Types and Levels of Involvement and Brand Attitude Formation

C. Whan Park, University of Pittsburgh
S. Mark Young, University of Pittsburgh
ABSTRACT - The role or involvement is examined as a mediator on brand attitude. The types and levels of involvement are distinguished and investigated in terms of how they affect the subject's brand attitude in response to advertising.
[ to cite ]:
C. Whan Park and S. Mark Young (1983) ,"Types and Levels of Involvement and Brand Attitude Formation", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 10, eds. Richard P. Bagozzi and Alice M. Tybout, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 320-324.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 10, 1983      Pages 320-324


C. Whan Park, University of Pittsburgh

S. Mark Young, University of Pittsburgh

[This research was supported from a grant provided by the Marketing Science Institute. The authors would like to extend their sincere gratitude to Banwari Mittal for his help on data collection.]

[C. Whan Park and S. Mark Young are Associate Professor and Doctoral Candidate. University of Pittsburgh, respectively.]


The role or involvement is examined as a mediator on brand attitude. The types and levels of involvement are distinguished and investigated in terms of how they affect the subject's brand attitude in response to advertising.


The role of involvement has been examined in the past for its impact upon the hierarchy of communication effects, leading to a distinction between the learning hierarchy and the low involvement hierarchy (Krugman 1965; Ray et al. 19,3). More recently, the concept has been viewed as an important mediator or information processing (Mitchell 1979: Park and Mittal 1982). However, many issues concerning the involvement construct such as its conceptual properties, its causes, and its effects have yet to be resolved. The attention of researchers to these issues has rapidly increased (Cohen 1982b; Park and Mittal 1982).

The purpose of the present study is to examine the effects of the types and levels of involvement on brand attitude formation in the advertising context. Since theoretical discussions on this issue can be round in recent research, n., attempt will be made here to provide a theoretical overview (see Park and Mittal 1989).

Types and Levels of Involvement and Brand Attitude Formation

The important task in examining the effect of involvement on information processing (involvement as a mediator) is to identify causes for involvement (an aroused state). Identification or the causes for involvement are important in order to understand the possible multiple effects of involvement on information processing as well as processing outcomes. Along these lines, McGuire (1974) suggested that different motives affect information processing in different ways and proposed a typology of motives in this context. Types of involvement in the present study, cognitive and affective, are characterized on the basis of the motives or the reasons underlying involvement. Cognitive motives stress an individual's information processing activities and the attainment of ideational states. Affective motives stress an individuals feelings and the attainment of certain emotional states (McGuire 1979). Cognitive and affective motives are simplified in the present paper as referring mainly to utilitarian and value-expressive motives, respectively (Katz 1960; Smith, Bruner and White 1956).

According to the utilitarian motive, an individual would be highly concerned with the cost and benefits rendered by the product or service and interested in the functional performance of the product. According to the value-expressive motive, an individual is more interested in enhancing self-esteem or self-concept and in projecting his desired or self image upon the outside world through the use of the product or service. A characterization of the types of involvement based on motives allows researchers to view the level of involvement as determined by the strength of motives.

Attitude (affect) has been viewed as one's predisposition to respond in particular way toward an object and as a function of beliefs (Fishbein and Ajzen 1975). According to this view, beliefs are often examined as if they were always decomposable to a set of independent elements. As noted by Cohen (1982a), attitude can be viewed as being based on nonanalytic concept identification, as opposed to the resultant of a set of analytical operations carried out on feature-based information using one or another learned combinational rules. This very important distinction to be examined may have compelling implications for many areas of consumer behavior.

As suggested by Cohen (1982a), one may refer to the concept identification literature to examine this distinction carefully. Two views of concept identification are particularly relevant for the distinction of the two types of affect. One form of concept identification is based on a critical test of a category membership using features or attributes comparison. This notion is best represented by Collins and Quillian's (1969) model of semantic-memory structure which assumes "cognitive economy" on the basis of the defining features. Another is based on models of categorical flexibility. Rosch's prototypic exemplar (1975), Lakoff's hedging (1973), and Wittgenstein's family resemblance (1968) all point out the person's categorical flexibility. Although they differ somewhat from each other in linking categorical flexibility to the concept identification mode, all suggest that a person does not always follow 3 defining features-based concept identification mode. One may note in particular the notion of Wittgenstein's family resemblance in association with non-analytical concept identification (Bransford 1979, p. 177).

