The Processing of Emotional and Cognitive Aspects of Product Usage in Satisfaction Judgments

Laurette Dube, Universite de Montreal
Bernd H. Schmitt, Columbia University
ABSTRACT - Consumer satisfaction is the unique construct in marketing that links consumer pre-consumption attitudes to post-consumption attitudes. Although both emotional and cognitive information may emerge from product usage, previous research has treated consumer satisfaction primarily as a cognitive process: consumers are posited to compare pre-consumption expectancies with product performances, and, as a result, derive affect from the outcome of satisfaction judgments. In the present session we propose that, in addition to cognition, a full account of post-consumption attitudes requires that we consider differentiated emotions emerging from the consumption experience as well as affective responses to the product as a whole and to its components. The session also addresses theoretical and methodological issues related to the structure and to the process involved in the influence of affect on satisfaction judgments. This paper summarizes the session by providing a brief overview of the structural and processing assumptions underlying consumer satisfaction, and by presenting abstracts of the four papers and the two discussants' comments.
[ to cite ]:
Laurette Dube and Bernd H. Schmitt (1991) ,"The Processing of Emotional and Cognitive Aspects of Product Usage in Satisfaction Judgments", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18, eds. Rebecca H. Holman and Michael R. Solomon, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 52-56.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18, 1991      Pages 52-56

THE PROCESSING OF EMOTIONAL AND COGNITIVE ASPECTS OF PRODUCT USAGE IN SATISFACTION JUDGMENTS

Laurette Dube, Universite de Montreal

Bernd H. Schmitt, Columbia University

ABSTRACT -

Consumer satisfaction is the unique construct in marketing that links consumer pre-consumption attitudes to post-consumption attitudes. Although both emotional and cognitive information may emerge from product usage, previous research has treated consumer satisfaction primarily as a cognitive process: consumers are posited to compare pre-consumption expectancies with product performances, and, as a result, derive affect from the outcome of satisfaction judgments. In the present session we propose that, in addition to cognition, a full account of post-consumption attitudes requires that we consider differentiated emotions emerging from the consumption experience as well as affective responses to the product as a whole and to its components. The session also addresses theoretical and methodological issues related to the structure and to the process involved in the influence of affect on satisfaction judgments. This paper summarizes the session by providing a brief overview of the structural and processing assumptions underlying consumer satisfaction, and by presenting abstracts of the four papers and the two discussants' comments.

How do consumers decide whether they are satisfied or dissatisfied with a product or service? According to most models, satisfaction judgments are affective outcomes of an elaborate cognitive process in which consumers compare the actual performance of a product to some internal standard. Approaches differ with respects to the nature of the internal standard and the comparison rules. Early views (e.g., the expectancy disconfirmation model, Oliver 1977; 1980) were based on multi-attribute models of attitude formation and presented internal standards as beliefs related to the probability of occurrence of a bundle of attributes. Later research provided empirical evidence for other cognitive standards (e.g., best-brand norms) and for product performance beyond the effect of expectation-discrepancy (Cadotte, Woodruff and Jenkins 1987; Tse and Wilton 1988; Woodruff, Cadotte and Jenkins 1983). Only recently have researchers recognized the need to go beyond the cognitive component to provide empirical evidence for the role of emotions and feelings in the formation of satisfaction judgments (e.g., Dube-Rioux 1989; Westbrook 1987).

Westbrook (1980; 1987) was the first to demonstrate the value of affective and emotional responses in predicting consumer satisfaction. His findings from a field study (Westbrook 1987) suggested that consumers' reports of their affective states may be complementary to measuring the cognitive evaluation of a product in predicting their satisfaction. Abelson et al. (1982), reporting a study on the formation of political preferences, also suggested that affective reports may be more accurate and a more direct assessment of satisfaction than cognitive evaluations because affective responses are less filtered than cognitive evaluations.

Progress has thus been made by introducing affective and emotional responses in the conceptualization of consumer satisfaction. However, a detailed specification of the psychological processes involved in satisfaction judgments is still lacking. Most current models view satisfaction as a multi-stage process in which all pieces of information (expectations and performances with respects to cognitive evaluations, differentiated emotional experiences, and general affect) are combined additively. Even in the most recent views, cognitions and emotions are still hypothesized to combine with a primary affect generated by the goodness or badness of the product experience. This mental operation follows a continuous, monotonic, and linear combination of discrepancies between actual performances and past expectations, to provide the summary judgment operationally defined as satisfaction I dissatisfaction judgments. The predicted outcomes range from positive (obtained outcomes exceed expectations), to neutral (obtained outcomes exactly meet expectations), to negative (obtained outcomes fall short of expectations).

