effects of two types of information: (1) brand (e.g.. attribute) information relevant to both an attitude toward the brand (AO) and an attitude toward purchasing the brand (AB), and (2) information uniquely relevant to the brand purchase, i.e., relevant to buying the brand (A:) but not relevant to liking or disliking the brand itself (AO).

The first type of information is the type most frequently provided by the advertiser of a product. Most product advertisements implicitly or explicitly describe the benefits of owning the product, from relatively objective benefits such as price or quality of the product to more subjective benefits such as improved self-image or prestige.

The second type of information max be available from the consumer's past experiences and could include information relevant to the ease of purchasing the brand. such as information about the store in which it is purchased. For example, a score "image". store layout, or store convenience, variables typically studied apart from brand attitudes in consumer research. max have important effects on consumer's purchase decision even when they do not affect brand attitudes.

It is important to demonstrate that purchase attitudes. and purchase decisions in general, may be based on information that does not pertain specifically to the product's attribute or image. Suppose, for example, that a consumer does not have available to him or her information about the shopping environment. In such a case, a purchase decision may be based primarily on information obtained about the product itself. As a result, one's attitude toward the product may closely correspond to one's attitude toward purchasing the product. However, when information about the shopping environment is available. it may be reflected in a consumer's purchase decision. Consequently in the latter situation, one's attitude toward the product may not correspond to one's attitude toward purchasing the product (assuming the purchase environment cannot be changed).

Thus, from a theoretical standpoint, it is important to examine the effects of different types of information on the relationship between brand attitudes (AO) and attitudes toward the purchase of the brand (AB). Social psychologists have attempted to identity the conditions under which an attitude toward an object will correspond to behaviors toward that object (e.g. Ajzen & Fishbein 1977), but most research has been done outside an experimental setting. In contrast, the present research experimentally manipulates the information (relevant to AA and AB) that the individual receives. Subjects are exposed to information about a fictitious product and a fictitious store where the product would be purchased. This information includes favorable product attribute information as well as positive, negative, or neutral information about the store. The effects of store information on the relationship between brand attitudes (AO) and purchase attitudes (AB) may be assessed.

Furthermore, effects due to exposure to positive and negative store information are compared. The possibility exists that purchase information will be weighted more heavily in the purchase decision when it is negative than when it is positive. Suppose, for example, that a consumer receives information about favorable attributes of a product and either positive or negative information about the store in which it is purchased. The latter may be information that the store either has very short check-out lines or very long check-out lines, either that the store is conveniently located or that it is inconveniently located. When store information is negative, it may impact more heavily on the purchase decision. Past psychological (Anderson 1965, Osgood, Suci & Tannenbaum 1957) and consumer (Lutz 1977, Weinberger, Allen & Dillon 1981) research supports the hypothesis of greater weight for negative information, although others (e.g., Scott & Tybout 1981) argue that the influence of negativity on judgments is mediated by other factors. Regardless of the underlying cause, however, the greater weight given to negative information may lead to lower AO - AB relations under these conditions. Furthermore, as research in social psychology suggests, inconsistent information (e.g., positive product attribute information and negative store information) may be more difficult to integrate with respect to a purchase decision than consistent information (e.g., positive product attribute information and positive score information). When all information is positive, a "halo" effect or an overall positive image of the product and the product purchase may form, resulting in a strong relationship between AO (attitude toward the brand or product) and AB (attitude toward purchasing the brand or product). However, when product attribute information is positive and uniquely purchase information is negative, no overall image of both AO and AB is likely to form. These possibilities are addressed in the experiment discussed next.

METHOD

Overview and Procedure

In a laboratory setting, subjects were instructed to read a list of 12 information items about a fictitious product (a product called "Zipp" beverage). The 12 information items, typed on a page, described five favorable attributes of the product, five favorable or unfavorable or neutral items about a fictitious supermarket ("Larsen's") where the beverage was sold, and two additional neutral descriptions of the supermarket ("recently changed its name and underwent a change of ownership") and the beverage ("a drink that has been on the market a very short period of time"). Examples of stimulus items are shown in Tables 1, 2 and 3. All five produce attributes were expected to be relevant to evaluations of both the product (AO) and buying the product (AB). On the other hand, positive and negative information pertaining to the supermarket was expected to be relevant to attitudes toward buying the product (Ag) but significantly less relevant to liking or disliking the produce (AO). Finally, neutral store information was expected to be relevant to neither the brand attitude nor the purchase attitude. (The purpose for including neutral items in neutral information conditions was principally to keep the list size constant for all subjects. ) These expectations were borne out in subsequent manipulation checks.

