Conceptualizing and Operationalizing Affect, Reason, and Involvement in Persuasion: the Ari Model and the Casc Scale

Ross Buck, University of Connecticut
Arjun Chaudhuri, Fairfield University
Mats Georgson, University of Connecticut
Srinivas Kowta, University of Connecticut
ABSTRACT - Two of the traditional problems in studying emotion in persuasion research have been (1) how to conceptualize emotion and its relationship with the "cold" cognitive processing typically associated with reason and (2) how to operationalize emotion. This paper addresses these issues in a fundamentally new way. The ARI Model (Affect-Reason-Involvement Model) defines and describes the relationships between affect, reason, and involvement; arguing that both affective and rational involvement are important in persuasion. These involve syncretic and analytic cognition, respectively associated with right and left hemisphere processing. The CASC Scale (Communication via Syncretic and Analytic Cognition Scale is a developing instrument designed to operationalize affective and rational responses to advertising and to commercial products. It is based upon a new conceptualization of the affects that recognizes reptilian, individualistic-limbic, prosocial-limbic, social, cognitive, and moral emotions.
[ to cite ]:
Ross Buck, Arjun Chaudhuri, Mats Georgson, and Srinivas Kowta (1995) ,"Conceptualizing and Operationalizing Affect, Reason, and Involvement in Persuasion: the Ari Model and the Casc Scale", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, eds. Frank R. Kardes and Mita Sujan, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 440-447.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, 1995      Pages 440-447


Ross Buck, University of Connecticut

Arjun Chaudhuri, Fairfield University

Mats Georgson, University of Connecticut

Srinivas Kowta, University of Connecticut


Two of the traditional problems in studying emotion in persuasion research have been (1) how to conceptualize emotion and its relationship with the "cold" cognitive processing typically associated with reason and (2) how to operationalize emotion. This paper addresses these issues in a fundamentally new way. The ARI Model (Affect-Reason-Involvement Model) defines and describes the relationships between affect, reason, and involvement; arguing that both affective and rational involvement are important in persuasion. These involve syncretic and analytic cognition, respectively associated with right and left hemisphere processing. The CASC Scale (Communication via Syncretic and Analytic Cognition Scale is a developing instrument designed to operationalize affective and rational responses to advertising and to commercial products. It is based upon a new conceptualization of the affects that recognizes reptilian, individualistic-limbic, prosocial-limbic, social, cognitive, and moral emotions.


This paper presents a new conceptualization of emotion and reason and their relationships with involvement, and a new scale designed to capture both analytic rational knowledge and the many varieties of emotional knowledge.

Affect and Persuasion.

Emotion is a "hot topic" in the social and behavioral sciences, due in part to new capabilities to observe and measure emotional phenomena. It is now possible to capture subtle nuances of expressive behavior using inexpensive videotape technology, and we have powerful new methods of observing and manipulating biological phenomena associated with emotionCfrom brain scans, to new methods of following the course of neurochemical systems within the brain, to new psychoactive drugs such as Prozac.

The primacy of emotion vs. cognition. The question of the "primacy" of affect and reason in persuasion was the focus of the debate between Robert Zajonc (1980;1984) and Richard Lazarus (1982;1984). Zajonc argued that emotion could occur prior to, and independently of, cognition; while Lazarus replied that cognition was necessary for emotion. The issue arguably represented a difference in how the protagonists defined "cognition:" as involving direct acquaintance (knowledge by acquaintance or syncretic cognition) as opposed to information processing (knowledge by description or analytic cognition. See Buck, 1990; Buck & Chaudhuri, in press; Chaudhuri & Buck, in press; Tucker, 1981). The controversy was resolved by new evidence from LeDoux and his colleagues demonstrating conclusively that emotion-related structures in the limbic system receive early and independent input about events (LeDoux, 1986). Lazarus (1991) has acknowledged that LeDoux's findings and the distinction between analytic and syncretic knowledge effectively demonstrates that raw affect indeed constitutes a kind of knowledge that can precede, and indeed contribute to, analytic knowledge.

The distinction between analytic and syncretic cognition in analogous in some respects to distinctions between systematic and heuristic processing (Chaiken 1980) and between central vs. peripheral routes to persuasion (Petty & Cacioppo 1986). It also relates to differences in how print and electronic media are processed. It is generally accepted that electronic media are more "emotional" than print, and indeed Chaudhuri and Buck (in press) showed that televised ads elicit more syncretic processing, and print ads more analytic processing, even after relevant product category and ad strategy variables are controlled.