As suggested by Oliver (1989), we may need to envision more diversified types of processes in order to correctly depict the range of response states in which consumers are as they make satisfaction judgments. Although compensatory models have a good predictive validity and report a significant and robust relationship across products, situations, and methodological contexts (LaBarbera and Mazurski 1983), compensatory models may nonetheless adequately predict the outcome of non-compensatory processes (Johnson and Meyer 1984). The ability of these models to predict the outcome of satisfaction judgments at the aggregate level may be completely independent of their ability to describe the psychological processes involved in a consumer's mind. How, then, do consumers go about judging how satisfied or dissatisfied they are? It is suggested, in this session, that viewing satisfaction judgments as a categorization process may provide a more accurate description of the process involved than static, compensatory models.

Categorization is a fundamental cognitive activity involving a comparison between a target and some declarative knowledge (Mervis and Rosch 1981; Rosch and Mervis 1975). In essence, declarative knowledge stored in memory constitutes expectations which impose structure on incoming information. Memory structures are abstract cognitive representations of organized prior knowledge, derived from experience with specific instances (Brewer and Nakamura 1984; Rumelhart 1984). As expectations about product categories develop over time, the associations among related components are strengthened through experience until the entire structure can be activated in an all-or-none fashion and shift from a controlled to an automatic process (Schneider and Shiffrin 1977; Shiffrin and Dumais 1981; Shiffrin and Schneider 1977).

Though initially developed for object perception and concept identification, categorization models have recently been applied to domains such as beliefs, emotion, concepts of the self, and concepts of psychological situations (for a review see Higgins and Bargh 1987). Moreover, Barsalou (1983; 1985) has shown that in the course of engaging in goal-directed behavior, people often create specialized ad hoc categories. For example, -the goal of losing weight can create the category of "food not to eat on a diet." This view may be particularly relevant to consumer behavior, because it suggests that categories do not have to be fully developed in order to be useful for judgments.

To extend this perspective to consumer satisfaction, one could argue for the operation of schematic memories of emotional and affective responses. Isen and Diamond (1989) have suggested that if the development of automaticity of affect or emotions was possible at all, it had to occur with very common, well-learned basic complexes of stimuli, or anticipated effects, responses, and outcomes. This seems to characterize most consumption experiences, at least for frequently purchased goods and services. The-next question then becomes whether all emotional or affective responses emerging from product consumption are amenable to categorical processing?

The processing of low-intensity, neutral cases of satisfaction judgments seems to be accurately depicted by the schema-triggered affect models (Fiske 1982; Fiske and Pavelchak 1986), which is increasingly being used in other areas of consumer research (e.g., Sujan 1985; Sujan, Bettman and Sujan 1986). This model posits that as cognitive categories (in our case product categories) develop, affective tags are simultaneously encoded and automatically released each time an instance is recognized as descriptively consistent with a category. Affect is conceived simply as a certain state of readiness or as an affective predisposition toward the product; it does not carry any emotional intensity. In fact, consumers may be unable to report their true feelings for neutral satisfaction judgments, except for a valuation of familiarity (Mandler 1982). Therefore many consumption experiences may not involve satisfaction judgments at all but fall in a zone of indifference, as suggested a few years ago by Woodruff et al. (1983). Positive or negative affective responses occur only when perceived performances fall outside this zone.

What happens when more intense positive or negative feelings or emotions are experienced during the consumption of a new product or a new brand, or when expectations are violated? Recent evidence suggests that even intense affective responses may require less attention as they are experienced on a regular basis. For example, Wilson et al. (1989) has argued that emotional responses can be seen as theory-driven judgments because they are determined both by people's affective expectations and information about the stimulus itself. Moreover, it has been shown that affective responses to a stimulus can be automatically formed (Zajonc 1980) or may become automatically accessible (Fazio 1986).

In sum, the categorization approach to satisfaction suggests that consumers may devote attention to their responses to commercial goods or services only under some circumstance. First, more elaborate processing of both cognitive and affective reactions is likely when a product is descriptively inconsistent with the cognitive standard of the expected category, or when it triggers no existing category. Second, bottom-up processing of affective responses also may happen when positive or negative feelings generated during a consumption experience are strong enough to attract attention. Finally, consumers may proceed to elaborate affective judgments when they are motivated to do so by the importance they attach to a product category, or to specific consumption experiences.