TABLE 1

EXAMPLE OF STIMULUS ITEMS: FAVORABLE PURCHASE INFORMATION CONDITION

TABLE 2

EXAMPLE OF STIMULUS ITEMS: NEGATIVE PURCHASE INFORMATION CONDITION

TABLE 3

EXAMPLE OF STIMULUS ITEMS: NEUTRAL PURCHASE INFORMATION CONDITION

Stimuli were presented in a single randomized order to I all subjects. The first and last items in the list were in the two neutral items, and were the same in all conditions. Furthermore, half of the subjects received the information in the reverse order, an effect counterbalanced within each condition.

Subjects were asked to read a cover sheet of instructions that attempted to make the task more involving. They were specifically told that the objectives of the experiment included how people make decisions about products on the basis of information they receive: "In this experiment, we are interested in finding out how people form decisions of whether to buy a produce on the basis of different types of information obtained in different situations. To find out, we have compiled information about certain products, obtained from several different sources." In the instruction cover sheet, subjects were also provided with information about the product, Zipp, about which they would be reading: "Zipp is a beverage that is being introduced on the market in a moderate-sized town in the United States. On the page that follows, you'll see a list of information that was collected from consumer surveys...", Subjects were also told that the product Zipp could be purchased only at Larsen's.

A ten-minute delay was then given between stimulus items and dependent measures. During this time, an anagram task was administered. An anagram problem-solving task, which is fairly complex, was selected to ensure minimal rehearsal of the stimulus information. Finally, following this ten-minute delay, attitudes and other dependent variables were measured. After the experiment, subjects were debriefed. Individual comments suggested that subjects showed a high level of involvement in the experimental task, and prior to learning that the product was fictitious, showed interest in learning more about the product.

Sample Design

Subjects were 79 undergraduate marketing students who participated in the experiment to receive extra credit for an introductory marketing course. Subjects were randomly assigned to the three conditions representing favorableness of "uniquely purchase" information (positive, negative, or neutral). Positive conditions received information such as "Larsen's Supermarket has been known (by consumers) for its short check-out lines", negative conditions received information such as "Larsen's Supermarket has been known (by consumers) for its long check-out lines". and neutral conditions received information such as "Larsen's Supermarket has several check-out lanes".

Questionnaire Measures

Several dependent variables were measured, including (1) attitudes toward the product (AO) and toward buying the product (AB), (2) intentions to buy the product, and (3) stimulus beliefs and evaluations. [Immediately prior to the measures of stimulus beliefs and evaluations, a measure of subjective norm was obtained. The subjective norm measure (SN) asked the likelihood that "those people who are important to you would think you should buy Zipp beverage" on a seven category scale from likely (+3) to unlikely (-3). The subjective norm was measured in order to determine whether the attitude component of Fishbein and Ajzen's model (AB) was, indeed, the more important predictor of intentions for the behavior investigated (i.e., "buying Zipp beverage"). Multiple regression analyses, predicting BI from AB and SN confirmed that the two components of the model significantly predicted intentions (R = .703, pc .01) and that the regression weight of the attitude component was significant (w1 = .516, p / .01) and higher than the subjective norm component (w2 = .30). However, it is also important to note that the effects of subjective norms might have been greater if a more realistic purchase situation had been used. The experimental task was not particularly conducive to thinking about what "important others" would think (unless these important others were "consumers" or the experimenter).] Finally, relevance measures pertaining to manipulation checks were obtained. Each of these measures is described below in greater detail.

Attitudes. Product attitudes (AO) and purchase attitudes (AB) were measured on seven-category evaluative semantic differentials (see Ajzen & Fishbein 1980, Fishbein & Ajzen 1975, for documentation regarding the reliability and validity of using evaluative semantic differentials as attitude measures). Attitude toward the product was measured on four response scales (good-bad, nice-awful, likeable-unlikable, and pleasant-unpleasant), all at least moderately intercorrelated (average r = .55) and summed to compute AO (possible range from -12 to +12). Attitude toward buying the product was also measured on four response scales (good-bad, nice-awful, wise-foolish, and pleasant-unpleasant). again at least moderately intercorrelated (average r = .63) and summed to compute AB (possible range from -19 to +19). AB was not worded to include mention of Larsen's supermarket, although this was implied by information presented that Zipp was available only at Larsen's.

