An Examination of the Effects of Context-Induced Mood States on the Evaluation of a &Quot;Feel-Good&Quot; Product: the Moderating Role of Product Type and the Consistency Effects Model

John Hadjimarcou, Kent State University
Lawrence J. Marks, Kent State University
ABSTRACT - This study examines the effects of context-induced mood states on evaluation, cognitions of favorable and unfavorable attribute information, and purchase intentions of a "feel-good" product. The consistency effects model is used to predict and interpret incongruency effects of negative mood states on product evaluations, cognitions, and purchase intentions taking into account the moderating role of product type. Findings indicate that the integration of product type (i.e., a "feel-good" product) and the consistency effects model can adequately account for the majority of the effects observed in the study. Implications for advertising strategy are discussed and further research suggestions are offered.
[ to cite ]:
John Hadjimarcou and Lawrence J. Marks (1994) ,"An Examination of the Effects of Context-Induced Mood States on the Evaluation of a &Quot;Feel-Good&Quot; Product: the Moderating Role of Product Type and the Consistency Effects Model", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21, eds. Chris T. Allen and Deborah Roedder John, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 509-513.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21, 1994      Pages 509-513


John Hadjimarcou, Kent State University

Lawrence J. Marks, Kent State University


This study examines the effects of context-induced mood states on evaluation, cognitions of favorable and unfavorable attribute information, and purchase intentions of a "feel-good" product. The consistency effects model is used to predict and interpret incongruency effects of negative mood states on product evaluations, cognitions, and purchase intentions taking into account the moderating role of product type. Findings indicate that the integration of product type (i.e., a "feel-good" product) and the consistency effects model can adequately account for the majority of the effects observed in the study. Implications for advertising strategy are discussed and further research suggestions are offered.


The literature in social psychology and in marketing has assembled a plethora of findings suggesting strong evidence for the existence of mood effects on various aspects of behavior (e.g., Isen 1970), cognition (e.g., Isen et al. 1978; Bower 1981; Bower, Gilligan, and Monteiro 1981), and judgments of familiar and unfamiliar stimuli (e.g., Isen et al. 1978; Johnson and Tversky 1983). In general, people in positive moods have strong tendencies to provide positive evaluations and act in positive ways while people in negative moods tend to do the reverse (Clark and Isen 1982). While the findings for positive moods are rather robust, negative moods effects have been less predictable (Isen 1984; Gardner 1985). In some cases, negative mood states result in negative evaluations and actions (the congruency effect) and in other cases they have positive results (an "incongruency" effect). Although advertisers keep mood contexts in mind when developing their advertising strategies and media planning (Goldberg and Gorn 1987), a limited understanding of incongruency effects may lead to the use of inappropriate advertising strategies with costly implications. Thus, greater understanding of such effects is warranted by researchers and practitioners.

Research in social psychology provides several plausible arguments that attempt to reconcile the "incongruency" effects evoked by negative mood states, especially with regard to altruistic behavior (e.g., Cialdini, Darby, and Vincent 1973; Carlson and Miller 1987). In a marketing context, Kamins, Marks and Skinner (1991) drew on this research to explain the positive effects of negative moods by using a "consistency effects model." They found that consistency between a mood state (either positive or negative) and the affective tone of a stimulus (advertisement) can lead to favorable evaluations, higher purchase intentions, and better recall of favorable information. Additionally, Gardner and Scott (1990) proposed using product type as a moderator of mood effects. Gardner (1992) found that for some products (mood-ameliorating products) negative mood states may lead to more favorable brand evaluations than do positive mood states.

The purpose of the present study is to combine the moderating effect of product type with the consistency effects model to more fully explain incongruency effects. Specifically, we will examine the case where inconsistency between mood and stimuli produces favorable product evaluations as predicted by the moderating role of product type (i.e., a "feel-good" product). Additionally, we will show that the "consistency effects model" accurately predicts cognitions and purchase intentions of a "feel-good" product. The paper begins with a review of the literature and the conceptual foundations of our study. Following the development of the hypotheses, we describe the study methods, processes, and analysis of the data. Finally, we report the results and briefly discuss implications for future research.