Consider for example the proceedings we call 'games' ...What is common to them all? - Don't say: There must be something in common, or they would not be called 'games' - but look and see whether there is anything common to all - For if you look at them you will not see something that is common to all. (Wittgenstein 1968, p. 31)

According to Wittgenstein, a world or concept has a "family" of meanings that may resemble one another like members of a human family. Members of a family may look similar and yet lack a clear set of defining features possessed by each individual member of the family. Wittgenstein's theory of family resemblance, thus, points out the non-feature-based concept identification mode as another alternative to the analytical concept identification mode. In the present study nonanalytical concept identification is characterized as the person's direct matching of the best exemplar (imagery)of a category membership against stimuli without going through feature based analytical comparison (Cohen 1982a). Specifically, the basis for This direct matching would not be a fixed set of defining features but a limited number of key features which are interactive, not amenable to decomposition and vary depending on the context and purpose.

The difference between the two types of concept identification modes is well understood in view of the controversial distinction between the propositional and analogue (mental imagery) representation of schema (Anderson 1978), Kosslyn and Pomerantz 1977; Paivio 1971; Paivio and Csapo 1973). Although this issue has yet to be resolved, the present study takes the position that regardless of the structural nature of the actual schema representation, the processes based on the two different concept identification modes differ from each other in the manner discussed above.

When concept identification is based on a critical test of features or attributes comparison, the belief-affect-combinational rule sequence appears to represent attitude formation. When the concept identification, is however, based on a matching of the best exemplar against stimuli directly, affect-formation becomes an intriguing issue. When one retrieves a particular instance of mental imagery in response to a stimulus (i.e., an advertisement), affect may automatically follow as it is contained in the exemplar. As pointed out by Cohen (1982a), affect in other words may also serve a categorization purpose. To illustrate this, consider a good guy and a bad guy in western movies. One would not have difficulty in visualizing such stereotypes. However, one may still need an explanation about how this affect would be built in the exemplar in the first place (e.g., a good or bad guy). One plausible explanation may be that a person would apply a limited number of key features (noted earlier) which are different from the analytical attributes and through configural processes using these key features form affect. Once this exemplar-affect association is established, a direct matching of the exemplar against the stimuli accompanies automatically evaluative judgment.

One can easily observe a relevant linkage between the two attitude formation modes and the types of involvement from the above discussion (see Park and Mittal 1982 for a more detailed discussion). Attitude under a high cognitive involvement condition is formed from a focused and analytical attributes-based examination. Attitude under an affective involvement condition is formed through a focused but nonanalytical mode. This affect is assumed to be nondecomposible. Under a low involvement condition where neither cognitive nor affective involvement is nigh, ephemeral affect is proposed to be an appropriate form of attitude. Specifically, ephemeral affect can be induced by an attractive model in a commercial, an emotionally charged jingle or simply familiarity with brand name (Ray and Sawyer 1971). This attitude formation process may be best explained through the classical conditioning approach.

There are several implications of the interrelationships among different modes of attitude, and types and levels of involvement. First, attributes-based message contents would serve as a basis for attitude formation in the cognitive involvement case. In both the expectancy-value model (e.g., Fishbein model) and the cognitive response model attributes-based messages play a prominent role and would represent the brand attitude formation process. Second, in the case of the low-involvement condition attitude toward the commercial would influence brand attitude more than attributes-based message contents. Previous empirical research reported supports attitude toward the commercial as a mediator of advertising on brand attitude (Gardner 1981, Mitchell and Olson 1981). Its linkage to the level or involvement was not, however, examined. Brand attitude formed under this condition would be weak in intensity and transient in durability and would be formed through non-message and non-directional exposure to the commercial itself (not focused on any particular aspect of the commercial).

Third, brand attitude under the affective involvement condition would be formed on the basis of a direct matching of the exemplar against the imagery promoted in the commercial. One important characteristic in this attitude formation is that multiple sources influence the retrieval of the exemplar, thus affecting brand attitude indirectly. Non-attributes-based as well as attributes-based message contents and visual aspects of the commercial all must contribute to the retrieval of the best exemplar, its success depending on the convergence of these multiple sources to promote a central imagery in the commercial upon the exemplar to be retrieved. Therefore, neither, the attributed-based message contents nor affect toward the commercial alone would influence the brand attitude significantly although affect toward the commercial is expected to influence the brand attitude more than the attribute-based message contents because of the powerful linkage between mental imagery and visual aspects of the commercial. (Paivio 1978).

Based on the aforementioned reasoning, the hypotheses as listed below are derived.


1. In the case of the cognitive involvement condition, attributes-based message contents influences significantly the overall brand attitude;

2. In the case of the affective involvement condition, neither attributes-based message contents nor attitude toward the commercial significantly influences the overall brand attitude.

