The Application of an Expentacy Value Operationalization of Function Theory to Examine Attitudes of Boycotters and Nonboycotters of a Consumer Product

George E. Belch, San Diego State University
Michael A. Belch, San Diego State University
ABSTRACT - This paper presents the results of a study that uses an expectancy value approach to operationalizing functional theory in order to examine the attitudes of boycotters and nonboycotters of a consumer product. The relation hip between three attitude functions and measure of product attitude, purchase intention, and company attitude are examined. The effects of a persuasive message targeted toward one of the functions is also examined. The findings are consistent with predictions based on the functional approach to attitudes and suggest that an expectancy value operationalization of function theory is viable for examining consumer attitudes.
[ to cite ]:
George E. Belch and Michael A. Belch (1987) ,"The Application of an Expentacy Value Operationalization of Function Theory to Examine Attitudes of Boycotters and Nonboycotters of a Consumer Product", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 14, eds. Melanie Wallendorf and Paul Anderson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 232-236.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 14, 1987      Pages 232-236

THE APPLICATION OF AN EXPENTACY VALUE OPERATIONALIZATION OF FUNCTION THEORY TO EXAMINE ATTITUDES OF BOYCOTTERS AND NONBOYCOTTERS OF A CONSUMER PRODUCT

George E. Belch, San Diego State University

Michael A. Belch, San Diego State University

ABSTRACT -

This paper presents the results of a study that uses an expectancy value approach to operationalizing functional theory in order to examine the attitudes of boycotters and nonboycotters of a consumer product. The relation hip between three attitude functions and measure of product attitude, purchase intention, and company attitude are examined. The effects of a persuasive message targeted toward one of the functions is also examined. The findings are consistent with predictions based on the functional approach to attitudes and suggest that an expectancy value operationalization of function theory is viable for examining consumer attitudes.

INTRODUCTION

The study of attitudes and attitude change has been an important part of consumer research and has played an integral role in marketers' attempts to influence consumer behavior. Marketing's interest in attitudes is logical since an organization's effort is often devoted to the ta k of creating, reinforcing, or changing attitudes toward its products and services or even the company itself. A number of theoretical approaches have been taken in studying attitudes and attitude change including the structural approach, cognitive consistency theories, social judgment theory, expectancy value approaches, and functional theory. Of interest in this study is the use of functional theory (Katz 1960) as an approach to examining the attitudes of boycotters and nonboycotter of a consumer product, and attempts to change their attitude. Functional theory was felt to be an appropriate approach to the measurement of attitudes in this study since it recognizes the varied motivational patterns underlying attitudes of different individuals. Moreover, Lutz (1981) presented a thorough analysis and reconceptualization of functional theory wing an expectancy value framework that included operational specifications. Thus, this study provides insight not only to the value of a functional approach in studying boycotting behavior, but also presents some findings that are relevant to the potential of operationalizing functional theory through an expectancy value measurement framework.

Functional Theory

Functional theory represents a somewhat different approach to the study of attitudes as it is not solely concerned with the individual's information, perceptions, or behavior toward the attitudinal object but rather focuses On the motivational structure or pattern underlying the attitude. Functional theorists (Sarnoff and Katz 1964; Smith et al. 195{;; Katz 1960) argue that in order to understand the true meaning and significance of attitudes, and procedures for changing them, one must focus on the functional or motivational base of the attitude. This approach recognizes that different individuals may like or dislike some object with equal intensity, but for different reasons. Thus, any attempt to change an individual's attitude must first consider the function being served and then target that particular motivational base.

While several functional taxonomies have been developed, the most thorough and well-recognized typology is probably that of Katz (1960). Katz suggested four functions that an attitude might serve for an individual including the utilitarian or adjustment, value expressive, knowledge, and ego defensive. A brief description of each function is as follows.

Utilitarian. This function recognizes that people strive to maximize rewards and minimize punishments from their environment. Positive attitudes are formed toward objects that have been instrumental in achieving desirable goals or avoiding undesirable goals, while negative attitudes are formed toward objects that prevent goal attainment or punish the individual. Utilitarian attitudes are learned through pa t experience and depend on past reinforcements with the object.

Value Expressive. This function allows individuals to achieve self-expression of their values and the type of person they conceive the selves to be. Value expressive attitudes help the individual to express his/her central values and self-concept. Katz suggests that value expressive attitudes not only give clarity to-the self-image, but also help the individual move closer to his/her "ideal" self-image.