There is considerable evidence suggesting that mood states influence judgments, behavior, and recall of information in a mood congruent direction. In particular, using mood congruency theory, researchers agree that subjects processing information in a positive mood state rate ambiguous stimuli as more pleasant (Isen and Shalker 1982), concentrate on positive rather than negative self-relevant information (Mischel, Ebbesen, and Zeiss 1973), and reward themselves more generously (Mischel, Coates, and Raskoff 1968) than those in either a neutral or negative mood state. Further, Bower, Gilligan and Monteiro (1981) examined the impact of mood on cognitions and concluded that subjects were more likely to recall information congruent with their mood at encoding.

In a marketing context, studies have found that subjects processing information in a positive mood are more likely to provide more positive brand attitudes (e.g., Isen et al. 1978; Batra and Stayman 1990). Positive mood states have also been linked to higher levels of persuasion, especially with regard to advertising claims (Batra and Stayman 1990). Similarly, Goldberg and Gorn (1987) reported that viewers who watched commercials during a happy television program were more likely to provide positive cognitive responses and perceive the commercials as more effective than those who watched the commercials in the context of a sad program.

While the congruent effects of positive moods have been substantiated in literature, the influences of negative mood states have been less predictable (Clark and Isen 1982; Isen 1984; Gardner 1985). For example, some researchers have found that being in a negative mood state increases one's antisocial behavior (Moore, Underwood and Rosenhan 1973). At the same time, others have reported that some negative feelings increase prosocial behavior (see Clark and Isen 1982 for an excellent review of the various findings).

In contrast with the predictions of congruency theory, Srull (1983) found a mood "incongruency" effect while investigating the amount of positive and negative information recalled from negative and positive ads. Subjects in a negative mood recalled positive ad information better while subjects in a positive mood had better recall of negative ads. As mentioned earlier, Kamins, Marks, and Skinner (1991) reported incongruency effects with regard to evaluations, cognitions and purchase intentions. Similarly, Gardner (1992) observed mood incongruency effects upon the evaluation of a "mood-ameliorating" product. The latter two studies are examined in greater detail later in this section.

In summary, past research focusing on mood states and consumer behavior has reinforced the notion that consumer product evaluations and recall of ad and/or product related information are significantly affected by the consumer's subjective mood. In many cases, mood congruency theory accurately predicts the impact of positive mood states upon salient consumer behavior variables. However, there appears to be inadequate attention given to the conflicting effects of negative mood states on consumer behavior variables.

The incongruency effects associated with negative mood states have been investigated extensively in social psychology, especially in the context of altruistic behavior. For example, Cialdini, Kenrick, and Baumann (1981) advance the idea that individuals in a sad mood strive to inhibit this mood by engaging in mood elevating behavior. One way to achieve this is to engage in altruistic behavior because interest in the welfare of others tends to relieve the feeling of sadness (Cialdini et al. 1987). Similarly, Thompson, Cowan, and Rosenhan (1980) argue that people who feel sad because of the misfortunes of others may increase their helping of others as a means of alleviating their own negative feelings.

In marketing, two general perspectives have been advanced to address this phenomenon. First, Kamins, Marks, and Skinner (1991) employed social psychology research to develop and test the "consistency effects model." According to this conceptualization, a directional congruity (consistency) between the mood experienced by an individual and the affective tone of the stimulus will lead to favorable effects even if both are negative. In fact, the authors found that when sad (as well as happy) mood states are matched by an advertisement's affective tone subjects provide more favorable attitudes toward the ad, fewer unfavorable cognitions and higher intentions to use the advertised service than when the affective tones of the mood and the stimulus were incongruent. However, this model alone did not account for the fact that some stimuli, even though directionally inconsistent in affective tone with an individual's subjective mood, may still lead to favorable evaluations. Second, Gardner and Scott (1990) proposed "product type" (i.e., "feel- good" product, "feel-bad" product, "try-not-to-feel" products, and "no-feel" products) as a moderating influence on the relationship between mood and product evaluations and use. Using this notion, Gardner (1992) found that, for some "feel-good" products (i.e., those which consumers associate with good experience and which they may use to alleviate a bad mood), brand attitude is more favorable for subjects in negative moods than in positive moods. It may be possible that the combination of product type with the consistency effects model may be able to account for cases where inconsistency between mood and stimuli produces positive results.