When we talk about the development of affective categories, the intriguing question arises whether even intense affective states can become automatic? Could it be that repeated exposure to more intense emotional responses to consumption experiences lose their "attention-getting" quality? The two-factor theory introduced by Berlyne (Berlyne 1970) and extensively used in research on advertising suggests that increasing exposures initially produces a reduction in arousal due to uncertainty and conflict and thus increases liking, but, eventually, tedium and disliking.

In the present session, the first two papers by Westbrook and-by Oliver illustrate the need to specify in detail the nature of affective and emotional experiences involved in product consumption and the precise role they play in satisfaction judgments. Westbrook applies a taxonomic scheme of emotions (DeRivera 1977) to a field study designed to disentangle the roles played in satisfaction judgments by valence alone (positive-negative overall affect) and by specific emotional experiences emerging during product consumption (e.g., anger, joy, pride, etc.). Based on a study of course instruction, Oliver demonstrates the value of the assessment of the affective response specifically associated with product attributes as well as the mediation role of causal attributions made with respect to these affective responses.

In the third paper, Dube suggests that affective and emotional responses to consumption experiences can be amenable to a categorization process. Consumers are viewed as affective misers as they assess their affective or emotional responses to products that they consume regularly. The results of an experimental study show that when consumer learn to do these assessments, they develop permanent differentiated affective categories that can be later used as standards for faster satisfaction judgments. In addition, the author shows that when consumers report judgments that fall within the neutral zone previously defined, consumers may search for the absence of positively or negatively defining attributes, rather than compare expectations with product performances.

The final paper by Anand and Batra shows that affective responses, compared to cognitive responses, are less sensitive to the effect of repetition. The study was conducted in an advertising context, but raises conceptual and methodological issues with respect to the extension of this work to the domain of consumer satisfaction. For example, one could suggest that satisfaction based on the emotional experience of a product, when compared to cognitive appraisal, should be more enduring.

ABSTRACT - S

 

EMOTIONAL RESPONSE, INVOLVEMENT, AND SATISFACTION

Robert A. Westbrook, Rice University

Both positive and negative dimensions of affective responses to products and their associated consumption experiences have been shown to play an important role in consumers' judgments of satisfaction (Westbrook 1983, 1987). It is unclear, however, whether these relationships are attributable to valence alone, or the specific experiential basis of the emotional response (e.g., anger, pride, guilt, joy, etc.) as well. The origin of such affective response is not yet well understood, and whether they differ (if at all) from the notion of consumer involvement (Laurent and Kapferer 1985) is open to question. A limitation of previous work is the use of emotional measurement approach which focuses on basic or primary categories of emotional experience, instead of the full theoretical range of potential emotional experiences. Accordingly, this paper extends the literature by introducing the taxonomic scheme of DeRivera (1977) to research on consumption-based emotion, and empirically identifies new categories of differentiated emotional experiences within both positive and negative affective dimensions. These new emotional substrates are found to be substantially related to consumers' judgments of satisfaction. Moreover, they may be distinguished from, although also related to, the level of enduring consumer involvement with the product. Implications for future research on consumer satisfaction and emotions are discussed.

 

COGNITIVE, AFFECTIVE, AND ATTRIBUTE BASES OF USAGE / POSTPURCHASE RESPONSES

Richard L. Oliver, Vanderbilt University

Based on recent work on the antecedents of postpurchase responses, an attempt to extend current thinking to include attribute satisfaction and dissatisfaction as separate determinants not fully reflected in either cognitive (i.e., expectancy disconfirmation) or affective paradigms is performed. In a study on satisfaction with course instruction, respondents provided the nature of emotional experiences, expectancy disconfirmation perceptions, and separate attribute satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Analysis confirmed the existence of potentially independent dimensions of positive and negative affect previously revealed by Westbrook (1987) and also suggested an additional negative affect dimension. It was also found that attribute satisfaction and dissatisfaction contributed to the variance explained in overall satisfaction beyond that of affect as did the expectancy disconfirmation variables. Extension of the analysis to intention showed that satisfaction, the expectancy disconfirmation variables, and mixed affect influences were evident. It is suggested that all dimensions tested are needed for a full accounting of postpurchase responses in usage.