Knowledge. This function deals with attitudes that are acquired to help the individual understand and structure his/her environment. Katz argues that people seek some degree of predictability, consistency, and stability in their world to give meaning to what would otherwise be a chaotic universe. The knowledge function provides the individual with a categorization of objects and some indication of what his/her behavior toward an object should be.

Ego Defensive. This function recognizes that some attitudes are for ed in order to help the individual protect himself from external threats or internal anxieties or conflicts. The ego defensive function is rooted in psychoanalytic theory and views attitudes as often being subconscious and held to Protect the individual's ego.

The functional approach has received recognition from both social psychologists and consumer behavior theorists as a potentially rich approach for understanding the nature of attitudes and the conditions for their change. However, functional theory is widely viewed as having practicality as a general analytical framework and classificatory schema rather than as an operational tool for empirical research due to the lack of specified operational procedures to measure the attitude functions (cf. Kiesler et al. 1969; Day 19?3; Eagly and Himmelfarb 1974).

A Reconceptualization of Functional Theory.

The measurement problem associated with functional theorY ha been addressed by Lutz (1981), who proposed a reconceptualization of the theory Using an expectancy value framework. According to Lutz's reconceptualization, the cognitive component of attitude becomes elaborated around the basic needs or values salient to that attitude. Thus, "The index of cognitive structure because a measure of the particular attitude function under consideration. The exact nature of the cognitive (E) and affective (V) elements making up the index are viewed a varying with the content of the various functions" (p. 177). According to Lutz, the strength Of the relation hip between the expectancy value index of a particular function and overall attitude is an indication of the amount to which that function is influencing the attitude.

Lutz suggested that the Fishbein (1963) model represents an appropriate operational specification of these x V approach to measuring the utilitarian function. This model links well with the utilitarian function since they both focus on the positive and negative aspects of goal-oriented behavior. Using the Fishbein model to measure the utilitarian function ia supported by numerous marketing studies that have used the model to measure attitudes Of brands through an attributes-based, utilitarian-type model.

Lutz also notes that the value expressive function of attitude relates directly to the conceptual framework of instrumentality theory proposed by Rosenberg (1956). Rosenberg's formulation of attitude, which was heavily influenced by the functional approach, was concerned with the assessment of the extent to which an object facilitates or hinders the attainment of a value goal state. Under Rosenberg's model, the more instrumental an object is for attaining positively valued goals, the more favorable the person's attitude toward the object.

Lutz suggests that the ego defensive and knowledge functions will be less influential in determining consumer attitudes. The ego defensive function generally relates to attitudes regarding the social environment rather than purchasing activity, whereas the knowledge function may serve attitudes toward new products and services but not much else. Thus, in most marketing situations, the utilitarian and value expressive functions should prevail as being the most influential motives for consumer attitudes.

Empirical ewidence concerning the viability of operationalizing functional theory is quite limited. Locander and Spivey (1978) conducted the only marketing study to address the problem of measuring the attitude function and to determine if attitudes will vary depending upon the function being served. The results of their study did provide support for functional theory, as they found ewidence that the four functions could be measured and showed significant differences when tested against an independent attitude measure. Moreover, they found that a person's attitude varies depending upon the function being served. However, the functional approach to the study of attitudes remains a largely untested theory with its premise rooted more in intuitive thought than in empirical ewidence.

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to examine the viability of applying functional theory in the context of an attitude change experiment involving boycotters and nonboycotters of a consumer product. This study addresses several important research issues. including:

1. The viability of using the expectancy value approach suggested by Lutz (1981) to operationalize functional theory and examine the relationship between specific functions and measures of product attitude and purchase intention as well as corpora e attitude;

2. To examine difference in the relationship of individual attitude functions to product attitude, company attitude, and purchase intention measures for boycotters and nonboycotters of a consumer product; and

3. To examine the impact of a persuasive message on the relationship of individual attitude functions to measures of attitude and purchase intention for boycotters and nonboycotters.

Overview

The situation wed to test the viability of function theory was an attitude change experiment conducted on groups of consumers who were classified as either boycotters or nonboycotters of Coors beer. Two groups were used in the study. The boycott group consisted of members of two Mexican-American student organizations at a West Coast university that had taken positions against Coors. The nonboycott group included students enrolled in undergraduate business courses at the university and who were not involved in any boycott of Coors beer. Both the boycott group and the nonboycott group were further separated at random into either a pretest/post group or a posttest-only group.