Given the previous discussion on the moderating role of product type on mood effects, we developed the following hypothesis:

H1: Subjects in a negative context-induced mood will provide more favorable global attitudes and global evaluations of a "feel-good" product than will subjects in a positive context-induced mood.

The "consistency effects model" suggests that the consistency between the mood induced and the stimulus' affective tone will result in more favorable cognitions, and higher purchase intentions. Thus, considering the happy or positive affective tone associated with a "feel-good" product, we hypothesize:

H2: Subjects in a positive context-induced mood who are exposed to a "feel-good" product will recall more favorable attribute information and less unfavorable attribute information than those in a negative context-induced mood.

H3: Subjects in a positive context-induced mood who are exposed to a "feel-good" product will provide higher purchase intention for the product than those in a negative context-induced mood.


The Product

Gardner and Scott (1990) define "feel-good" products as those associated with positive usage experiences which "may be used to alleviate negative moods or to accentuate positive ones" (p. 586). They suggest examples of "feel-good" products and/or activities include cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, television viewing, and eating cookies. Gardner (1992) used an advertisement for cookies as a "feel-good" product.

In this study, an advertisement for a digital audio tape (DAT) player was used. Such products are often associated with happy music and so happy mood states (cf. Clark and Isen 1982). Indeed, a survey of 18 students from the same population as the experimental study revealed that "listening to happy music" and "going out to drink" were the two most common mood elevating activities performed when they were upset or depressed.

Design and Procedure

Subjects were 77 undergraduate students enrolled in marketing courses at a major midwestern university. All subjects were asked to participate in the study on a voluntary basis and received extra credit in their class for their participation. The subjects were told that they would be participating in two separate studies because of time constraints and the need to collect the data before the end of the semester.

Similar to Batra and Stayman (1990)and Gardner (1992) the experiment was conducted using two separate research assistants in an attempt to mask the connection between the two studies. In addition, the two separate survey instruments were printed on different colored paper using two different font formats. Later informal debriefing of the subjects revealed that the participants actually saw no connection between the two studies.

As mentioned above, the experiment involved two phases. The first phase involved the manipulation of context induced-mood states. This was coined as the "empathy" study. During this stage, the subjects were randomly assigned to one of two experimental groups. After completing an informed consent form, thirty-four subjects were asked to read a "happy" story, whereas thirty-three subjects were asked to read a "sad" story.

Both stories were selected from a total of 12 stories pretested at an earlier time using 115 subjects similar to the ones participating in this study. All stories were generated from actual stories found in popular magazines. After reading the stories, pretest subjects were asked to respond to Peterson and Sauber's (1983) MSF (Mood Short Form) scale developed to assess an individual's mood state. The two stories ultimately chosen for the current experiment were those eliciting the most happy and sad mood states in our pretest subjects. In particular, the happy story described how a middle-aged doctor saved the life of his long-lost early childhood friend who had leukemia, without either of the two gentlemen initially realizing their early childhood ties. The story becomes extremely happy when both eventually get to know each other again. The story designed to elicit a sad mood dealt with a pregnant woman's battle with cancer. She ultimately gives birth to a healthy baby boy, despite the massive chemotherapy treatments she receives during her pregnancy. Soon after the birth she also finds out that her cancer is in full remission. Unfortunately, both her husband and baby boy are later involved in a deadly automobile accident.

After reading the story, the subjects were asked to record their feelings and thoughts regarding the story. As in Gardner (1992), this was done to accentuate the story's impact on the subjects' mood states. They were then asked to respond to the MSF scale along with other independent measures to be explained in detail later in this section.

The second phase of the experiment was conducted immediately following the completion of the "empathy" study. Another researcher asked the participants to complete a second informed consent form and briefly explained the purpose of the study. During this phase the subjects were first asked to read information about a new digital audio tape player (code named DAT-111) soon to be introduced in the market. Specifically, the subjects were instructed to "... imagine that you are actually in the market to buy the DAT player ... try to get an idea of what it would be like and of its quality ... try to form as clear an impression of the product as you can. Later, we will be asking you to evaluate the DAT player and its features, and also whether you would purchase it..." The information consisted of five distinct sentences describing favorable attributes about the product (e.g., it comes with many accessories), five sentences describing neutral attributes (e.g., pushing on the door ejects the tape), and five sentences describing unfavorable attribute information (e.g., average sound quality of 4.2 on a scale of 1 to 10). The attribute information was arranged in random order and presented in a format similar to that found in Consumer Reports.