3. In the case of the low involvement condition, attitude toward the commercial significantly influences the overall brand-attitude.



A total of 60 women who-were members of the Consumer Panel at the Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh, were invited to the school for participation in the present study. The subjects were told of the general nature of the experimental study without being informed or its purpose. It should be noted that the present study was a part of a larger study which contained a total of 120 subjects. Since the other half of the subjects involved in the larger study did not receive the experimental treatments under discussion, they were not included in the present analysis.

Experimental Procedure

The subjects were randomly assigned to three treatment groups (20 subjects for each group): high cognitive involvement, high affective involvement, and low involvement groups. All subjects were told to watch a TV commercial of a new brand of hair shampoo. The TV commercial was created by the expert in the advertising area by splicing parts of professional commercials for hair-shampoo and other products. The resulting commercial was original and appeared to have been done professionally. While the subjects in each group were exposed to the same commercial, they saw it under different experimental manipulations regarding the types and the levels of involvement. The experimental manipulations were specifically based on two criteria: the direction of attention and the intensity of attention.

The subjects in the high cognitive involvement group were told that according to Consumer Reports, there were substantial differences in quality or functional performance among major leading brands of hair shampoo sold on the market, normally differing on one particular performance characteristic. They were told the following: "...The commercial you are about to watch may contain information on that characteristic of the new brand as well as on other important performance characteristics." Finally, they were asked to watch the commercial as if they were sitting in their living room, and trying to learn what product benefits the new brand possessed and how effectively they work.

The subjects in high affective involvement group were told that each of the leading brands of hair shampoo on the market possesses its own image and personality which are psychologically distinctive and unique. Citing Consumer Reports, the subjects were further informed that people normally prefer one brand to another because of the personality image and this was understandable since a) the leading brands were very similar in functional performance, and b) the personality image of the shampoo was normally highlighted in commercials. Finally, they were told: "...Assume that you are sitting in your living room, being completely absorbed by the classical beauty of Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca and thinking about her beautiful hair. Seeing her hair reminds you that you have to purchase hair shampoo tomorrow. You are asked to study the commercial as if you were going to purchase a hair shampoo based on whether the commercial appeals to you emotionally and portrays the shampoo in such a way that it will enhance your personal image". The actress, Ingrid Bergman, was mentioned in this manipulation condition to aid the subjects in retrieving the exemplar and to identify the category membership of the imagery portrayed in the commercial.

The subjects in the low involvement group were told, citing Consumer Reports, that various leading brands of shampoo available on the market do not differ in their functional performance. They were further informed that unlike perfume various marketing practices to create emotional feelings or personality image do not render hair shampoo brands any uniquely identifiable images either, because of the nature of the product characteristics. They were then told the following: "...Assume that you have just received a long-distance telephone call that one of your closest friends of 20 years is seriously ill, and wants to see you. Furthermore, you have already bought enough hair shampoo on sale and do not have any plan to buy more in the next six months. You are asked to view the commercial as if you were sitting in you living room, worrying about your friends illness and knowing that you have no immediate need to purchase shampoo".

The message in the commercial contained both attributes-based and nonattributes-based information. They were: "Estee Lauder introduces a classic, yet revolutionary hair shampoo Shena-for that very special woman of the 80s. As a special woman, Shena fulfills your unique needs for distinction and style. Shena has a superb cleansing action. It is suitable for both oily and dry hair. It reinforces your hair's natural sheen. Shena is the shampoo for that very special woman of the 80s - the woman with a touch of class". It should be noted that the three performance attributes, superb cleansing action, suitable for both oily and dry hair, and reinforcing your hair's natural sheen, were flashed on to the screen to highlight their importance in the commercial. The visual aspects of the commercial were created to match well with the message contents.

Measurement Instruments

Four major questions were included in the questionnaire. These questions were asked immediately after the subJects watched the commercial. They were an overall brand attitude, affect toward the commercial, a cognitive response measure. and an attitude Components measure.

The subject's attitude toward a brand in the commercial was measured on a 7-point scale ranging from "very unfavorable" (1), "neutral" (4) to "very favorable" (7). Specifically, the subjects were asked to indicate the extent to which they were favorable or unfavorable toward the new brand of hair shampoo in the commercial they had just watched. The subject's attitude toward the commercial was measured using the same 7-point scale. The subjects were asked to indicate the extent to which they liked the commercial itself. The subject's cognitive responses were solicited asking her to write any and all of the thoughts which she had during the commercial. Finally, Fishbein measures of attitude components, beliefs (B ) and affect (a.) associated with each belief were obtained on a 1-7 point and + 3 to - 3 scales. respectively using three attributes highlighted in the commercial message.