Purchase intentions. The intention measure (BI) corresponded to Ag, and asked whether the respondent would buy Zipp beverage, given the information presented. A seven-category scale from likely (+3) to unlikely (-3) was used. This measure was included since, theoretically, it may represent a closer link to behavior than AB.

Stimulus beliefs and evaluations. Each positive and negative stimulus item was used to form a corresponding belief and evaluation measure. Unfortunately, comparable ratings under neutral conditions were not obtained. Beliefs were measured on seven-category likelihood scales and evaluations were measured on seven-category good-bad scales. For example, the informational item "Larsen's Supermarket has long hours, always staying open on weekends, evenings, and holiday" was used to form the belief and evaluation measures shown in Table 4.

These measures were not meant to include only "salient" beliefs (cf. Ajzen & Fishbein 1980), and, as such. may not represent the cognitive-structures underlying subjects' attitude responses in the manner of the Fishbein and Ajzen model (i.e., AO = Sbiei or AB = Sbiei) The purpose of these measures was, rather, to measure the perceived favorableness of the stimulus information, weighted by the perceived likelihood of each item being true. Separate scores were obtained for the two types of information examined, the product attribute information and the store information. The perceived favorableness of product attribute stimuli, hereafter denoted Sbpep, was computed by multiplying each belief (scored from -3 to +3) by the corresponding evaluation (scored from -3 to +3) and summing across the five product attribute beliefs. The perceived favorableness of store information, hereafter denoted Sbses, was computed in the same manner, but summing across the five store beliefs. The possible range of each of these measures was -45 to +45.

TABLE 4

EXAMPLE OF STIMULUS BELIEF AND EVALUATION MEASURES

Relevance ratings. The relevance of each stimulus item to attitudes toward the product were obtained on seven-category scales with endpoints "relevant to liking Zipp" (+3) and "relevant to disliking Zipp" (-3). Relevance to buying the product was obtained on seven-category scales with endpoints "relevant to buying Zipp" (+3) and "relevant to not buying Zipp" (-3). The midpoint of the scale was labelled "irrelevant" to liking or buying Zipp, and was scaled as 0.

RESULTS

It was expected that store information would impact on purchase, but not brand, attitudes. These possibilities were investigated using analyses of variance, and are reported separately for (a) judgments pertaining to the brand and brand information and (b) judgments pertaining to purchase of that brand and purchase information. Furthermore, the type and valence of information was expected to influence the relationship between the two attitudes, as reported in correlational analyses. Prior to reporting these analyses, however, is a discussion of analyses pertaining to the relevance manipulation.

Relevance Ratings

The absolute value of each relevance rating was summed across the five product attribute stimuli and across the five store stimuli. Furthermore, two scores were computed for each of the two sets of stimuli, i.e., relevance to liking or disliking the product and relevance to buying or not buying the product. A 2 x 2 repeated measures analysis of variance, with type of stimuli and object of relevance rating as factors, confirmed a significant interaction, F(1,71) = 144.37, p < .001. Product attribute stimuli were relevant to both the product attitude (9.86) and the purchase (10.36), whereas store stimuli were more relevant to the purchase (9.68) than to the product attitude (9.68). Given these findings, it seems likely that judgments based on these findings might also be affected.

Judgments about the Brand

To determine the effects of positive, negative, and neutral store information on attitudes toward the product, a one-way analysis of variance was performed. As expected on the basis of relevance ratings, brand attitudes were nonsignificantly-influenced (F < l) by the favorableness of store information. Means are shown in Table 5. Furthermore, the mean perceived favorableness of product attribute stimuli, i.e., 'bpep, did not vary across favorableness conditions (F < 1). Thus, neither positive, negative, nor neutral store information had any effect on one's overall perceptions and evaluation of the product.