All 15 attributes were derived from a total of 22 attributes pretested at an earlier time. More specifically, 105 undergraduate students from the same population in which the main study was conducted were asked to evaluate all 22 attributes in terms of their favorableness on a seven-point Likert-type scale (1-Very unfavorable to 7-Very favorable), and importance in a purchase decision (1-very unimportant to 7-very important). Based on these results, the attribute information was placed into three distinct groups; i.e., from most favorable to neutral and least favorable. In addition, information was chosen that was considered more or less equally important to the subject population. This was done to avoid biasing for or against any discrete attribute information. In other words, we wanted each piece of attribute information to be given approximately equal chance of being chosen regardless of mood state. As such, a total of three groups of attribute information, each consisting of 5 pieces of equally important information were selected. Consequently, the product could not be clearly evaluated as either positive or negative, but was otherwise regarded as ambiguous in terms of its overall appeal. This also implies that the ad was strictly "informational" or fact-based.

In order to ensure that the evaluations and cognitions did not simply reflect information in short-term working memory, a distractor task was introduced prior to administering the dependent measures. The subjects were simply asked to "... list the classes they were currently enrolled in as well as those they had last semester." Immediately following the distractor task, the participants completed global attitude and global evaluation scales, and were asked to recall and list as much of the attribute information as they could remember. They were then asked to report their purchase intentions. Both phases of the experiment took a total of approximately 25 minutes to complete.


Mood. To assess the success of the manipulation, mood states were measured using Peterson and Sauber's (1983) four-item scale. Subjects were asked to indicate their feelings on the following five-point Likert-type scales (1-Strongly agree to 5-Strongly disagree): "At this moment I feel edgy or irritable," "For some reason, I am not very comfortable right now," "As I answer these questions, I feel very cheerful," and "Currently I am in a good mood." Consistent with the pretest results, subjects who read the story designed to induce a happy mood were significantly happier (average=2.27) than those who read the sad story (average=3.56, p<.001). The Cronbach's alpha coefficient of reliability for this four component measure of mood was .83.

Global Attitude and Global Evaluation. Global attitude toward the DAT was measured as an average of four seven-point bi-polar items (bad-good, unpleasant-pleasant, unagreeable-agreeable, unsatisfactory-satisfactory; alpha=.91). The items used are similar to Marks and Kamins (1988). In addition, the respondents were asked to evaluate the DAT on one seven-point dependent measure (extremely low appeal-extremely high appeal) representing global evaluation of the DAT.

Free Recall. Subjects were asked to reproduce the product attribute information as completely and accurately as possible. Responses were rated by two judges who were blind to the experimental hypotheses. Judges' ratings ranged from 0 (no recall) to 2 (perfect recall) for each of the five positive, neutral, and negative attributes listed in the ad. The two judges agreed on 94 percent of the ratings; disagreements were resolved by a third judge. The mean number of positive and negative attributes recalled was used in the analysis.

Purchase Intentions. Purchase intentions were measured as an average of two five-point Likert-type scales (Definitely will buy -definitely will not buy; definitely like to have-definitely not like to have; alpha=.73; Jamieson and Bass 1989).


The results were analyzed using independent t-tests to make comparisons between the two experimental groups; i.e., between the subjects in the positive mood condition and the subjects in the negative mood condition. Findings provide support for H1: global attitude toward the DAT (a "feel-good" product) was significantly more favorable for subjects in the negative mood condition (average=3.83) than those in the positive mood condition (average=3.17; p<.004). Similarly, relative to subjects in a positive mood those in a negative mood provided a more favorable global evaluation of the product (2.79 vs. 3.44; p<.005).

Findings lend partial support for H2. Specifically, subjects in a positive context-induced mood recalled significantly more positive (favorable) information (average=4.42) than those in a negative context-induced mood (average=2.94, p<.004). However, both groups recalled about the same amount of negative (unfavorable) information (6.48 vs. 6.50, p>.97).

As predicted by Hypothesis 3, subjects in a positive mood provided higher purchase intentions (average=3.91) than subjects in a negative mood (average 3.53, p<.05).