Bach group was to be told that they were participating in a research project evaluating consumer's attitudes toward different brands of beer. They were also informed that they would be viewing a twenty-minute segment of a television program concerning one of the companies whose products they were/ would be evaluating.

The pretest/posttest groups filled out a questionnaire assessing their attitudes toward different brands of beer both before and after their exposure to the attitude change stimulus (the television program), while the posttest-only group received the attitudinal questionnaire only after viewing the television program. The latter groups were asked to respond to a time orientation questionnaire, which was unrelated to the experiment during the tine that the pretest group was responding to the attitudinal survey.

After completion of the initial questionnaires the respondents were shown a twenty-minute tape of a segment of the CBS program "Sixty Minutes" that dealt with the Adolph Coors Company's employment of nonunionized labor and the organized boycott of Coors by certain union and Mexican-American groups as a result of the company's policies. The program was generally favorable toward Coors and portrayed the company in a very positive manner.

Immediately after seeing the tape all of the groups were asked to complete a scale giving their evaluation of the program and then filled out the questionnaire assessing their attitudes towards brands of beer either again (pretest/post group) or for the first time (posttest-only group).

Measurement of Functions

Three attitude functions were assessed in this study. These included the utilitarian and value expressive functions, which were specified by Katz (1960), and a company image function, which was conceived specifically for this study. Although a company image type function has not been recognized in any of the work on functional theory, it was felt that in a boycotting situation, consumers' attitudes may serve as an expression of their negative feelings toward a corporation. Moreover, attributes or values relating to the consumer's feelings toward the company itself might not be captured through any other of the functional bases. Also, the "Sixty Minutes" program targeted beliefs related primarily to factors pertaining to the company rather than any product attribute- or value-laden beliefs. Thus, the use of a company image function was felt to be relevant for the purposes of this study.

In order to determine the salient attributes or value relevant to each function, a free response elicitation procedure was v u ed with a separate sample of 55 students. Under this procedure the students were asked to provide a listing of:

Evaluative criteria or attributes used to select a brand of beer (utilitarian function);

Values of self-image characteristics that are used in evaluating brands of beer (value expressive function); and

Attributes or characteristics of beer companies that might be considered in selecting a brand of beer (corporate image function).

The results of the free response elicitation procedure used to identify six salient attributes wed in the expectancy value measures for each function are shown in Table 1.

In order to assess the utilitarian and company image functions, Fishbein-type measures were utilized with the expectancy component for each attribute evaluated on a seven-point scale anchored by "very likely" and "very unlikely," while the value component was measured on a seven-point scale anchored by "very good" and "very bad." For the value expressive function, instrumentality was assessed using a seven-point scale anchored by "strongly agree" and "strongly disagree," while the evaluative statements concerning each value were measured on a seven-point scale anchored by "very good" and "very bad."

TABLE 1

SALIENT ATTRIBUTES ELICITED FOR EACH FUNCTION

Subjects were required to complete the expectancy and value measures used to assess each function for three brands of beer Coors, Miller Lite, and Budweiser. In the case of the company image function, beliefs were assessed for the companies making the brands: Adolph Coors Company, Miller Brewing Company, and Anheuser Busch.

The final section of the questionnaire measured relevant attitude and purchase information for the three brands. The measures taken here included consumption frequency for each brand, attitudes toward the product, purchase intention, and attitude toward the company making each brand.

RESULTS

The first two objectives of this study are closely related. The viability of using an expectancy value approach to operationalizing functional theory can be tested by examining differences in the relationship of the individual functions to overall measures of attitude and purchase intention for the boycotter and nonboycotter groups. The corporate image function should be particularly salient for the boycotter as this group had taken a strong position again t the Adolph Coors Company and its products based upon what they perceived as unfair labor practices and discrimination. Thus, corporate image type attributes would be expected to dominate boycotters' attitudes towards Coors beer and the company rather than utilitarian or value expressive based feeling.

For nonboycotters, the utilitarian function is expected to have the greatest effect in determining this group's overall attitudes toward the Adolph Coors Co any and its products. Lutz (1981) has noted that in a consumer behavior domain, attributes used to evaluate products are usually derived from utilitarian motives. Also, to the extent that beer is an image-laden product to college students, the value expressive function might have some impact on attitudes. Thus, the utilitarian function should be the dominant function influencing the nonboycotters attitudes and purchase intentions and, perhaps to a lesser extent, the value expressive function. However the corporate image function should be less relevant to nonboycotters and thus show a weaker relationship to the dependent measures.