TABLE 5

MEAN FAVORABLENESS OF PRODUCT AND PURCHASE VARIABLES

Judgments about the Purchase

In contrast to above findings, store information should influence purchase judgments. One-way analyses of variance, comparing positive and negative information conditions, confirmed these assumptions for the perceived favorableness of the store information. i.e.. Sbses, F(1,46)=159.08,p<.001. These findings are not surprising, and add some validity to the experimental manipulation of favorableness. Furthermore, the effects of favorableness on purchase attitudes (AB), comparing positive, negative, and neutral conditions, were marginally significant, F(2,69)=3.0,p=.056. However, comparable effects on behavioral intentions were nonsignificant, F(2,69)=1.29,p=.28. Means appear in Table 5.

Planned comparisons using the multiple t-ratio (Kirk, 1968) revealed higher purchase attitudes when store information was positive than when it was negative (t = 1.69, p < .05, one-tailed test). Further, purchase attitudes were more positive when store information was neutral (i.e., basically irrelevant to the attitude) than when it was negative (t = 2.27, p < .05). However, the mean purchase attitudes of positive and neutral information conditions were nonsignificantly different (t < 1). In fact, as shown in Table 5, neutral store information conditions yielded slightly more positive purchase attitudes than positivie store information conditions. Lack of a difference between positive and neutral conditions is surprising, since the added information relevant to AB (i.e. favorable store information) should have increased the favorableness of AB (relative to no relevant store information).

In summary, although store information did not affect product attitudes, positive store information yielded more favorable purchase attitudes than negative store information. Further, neutral information yielded more favorable purchase attitudes than negative store information. Although the same tendencies occurred in measures of behavioral intentions, differences were nonsignificant. Furthermore, differences between neutral and favorable store information conditions were nonsignificant.

Relations Between Brand and Purchase Attitudes

The differential effects of positive, negative, and neutral store information on AO - AB relations were examined by comparisons of product moment correlations. Two issues were investigated: (1) the impact of store information relevant to the purchase decision (vs. the lack of store information relevant to the purchase decision) on AO - AB relations, and (2) the differential effects of negative and positive store information on AO - AB relations.

Correlations for neutral information conditions, which were not exposed to stimuli uniquely relevant to the purchase decision (i.e., neutral items were relevant to neither the brand nor the purchase attitude), were compared with correlations for positive and negative information conditions, which were exposed to uniquely purchase information. The relationship between AO and AB was significantly greater for neutral conditions (r = .76) than for positive and negative conditions combined (r = .32), z = 2.15, p < .05. Similarly, the correlation between AO and BI was greater for neutral conditions (r = .70) than for positive and negative conditions combined (r = .32), z = 1.73, p = .08 (p < .05 for a one-tailed test). Thus, the relationships between product attitudes and purchase variables were substantially greater when information relevant to the purchase decision included only brand attribute information than when it included both brand attribute information and uniquely purchase (i.e., store) information.

This effect was more pronounced for negative than for positive score information conditions. Although AO - AB correlations were stronger in neutral conditions (r = .76) than in either positive (r = .56) or negative (r = .21) conditions, this difference was significant in negative (z = 2.54, p < .05) but not in positive conditions (z = 1.18, p > .05). Furthermore, differences between positive and negative information conditions were nonsignificant (z = 1.36, p > .05). The correlations for AO - BI correlations (r = .70, .44, and .24 for neutral, positive, and negative conditions) yielded analogous results (z = 2.02, p < .05, for neutral vs. negative, z = 1.28, p >.05, for neutral vs. positive, and z = .74, p >.05, for positive vs. negative conditions.) These findings suggest that the relationship between brand attitudes and purchase attitudes (or intentions) may decrease when unfavorable store information is provided. However, these relations will not significantly change when favorable store information is provided.

Finally, correlations between the perceived favorableness of brand attribute and store information (Sbpep and Sbses) and reported attitudes were computed. The perceived favorableness of brand attribute stimuli (Sbpep) was, as expected, positively related to both brand attitudes (r = .39, .55, and .67 for positive, negative, and neutral conditions, respectively) and purchase attitudes (r = .55, .40. and .59). Store information was less strongly related to attitudes. although as expected was more strongly related to purchase attitudes (r = .90 and .31 for positive and negative conditions) than to brand attitudes (r = .01 and .10).