 

INFORMATION PROCESSING OF SATISFACTION JUDGMENTS: ARE CONSUMERS AFFECTIVE MISERS?

Laurette Dube, Universite de Montreal

Consumer satisfaction has been conceptualized as the affective summary of emotional and cognitive information emerging from the consumption of goods and services. Can we realistically assume, as previous research has done, that consumers make an elaborate and conscious judgment every time they use a product? Building on recent development in the domains of social cognition and emotions, we conducted correlational and experimental studies that showed that consumers act as affective misers as they perform (or do not perform) satisfaction judgments. The results suggest that consumers consciously process emotional and cognitive aspects of product usage only when they experience strong positive or affective responses. When consumers report neutral experiences, they may search for the absence of positively or negatively defining attributes, rather than compare expectations with product performances. Furthermore, when consumers experience positively or negatively valenced products on a repeated basis, they learn to do satisfaction judgments efficiently by developing differentiated affective categories.

The theoretical view we develop suggests that valenced information gets encoded in memory, and is juxtaposed to descriptive representations. With the development of affective categories, the processing strategy used in satisfaction judgments switches from a piecemeal processing of emotional and cognitive characteristics of consumption experiences to an increasingly automatic categorization process. This change in processing strategy is reflected in the amount of attention devoted to satisfaction judgments, and on the recall and recognition of specific consumption experiences.

We will report a study in which we empirically demonstrated the existence of affective categories in consumers' minds and experimentally tested how the development of these affective categories influences the information processing strategy used in performing satisfaction judgments. After having induced affective (valenced: positive and negative; and neutral) expectations for three different brands of restaurants, we observed facilitating effects of these expectations on subsequent satisfaction judgments for the valenced cases. As we predicted, no facilitation effects were found for the neutral cases. We discuss implication for research on the information processing of satisfaction judgments and of consumers' affective responses in general.

 

THE ROLE OF REPETITION AND MOOD IN THE PROCESSING OF PREFERENCE JUDGMENTS

Punam Anand, Columbia University

Rajeev Batra, University of Michigan

In this paper, we will discuss the effect of repetition on cognitive and affective responses. We will report a study from the field of advertising to address theoretical and methodological issues related to the relationship between cognitive and affective responses and discuss implications of the study to satisfaction judgments. A study was designed to test the effect of repeated exposure to a stimulus on mood and affective judgments. We examined differences on the way affect and emotions are experienced after repeated exposures to two advertising executions, hard vs. soft-sell. Our findings support the notion that repetition effects on judgment occur not only because of the pattern of cognitive responses, as is typically assumed, but also because of the emotions evoked by the advertisement's executional style. Our results indicate that affective responses for products presented in soft-sell appeals may wearout more slowly than affective responses for product presented in hard-sell appeals. These effects occur because (1) positive mood evoked by soft-sell appeals does not wearout as fast as the mood evoked by hard-sell appeals, and (2) positive moods acts as a cue to retrieve positive cognitive responses. Extension of the present work to research on consumer satisfaction will be discussed.

DISCUSSANTS COMMENTS

Bernd Schmitt, alluding in his discussion to both current movie titles and to Thomas Kuhn's work on paradigm shifts and scientific revolutions, stressed that none of presenters engaged in minor puzzle solving within the dominant expectancy-disconfirmation paradigm, which has dominated research on consumer satisfaction in the eighties and, like all paradigms, seems to "die hard." Instead, Westbrook and Oliver were characterized as "exorcists" who identified the shortcomings and limitations of the paradigm and convincingly argued for the inclusion of affect and emotions as important determinants of satisfaction judgments. Moreover, the "good fellas" Dube, Anand and Batra were seen as introducing new concepts and methods from neighboring disciplines, which may change the way consumer satisfaction will be conceptualized in future research. Schmitt further argued that affect may be a stronger determinant of satisfaction for services and experiences than consumer goods. In terms of practical implications, he suggested that managers identify which product features or service components are linked to which emotional experience in order to increase consumer satisfaction. Alice M. Isen, in a brief comment, welcomed the inclusion of affect and emotions in models of consumer satisfaction; she warned consumer researchers, however, not to repeat a mistake that had been committed in the psychological literature by measuring affective and emotional responses solely with verbal measures rather than seeking multiple measurements which should include behavioral responses.

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