TABLE 2

RESULTS FOR REGRESSION ANALYSES OF ATTITUDE FUNCTIONS AGAINST DEPENDENT MEASURES

In order to test these expected relationships, multiple regression analyses were performed using the expectancy value measures of the three attitude function " independent variable and attitude toward the product, purchase intention", and attitude toward the company a criterion variable . Results of these regression analyses, which were performed separately for the boycotter and nonboycotter groups, are shown in Table 2. [The regression analyses for both the boycotters and nonboycotter were performed by combining the two posttest groups. Comparison of the posttest mean score of the pretest-posttest group and the posttest-only group on the three dependent measure revealed no significant differences. Comparisons were also made between the two posttest groups for both boycotters and nonboycotters on the individual attributes comprising each function, and only one attribute showed a significant difference. Thus, there is DO ewidence that the pretest had an effect on the responses of the pretest posttest group. Given the absence of a testing effect, combination of the two posttest groups within the boycotter and nonboycotter conditions is appropriate.]

It was expected that for the boycotters, the corporate image function should be the most salient and should show a stronger relationship to attitudes than either the utilitarian or value expressive functions. Examination of the regression results in Table 2 for the boycotters shows that the regression coefficients are nonsignificant for the utilitarian and value expressive functions for all three of the criterion measure . However, the coefficients for the corporate image function are significant beyond the .05 level for the attitude toward the product and purchase intention measures and marginally significant (p < .07) for the corporate attitude measure. Thus, the regression results for the boycotters are compatible with the predictions made based upon functional theory.

The regression results for the nonboycotting group, which are also shown in Table 2, are also consistent with the predictions of functional theory. It was expected that the utilitarian function would be the salient function shaping the attitudes of the nonboycotters. Thus this function should show the strongest relationship to the criterion measures, while the corporate image function was not expected to be as strongly related to the dependent measures. Examination of Table 2 reveals that, for nonboycotters, the regression coefficients for the utilitarian function are not only much greater than those for the other functions, but also are the only functions that are significant for the product attitude and purchase intention measures. However, for the company attitude measure, the regression coefficients are significant for both the utilitarian and corporate image functions.

TABLE 3

PRETEST-POSTTEST REGRESSION RESULTS FOR BOYCOTTERS AND NONBOYCOTTERS

The regression results for the nonboycotting group do support the predictions made based on functional theory, as the utilitarian function appears to be the major determinant of this group's product attitude and purchase intentions. The fact that the regression coefficient was significant for the corporate image function on the company attitude measure is understandable given the nature of the dependent measure. Attitude toward the company would be expected to be influenced by a measure that assesses perceptions of the firm on various corporate image attributes, as well as feelings toward the product the company makes.

Changes in Functional Relationships

Another objective of this study was to determine whether a persuasive message (the "Sixty Minutes" segment) had an effect on the relationship between the attitude functions and the various criterion measures for the boycotters and nonboycotters. Since this program dealt with issues regarding Coors as a company rather than with the product per se, the corporate image function should be affected the most by the program. Also, since this function was expected to be particularly salient for the boycotters, this group should show the greatest change in the relationship of this function to the criterion measures after exposure to the program.

In order to examine the impact of the "Sixty Minutes" segment on the relationship of the three functions to the dependent measures, separate regressions were performed for the pretest and posttest groups of boycotters and nonboycotters. The results of these regression analyses are shown in Table 3 for the boycotters and the nonboycotters.

Examination of the regression results for the boycotters (Table 3) reveals that the program affected the relationship of the utilitarian and corporate image functions to the dependent measures. The significance levels of the utilitarian function regression coefficients decreased somewhat from pretest to posttest for the product attitude and purchase intention measures and increased for the company attitude measure. For the corporate image function, the significance level for the regression coefficient on the product attitude measure decreased from pretest to posttest. However, for the company attitude measure, the corporate image function coefficient showed only a slight increase in magnitude but did become statistically significant. The regression coefficients for the value expressive function remained nonsignificant from pretest to posttest.

The regression results for the nonboycotters, which are shown in Table 3, also showed changes from pretest to posttest for the utilitarian functions. The magnitude of the regression coefficients for the utilitarian function showed an increase for all three criterion measures from the pretest to posttest conditions. Moreover, for the purchase intention and corporate attitude measures, the regression coefficients for the utilitarian function were nonsignificant in the pretest condition but became significant when measured after viewing the program.