DISCUSSION

Overview of Findings

The present findings suggest that store information that is relevant to the purchase decision but not to the brand attitude may have important effects on purchase attitudes and intentions as well as on the relation between brand attitudes and purchase attitudes. In particular, making available to the subject negative store information in addition to positive product information decreased the reported favorableness associated with the purchase. The present situation is contrived in that product purchase decisions do not take place in a laboratory setting. In particular, for some new product purchases, information about the store of purchase - its convenience, etc. - may not be available to the consumer, or may no: be perceived as relevant considering the wide variety of places to shop. However, if a particular store is advertising a particular product, then past experiences with both the store and the product are likely to come to bear on the purchase decision. For these reasons, it is important to determine the effects of both the product and the purchase information in combination. The present results also suggest that the store information had a greater impact on purchase attitudes when it was negative than when it was positive. Positive score information did not increase purchase attitudes over and above neutral information.

These findings also have implications for attitude-behavior relationships. Such relations are perhaps strongly influenced by the type of information available to the consumer. In the present situation, when the only information available that was relevant to the purchase decision was product attribute information, the relationships between AO (attitude toward the product) and AB (attitude toward purchasing the product), or between AO and BI (intentions to purchase the product) were quite strong. However, when information uniquely relevant to the purchase decision, but irrelevant to the product attitude, was also made available, relations between AO and AB and between AO and BI dropped substantially. These findings suggest that a consumer's intentions to buy a product will more closely correspond to his or her attitude toward that product as long as additional purchase information (particularly negative purchase information) is not available to the consumer. Perhaps uniquely purchase information is more likely to be obtained following initial purchase of the product or upon determining where the product is sold, and consequently, in many cases reducing the probability of purchase if this purchase information is negative.

Not tested in the present research is the possibility that people spontaneously formed an attitude toward the store, which subsequently was informative for forming an attitude toward buying the product at that store. In particular, behavioral attitudes may be based on a weighted combination of brand attitudes and store attitudes. On the other hand, results do not necessarily suggest that purchase attitudes will be more favorable when a greater amount of relevant favorable information is made available for use. The impact of store information and/or store attitudes on purchase variables under favorable store information conditions is unclear. Store attitudes were no: assessed directly and their contribution to purchase attitudes might be worth investigating in future research.

Finally, the finding that AO-AB relations were significantly lower in negative than in neutral conditions, but not lower in positive than in neutral conditions, may be due to difficulty in integrating inconsistent information (cf. Craik and Lockhart 1972). For individuals who received all favorable information, purchase attitudes increased as brand attitudes increased and decreased as brand attitudes decreased. However persons receiving favorable attribute information and unfavorable store information showed a lower relationship between the two variables. While AO and AB were still positively related, such persons were less likely to show decreases in AO as AB became more negative. Alternatively, correlations between -bSeS and AB suggest that negative store information may have had a greater influence than positive store information on Ag. Thus, negative information may be weighted more heavily than positive information in forming attitude judgments (cf. Anderson 1965). Furthermore, as noted earlier, the influence of negativity on attitude judgments may be mediated by other factors such as increased salience or informativeness of negative over positive information (cf. Scott & Tybout 1981).

Study Limitations

The present findings are limited to the extent that the experiment was performed in a laboratory setting, and therefore perhaps not generalizable to other situations. As is typical of much laboratory research, the situations did not represent a realistic purchase setting and the sample did not constitute a representative sample of consumers of the product type investigated.

Furthermore, interpretations for differences in AO - AB relations between neutral conditions on the one hand and positive and negative store information conditions on the other hand are not resolved. If the differential effects of positive and negative information are due to inconsistent information, then they should also appear when attribute information is negative and store information positive, a situation not addressed here. Also, while the differences in correlations between neutral and negative conditions were significant, the differences between positive and negative conditions art not. Caution should therefore be noted regarding interpretations that directly compare the two favorableness conditions. Whether the non-significance of these effects is due to a fairly small sample size (N = 24, each condition) or is, in fact, real remains an important avenue for further research.

Finally, the present research reports an initial investigation that pertains to reported judgments rather than to actual purchase behavior. Since the present data used a fictitious product and a fictitious supermarket, behavioral data were, of course, not possible to obtain. The necessity for controlling the nature of the information provided seems clear in an investigation of this sort, although an inherent limitation remains regarding the nature of the variables that may be measured.

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