Affect in political perception. One of the clearest applications of the role of syncretic vs. analytic cognition to persuasion is in the area of politics. The 1960 Presidential debates, in which radio listeners thought Nixon won, while TV viewers thought Kennedy won, are celebrated (or mourned) as a watershed in American politics. Abelson and his colleagues (1982) demonstrated that surveys could predict political preferences better from asking respondents their feelings about candidate than by more "semantically filtered" judgments of candidates' traits. McHugo and his colleagues (1985) showed viewers segments from the 1984 Presidential debates between Walter Mondale and Ronald Reagan. They found using facial EMG that viewing Reagan smiling induced invisible tendencies to smile on the part of viewers, while viewing Reagan frowning induced tendencies to frown. This effect was unrelated to the viewer's prior attitudes toward Reagan. Mondale's expressions did not have this effect on viewers. This ability to induce emotional reactions in viewers may be the basis of Reagan's celebrated "teflon factor" and, more generally, of charisma.

Implications. These findings imply that emotion is central to the persuasion process, particularly in a world increasingly dominated by electronic media. But while much theory and research have been directed to understanding the role of reason, or systematic processing, in the "central route " to persuasion, relatively less attention has been directed to emotion, or its relationship with reason. The conceptualization of affect, reason, and their relationship is the goal of the ARI model, and the measurement of syncretic (affective) and analytic (rational) cognition the goal of the CASC scale.


The nature of affect, reason, and their relationship with one another and with the construct of involvement are the subject matter of the ARI (Affect-Reason-Involvement) model (Buck & Chaudhuri, in press). This section describes the model and summarizes initial empirical studies based upon it.

The relationship of affect and reason. Affect and reason are often considered to be at ends of a continuum, but we consider them to be qualitatively different kinds of systems which interact with one another (Buck, 1985; 1988). Affect is based upon biologically-structured special-purpose processing systems (SPPSs) which are innate, that is, are phylogenetic adaptations. Reason is based upon general-purpose processing systems (GPPSs) which are structured by the organism's experience over the course of individual development: that is, structured during ontogeny. Both affect and reason are held to be "cognition" since both support knowledge. Reason involves analytic cognition which is sequential, analytic, and associated with left cerebral hemisphere functioning in most human beings. Affect is syncretic cognition which is holistic and synthetic and associated with the functioning of the right hemisphere (Tucker, 1981). We define affect formally as the syncretic knowledge-by-acquaintance of feelings and desires.



The relationship between affect and reason is expressed by Figure 1. The continuum at the base of Figure 1 describes the mix of affect and reason, and is termed the affect/reason continuum (A/R Continuum). On the extreme left of the continuum, the influence of affect is total: reason has no influence. As one goes to the right, reason exerts an increasing influence relative to affect, but the influence of affect never falls to zero.

One way to interpret the A/R Continuum is by situations in which the relative influence of affect and reason vary. We assume that affect has a role in all situations, while the influence of reason varies from zero (in situations ruled wholly by passion) to high levels (in situations where "mindful" systematic analysis is paramount). However, even in the latter, highly mindful situation, affect retains influence: thus the relative influence of affect never falls to zero. Another way the A/R continuum can be interpreted is as a developmental scale, with the newborn at the left functioning virtually wholly according to innate affective control systems, with the influence of reason increasing with age. The A/R continuum also can reflect the brain structures that support affect and reason: the phylogenetically older subcortical and limbic system structures supporting affect are always functioning in all situations, and are present in simple creatures; while the phylogenetically newer neocortical structures supporting increasingly complex analytic-rational controls may or may not be activated depending upon situational demands, and they evolved gradually to reach their greatest volume relative to the older structures in the mammals and, particularly, human beings.