The nonboycotters also showed a change in the relationship of the corporate attitude function to both the product attitude and company attitude measures after exposure to the program. The regression coefficient for the corporate image function was nonsignificant on both measures in the pretest condition but did become significant in the posttest conditions.

DISCUSSION

The purpose of this study was to examine the feasibility of using an expectancy value operationalization of functional theory, as advocated by Lutz (1981), to examine the attitudes of boycotters and nonboycotters of a consumer product. The results of this study appear to indicate that the expectancy value approach can be a viable way of dealing with the operationalization problem that has limited the application of functional theory to studies of attitudes and attitude change. The relationships found in this study between the individual functions and measures of attitude and purchase intention for the boycotters and nonboycotters tend to be consistent with predictions that can be made based upon functional theory.

It was expected that the corporate image function should show the strongest relationship to the attitude and intention measures for the boycotters since the dominant underlying motive for their affect would be based upon their feelings towards Coors as a company. However, for the nonboycotters, attitudes and intentions were expected to show the strongest relationship to the utilitarian function as their feelings toward Coors beer would be based upon how they perceived the brand in relation to their consumption goals rather than upon their feelings toward the Adolph Coors Company. It w also expected that the value expressive function sight be related to the criterion measures for the nonboycotters, as beer could be an image-laden product for college students that night help the express their self-concept.

The finding that the corporate image function was the only one of the three functions to show a significant relationship to the criterion measures for the boycotters does suggest that their attitudes and intentions are serving a need to express their feelings toward the Coors Company and its product. Along these same lines, the fact that the utilitarian function showed the strongest relationship to product attitudes and purchase intentions for the nonboycotters suggests that this function is the one being served by the feelings of this group.

It should be noted that the regression results reported in Table 2 were based on the posttest measure, taken for both the boycotters and the nonboycotters. This Deans that both groups viewed the "Sixty Minutes" program that focused solely on corporate image issues rather than anything about the actual product. The fact that the utilitarian function showed the strongest relationship to attitudes and intentions for the nonboycotters, even after exposure to the program, might be taken as further ewidence of the argument that this group's feeling toward Coors is utilitarian-based.

Another factor that should be noted is the results found when co paring the relationship of the functions to the criterion measure for the pretest and posttest nonboycotter group. Exposure to the program resulted in not only an increase in the relation hip of the corporate image function to both product and company attitude, but also strengthened the relationship of the utilitarian function to all three dependent measures. these findings suggest that the "Sixty Minutes" program say have not only affected the corporate image function but also helped to reinforce the utilitarian-based feelings of the nonboycotters towards Coors.

Another interesting finding of this study was the absence of a significant relation hip between the value expressive function and the various criterion measures. As noted earlier, beer would seem to be a value or image-ladened product for college students. However, the results of this study suggest that, at least for the student, that is not the case, as the value expressive function showed no relationship to attitudes or intentions for either group.

Limitation

There are of course several limitations to this study. A major limitation that must be dealt with in future research is the problem of multicollinearity among the expectancy value measures representing the independent variables. Examination of the regression results found in this study show that the amount of explained variance (R2) is generally quite high, while the values of the individual regression coefficients are often low or nonsignificant. This is an indication of a multicollinearity problem that would affect the relationship of the regression coefficients for each function to the dependent measures. This problem should be recognized in future studies as the expectancy value measures used to operationalize the functional indices may often tend to be highly correlated with one another and techniques such as factor analysis ny need to be used to help separate out the various functions. Another problem of this study was the rather small sample size that were used in the pretest and posttest conditions. Only fifteen subjects were assigned to each condition and thus the regression results for the pretest-posttest comparisons could be somewhat unstable.

It should also be noted that the corporate function that was developed for this study is not really a function that is recognized by any of the functional theorists. This function was used on the assumption that boycotters will base their attitudes and intentions on the feelings they have toward the company itself. This motive base is not specifically recognized in any of the functions specified by the functional theorists. More work might be needed to determine whether the corporate image function is a valid construct and whether the measures used here are capable of measuring this function.

These problem s withstanding, this paper does provide some interesting findings regarding the possibility of using expectancy value measures, which are very popular in consumer behavior research, to operationalize functional theory and utilize this approach to studying consumer attitudes.

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