The subjects after a completion of the experimental task, were debriefed about the purpose of the experimental study and received a monetary reward as a token of appreciation for their participation in the study.


Manipulation checks as well as several other results are not reported in the present study, due to the length of the paper. However, our results support the hypotheses, as shown in Table 1. Values in each cell of Table 1 are Pearson correlations (except the cells in the last two rows). Correlations in the first three rows are between the overall brand attitude and affect toward the commercial, cognitive response model, and expectancy-value model, respectively. It should be also noted that cognitive responses were coded by the two coders independently, with 76% intercoder reliability, following a scheme proposed by Wright (1973) with some modifications. The particular form of cognitive response model used to correlate with the overall brand attitude was (r(supportive arguments) - S(Counter arguments + Source derogations)). The present study included source bolsters (Belch 1981) under the supportive arguments category. The form of the expectancy-value model correlated with the overall 3 brand attitude was EQUATION.

An examination of the results of Table 1 reveals that in the cognitive involvement case, the correlations between attributes-based analytical models and the overall brand attitude (r = 0.76 and 0.69 for the cognitive response and expectancy-value models, respectively, is significantly higher (P < 0.05) than that between affect toward the commercial and the overall brand attitude (r = 0.96). On the other hand, in the low involvement case the correlation between analytical models and the overall brand attitude (r = 0.26 and 0.10 for the cognitive response and expectancy-value models, respectively) is significantly lower (P g 0.05) than that (r = 0.61) between affect toward the commercial and the overall brand attitude. These results support hypotheses 1 and 3.

In the case of the affective involvement group, the results are interesting. The three correlations between the overall brand attitude and both analytical models and affect toward the commercial, respectively are either significant at the 0.05 level or approaching significance (r = 0.50, 0.34, and 0.98, significant at the 0.05, 0.06, and 0.11 levels, respectively). However, the highest correlation in the affective involvement case is relatively lower than those either in cognitive or low involvement cases. This result suggests that both attitude toward the commercial and the analytical cognitive response model correlates with the overall brand attitude with neither revealing a strong relationship with the brand attitude. Although affect toward the commercial influences the subject's brand attitude most, the brand attitude formation in this condition calls for an alternative explanation.



In order to examine how affect toward the commercial and either of the analytical models together explain the variance at the overall brand attitude, a multiple regression analysis was performed. It should be noted that there was a multicollinearity problem in the affective involvement condition between the two independent variables. There-ore no beta weights are reported here. The results of the regression analysis appear to support the above interpretation.

An examination or adjusted R- (the fourth and fifth rows in Table 1) reveals that in the cognitive involvement case 53% and 39% of the variance in overall brand attitude is explained by affect toward the commercial and either the cognitive response model or the expectancy-value model, respectively. In the low involvement condition, 33% and 31% of the variance is explained by affect toward the commercial and either the cognitive response model or expectancy-value model. However, in the affective involvement condition, only 16% and 18% or the variance is explained by affect toward the commercial and either of the analytical attitude models, respectively. The lowest variance in overall brand attitude is explained by independent variables in the affective involvement condition. This result appears to support Hypothesis 7. Subjects in the affective involvement condition do not appear to form their brand attitude either in a manner suggested by the traditional analytical model and/or by their affect toward the commercial.


The present study examined the mediating role or involvement on attitude formation. The results revealed that a traditional view of analytical attitude formation needs to be reconsidered as a partial view. For example, under the affective and low involvement conditions, attributes-based analytical models did not explain the variance or the overall brand attitude as well as affect toward the commercial.

Another important result to note is that under the affective involvement condition both analytical attitude models and affect toward the commercial influenced the brand attitude without revealing any significant contribution by either or both factors combined. As noted earlier in the theory section, multiple factors appear to contribute to the exemplar retrieval process by affecting the perception of imagery promoted in the commercial under the affective involvement condition. Once this imagery is identified through a direct machine against the exemplar, affect which is built in to the exemplar would be automatically accompanied. This process would not be expected to be captured through either analytical models or affect toward the commercial as well as both combined. The brand attitude formation under the affective involvement condition calls for more systematic research.. The important questions to be answered in future studies are (a) what is the basis for exemplar retrieval and (b) how can advertisement be constructed to facilitate the exemplar retrieval. Finally, the role of affect in the direct snatching process of the exemplar against the imagery promoted in the commercial needs to be examined in future studies. .Although the notion of affect being built into the exemplar, and thus serving a categorization purpose, is persuasive, more empirical research needs to be done in terms os: the extent or the number of concept categories which contain built-in affect


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