The A/R Continuum in consumer research. Both advertisements and products can be placed on the A/R continuum, reflecting the ratio of affect to reason in the appeal used by the advertisement, or in the possession and use of that product (Chaudhuri & Buck, 1993). Thus, an affectively loaded advertisement or product has a high A/R ration, while an ad or product to be dealt with "mindfully" has a low A/R ratio. The A/R ratio of 30 common products is given in Table 1 (Chaudhuri, 1992). It was operationalized by asking 104 raters to evaluate each product on two three-item scales derived from "pleasure" and "risk" scales of the Revised Personal Involvement Inventory (McQuarrie & Munson, 1987). In a second study Chaudhuri (1993) assessed the A/R ratio of 76 common products by single-item scales asking 216 undergraduate subjects about the amount of pleasure that can be derived from the product (affect), and the degree to which brands of the product can be differentiated (reason). Both studies showed that products such as candy and snack foods have high A/R ratios, automobiles and airline services are relatively balanced in A/R scores, and appliances and laundry products have low A/R ratios.

Level of Involvement (LI). We define involvement following Batra and Ray (1983) as the "depth and quality of cognitive response" (p. 309), but we suggest that both affective and rational involvement are possible, involving the depth and quality of syncretic and analytic cognitive responding, respectively (Chaudhuri & Buck, 1993). Given this definition, we suggest that the Level of Involvement (LI) can be defined simply as the average of affective and rational involvement: that is, LI=(A+R)/2. The appropriate figures for involvement are given in Table 1. Studies are continuing to assess the reliability and validity of the ARI model and the stability of the A/R and LI measures (Georgson, 1993; Kowta, 1993).



The ARI solid. The ARI Solid is a 3D figure bounded on one side by a low-high LI dimension and on the other by the A/R continuum (See Figure 2). The relative influence of affect and reason at any point on the A/R continuum is represented by an ARI Slice in which the relative influence of affect and reason remains constant as involvement increases. The specific ARI slice is known by the A/R ratio.

The "floor" of the ARI Solid is a two-dimensional space with an involvement dimension on the Y-axis and the A/R Continuum on the X-axis (See Figure 3, top). The position of an object on this floor is represented by LI and the A/R Ratio. It is similar in some respects to the FCB Grid shown at the bottom of Figure 3, which contrasts high and low involvement with "think" and "feel" categories (Vaughan, 1980; 1986). Indeed, although developed independently the ARI Model could be considered an extension of the basic conceptualization underlying the FCB grid. Unlike the earlier conceptualization, the ARI Model allows us to describe and measure mixtures of affective and rational processing, and to use these same data to measure involvement, vis a vis both advertisements and products.

Evaluation and the ARI Model. The ARI model helps us to conceptualize and measure how objectsCadvertisements and products Care cognitively processed, and the level of involvement as defined by the depth and quality of this processing: it provides a representation of the depth of thought and feeling about an object. However, the ARI Model does not in itself represent evaluation: whether the object is liked or disliked, approached or avoided, loved or loathed. Evaluation may be represented as a dimension perpendicular to the floor of the ARI solid, and measured using standard scales of liking or acceptance. In particular, Cacioppo and Berntson's (1994) application of the approach-avoidance conflict to assess independent positive and negative processes in persuasion can be used to measure evaluation. The position of an objectCad or productCat any point in time may thus be described in three dimensions: LI, A/R Ratio, and evaluation.







Present status. Work on the ARI Model has turned to developing reliable and valid operational measures of A and R: affect and reason, respectively. This is the CASC scale (Chaudhuri & Buck, 1994). Before discussing this scale, we describe our conceptualization of affect in greater detail.


Emotion has usually been thought of as undifferentiated relative to reason, and although different theories have been offered, there seems to be consensus that there are at least two dimensions of emotion: an evaluative good-bad or pleasant-unpleasant dimension and a strong-weak dimension (Schlosberg, 1952; Russell, 1991). More controversial is the notion based upon the theorizing of Silvan Tomkins (1962; 1963) that there are a fixed number of biologically-based "primary affects" associated with universally-recognized facial displays of happiness, sadness, fear, anger, etc. (see the spirited discussion by Ekman [1994] and Izard [1994] versus Russell, 1994). We suggest that both of these views are in fact correct , and that in fact many apparently competing theories of emotion are actually considering different portions of the complex hierarchically-organized emotion systems of the brain (Buck, 1985).