This study integrates the consistency effects model and product type to explain the incongruency effects sometimes evident in the evaluation of affect-laden stimuli (e.g., "feel-good" products) by subjects in negative mood states. Considered together, the results of the present study indicate that while evaluations of a product with positive connotations are more favorable when subjects are in a negative mood at the time of stimulus exposure, recall of favorable information and purchase intentions are higher when subjects are in a positive mood at exposure time.

Why should the subjects in a negative mood have more positive attitudes and global evaluations than those in a positive mood? These results are explained by the mood management perspective advanced by Gardner and Scott (1990). This perspective suggests that the overriding goal of people while in a negative mood is to use any means possible to elevate their mood. Thus, regardless of task, the current negative mood state amplifies the desirability of a future positive mood state (cf. Axelrod 1963). One way to reach a positive mood goal is to use a "feel-good" product and thoughts about how such products will enhance moods may lead to "overevaluations" of the favorableness of the product (Gardner and Scott 1990). In comparison, the maintenance of positive mood by those already experiencing one is not as urgent or overriding. As such, their evaluations will be less strongly influenced by their mood.

Given the positive affective tone of a "feel-good" product, the findings are generally in line with the consistency effects model. To further explicate, we have shown that the consistency between the product's positive affective tone and the subjects' positive mood state resulted in better recall of favorable information and higher purchase intentions. Nonetheless, one would normally expect cognitions and purchase intentions to be consistent with attitudes and global evaluations. There is a simple explanation for the apparent asymmetry hypothesized and observed in this study. Isen (1989) advances the view that memory structures for positive and negative mood states may be different. Specifically, the structure associated with positive mood is "relatively broad and extensive," whereas that associated with negative mood "may be smaller, narrower, less well interconnected with other material, and more specific to the particular state induced or even the way in which it was induced" (Isen 1989, p.103). Thus, positive mood states facilitate the encoding and retrieval of congruent information, whereas negative moods may constrain such memory tasks for either congruent or incongruent information. Consequently, subjects in a positive mood state are expected to recall more congruent information (i.e., favorable information). Further, if we correctly assume that subjects in a positive mood state are likely to recall more favorable information, then purchase intentions, which immediately followed the free recall task, should reflect the differences in recall between positive and negative mood subjects. Indeed, the results indicate that those subjects providing better recall of favorable information also gave higher purchase intentions for the product under scrutiny. However, recall of unfavorable information was found to be equal regardless of mood valence. While this finding cannot be readily explained by the theoretical underpinnings examined and/or developed in this study, it can be attributed, in part, to the exact nature of the negative/ unfavorable attribute information included in the ad. Despite our intentions to make all attribute information similar in importance, the subjects in the main study may have found the negative information as more relevant or important. This, in turn, may have lead to the higher recall scores witnessed in this experiment. It remains for further research to assess whether the consistency effects model holds in the case when the subjects are in a negative mood and the product has negative connotations.

Several limitations may compromise the generalizability of the present findings. First, the use of two specific stories to induce the desired mood states does not imply that other contexts, or even other stories, can evoke similar moods. Therefore, evidence across studies using different contexts to manipulate mood should provide results that are either consistent or inconsistent with the findings of this study. Similarly, different kinds of positive and negative moods should be employed to test the prescribed hypotheses. Also, all "feel-good" products may not lead to similar results. Thus, additional research may be necessary to examine the effects of various product types as well as other products that fall within the "feel-good" category. Such research may give us new insights concerning the degree to which product type influences evaluations. Finally, the study did not involve the manipulation of the affective tone of the ad. Past research indicates that the ad's affective tone may interact with context-induced mood to influence salient dependent measures (Gardner 1992). It would be useful to include such manipulations in future research.

The findings of the study have interesting implications for advertising strategy and media planning. Specifically, the results suggest that it is important for advertisers to consider not only the type of mood consumers may be in when they view an ad or a product, but the product type as well. Also, in testing ads, it is worthwhile to note that a single advertising exposure may lead to more favorable product evaluations but not to higher purchase intentions due to the interaction of mood and product type. Additionally, the results indicate that advertising for "feel-good" products may lead to more favorable product evaluations if they are placed in a negative mood-inducing context. This provides additional evidence that advertisers need not be unduly concerned about placing advertising in negative mood inducing situations.


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