The Influence of Environmental Factors on Consumer Behavior: a Decade Later

Richard F. Yalch, University of Washington
[ to cite ]:
Richard F. Yalch (1993) ,"The Influence of Environmental Factors on Consumer Behavior: a Decade Later", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, eds. Leigh McAlister and Michael L. Rothschild, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 630.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, 1993      Page 630


Richard F. Yalch, University of Washington

In their 1982 Journal of Retailing paper, Donovan and Rossiter suggested that consumer behavior in a retail store was primarily an emotional response to the factors making up the retail environment. Using a Stimulus-Organism-Response (S-O-R) paradigm, they adapted measures developed by Albert Mehrabian and James Russell (1974) to model the relationship between environmental factors and consumer behavior. This session acknowledged the importance of their effort and summarized continuing efforts to validate their approach.

In the session's first paper, Donovan, Rossiter and Nesdale reviewed Donovan and Rossiter's seminal piece and discussed a follow-up study. In it, urban shoppers in Australia stated the amount of time and money they intended to spend prior to entering two discount variety stores. After several minutes in the store, shoppers completed the Mehrabian-Russell emotional response scales (Pleasure and Arousal only). On leaving the store, interviewers intercepted shoppers for a third time and asked about their purchases. The interviewers also recorded shopping times.

The results were that both unplanned spending (the difference between intended and reported spending) and extra shopping time (the difference between intended and observed shopping times) were related to the reported level of pleasure while shopping. Consistent with the 1982 study, "arousal" was not related to extra time, but approached significance for unplanned spending. An insignificant interaction between arousal and pleasure was attributed to few shoppers considering the stores to be unpleasant environments.

In the session's second paper, Ruth Belk Smith and Elaine Sherman also presented a follow-up to a previously published paper based on Donovan and Rossiter's methodology (Sherman and Smith 1987). Their study analyzed nine hundred exit interviews in two cities. The questionnaire included mood (PAD) measures, store image measures, and self-reported shopping behavior.

Statistical analysis using LISREL revealed a good fit of the data. There was a significant positive influence of store image on mood. Also, moods positively influenced the behavioral response variables. With mood as an intervening variable, the influence of store image on outcomes was positive and highly significant.

Together, these two studies show that store image can influence a buyer's mood. Further, this atmosphere-induced mood may enhance affiliate behavior within the store; e.g., spending more time and money than planned. Whereas cognitive factors may largely account for store selection and planned purchases, emotional reactions to a store's environment may encourage spending extra time shopping and motivate unplanned purchases. Discussant T. J. Olney urged continued in-store research with revised measures to consider the effect of the dominance-submissive dimension.


Donovan, Robert J. and John R. Rossiter (1982), "Store Atmosphere: An Environmental Psychology Approach," Journal of Retailing, 58 (Spring), 34-57.

Mehrabian, Albert and James Russell, (1974), An Approach to Environmental Psychology, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Sherman, Elaine and Smith, Ruth Belk (1987), "Mood States of Shoppers and Store Image: Promising Interactions and Possible Behavioral Effects, in Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 14, eds. M. Wallendorf and J. Anderson, Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research. 251-254.