A Typology of Emotion. Specifically, Buck (1988) pointed out that basic approach-avoidance and arousal systems are characteristic of virtually all animate life forms, and are represented in the human brain in brainstem mechanisms. These are the pleasant-unpleasant and strong-weak dimensions. However, more complex emotions have evolved with more complex creatures, and are associated with more recently evolved parts of the brain. Drawing upon P. D. MacLean's (1990) Triune Theory of the brain, Buck (1988) argued that there are Reptilian emotions involving "raw" sex and aggression, Individualistic-Limbic emotions involving self-preservation (anger, fear); and Prosocial-Limbic emotions involving species preservation (attachment). All of the foregoing emotions are biologically-based. Attachment serves as the biological basis of a range of Social Emotions (love, pride, guilt, shame, envy, jealousy, pity, scorn). There are also Cognitive Emotions underlying White's (1959) effectance motives involved in the structuring of the cognitive system (curiosity, surprise, interest, boredom, etc.) and Moral Emotions that reflect both social experience and cognitive functioning (i.e., feelings of distributive and retributive justice).

It is important to note that these emotions are not logically organized; rather, they are biologically organized. Linguistic self-reports are of little use in getting at the fundamental structure of emotion, but that structure is revealed in the organization of the brain (Buck, 1988).

The CASC Scale. Chaudhuri (1993) and Chaudhuri and Buck (1993; Submitted) have found evidence that these different emotions are indeed aroused in advertisements, and began the construction of the Communication via Analytic and Syncretic Cognition (CASC) Scale (Chaudhuri & Buck, 1994). In the process, it was found that it is relatively easy reliably to measure rational (analytic-cognitive) responses to a wide variety of advertisements by a 4 item subscale, and that 4-item reptilian, individualistic, and prosocial subscales hang together well (although fear may load on a factor of its own. See Table 2).

The number of emotions potentially evoked by advertisements is very large, and some advertisements are clearly relevant to some emotions, and not others. Consider two advertisements, each of which shows a photograph of an embrace. A Calvin Klein ad shows a passionate embrace between a man naked from the waist up, and a woman naked from the waist down. In comparison, an AT&T ad shows a warm embrace between a man in a military uniform and a little girl. First, it is clear that we could ask if either made one feel good or bad, and strong or weak; but the value of such general information is questionable. Also, we could ask if the ad aroused feelings of raw sexual power. That would be clearly relevant to the Calvin Klein ad, but ridiculous and, indeed, inappropriate when applied to the other. Only relatively few ads appeal to the raw reptilian emotions of sex and power: Calvin Klein ads and ads for quite a few brands of beer among them. Questions relating to reptilian emotions would only be relevant when the ad in question is appealing to reptilian emotions: the same is true of each of the sorts of emotion mentioned above: Individualistic-Limbic, Prosocial-Limbic, Social, Cognitive, and Moral. For this reason, the developing CASC Scale has one brief Analytic Cognition scale, but a number of different Syncretic Cognition scales: affect turns out to be much more complex and differentiated than reason!


The ARI Model has the potential to serve as an integrative viewpoint which will clarify the role of affect and reason in persuasion. The CASC scale represents a new way to conceptualize and operationalize affect in the context of persuasion research. We submit that the ARI Model and CASC scale can have a significant theoretical and empirical impact upon the field.

More specifically, we see the usefulness of the affective segmenting of the audience: are they hopeful, fearful, angry, sad, complacent? In a highly emotionally-charged issue like the health care debate, the relevant feelings of the audience are critical in determining the persuasive impact of a message: the well-known Harry and Louise ads in particular have been highly effective in frightening the audience, and in undermining hope and trust in the government where health care is concerned.

In addition, it is apparent that emotions themselves can be considered a product. The buyer will pay a premium for the right feelings, and reptilian emotions are particularly powerful in this regard. For example, macho feelings might be associated with a Humvee vehicle, or feelings of women's liberation with Virginia Slim cigarettes. Entertainment programming is successful if it elicits the right feelings, as is music, literature, and indeed all of the arts. Note that the right feelings are not necessarily positive feelings. Audiences are strongly motivated to experience in moderation "negative" affects as well: witness the popularity of violent programming, horror shows, and "tearjerkers" (Buck, 1988b). The understanding of the nature of the feelings in the audience, and how to effectively elicit feelings, have always been central to the creative process in advertising, but have not usually been the focus of advertising research.

Our conception is quite unlike traditional cognitive models of persuasion. However, it is compatible with the new evidence of the importance of emotion in persuasion, and may serve to aid in its conceptualization and measurement in advertising research.


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