Ecological Information Receptivity of Hispanic and Anglo Americans

Linda L. Golden, University of Texas at Austin
Judy K. Frels, University of Texas at Austin
Vern C. Vincent, University of Texas-Pan American
Gilberto de los Santos, University of Texas-Pan American
[ to cite ]:
Linda L. Golden, Judy K. Frels, Vern C. Vincent, and Gilberto de los Santos (1996) ,"Ecological Information Receptivity of Hispanic and Anglo Americans", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23, eds. Kim P. Corfman and John G. Lynch Jr., Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 189-195.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23, 1996      Pages 189-195


Linda L. Golden, University of Texas at Austin

Judy K. Frels, University of Texas at Austin

Vern C. Vincent, University of Texas-Pan American

Gilberto de los Santos, University of Texas-Pan American

As the enactment of NAFTA increases trade across the United States and Mexico border, the dissemination of ecological information to consumers in this area will increase in importance. The purpose of this study is to explore receptivity to information between Hispanic and Anglo Americans in the context of dissonance theory and selective exposure to information. It explores the following questions: What factors influence receptivity to ecological information, and are there differences between Hispanic and Anglo Americans on these factors? Dissonance theory suggests that those individuals who currently exhibit ecologically-conscious attitudes and behaviors will be most receptive to ecological information.

No previous research was identified that investigated differences in information receptivity between Hispanic and Anglo Americans. However, there has been recently a considerable amount of attention directed toward the study of Hispanic consumer behavior which is summarized below.


Over the last decade a great deal of research has investigated different aspects of consumer behavior for various subcultures in the United States, including Hispanics. The need for research on Hispanic markets specifically is often discussed in conjunction with figures which state that in the near future Hispanics will overtake African Americans as the largest minority group in the United States (Exeter 1987). In addition, the need for additional research on Hispanics is supported by surveys of various industry groups, such as packaged goods manufacturers (Albonetti and Dominguez 1989). Clearly, the Hispanic subculture in the United States has been identified as an important group of individuals with respect to the dollar impact of their consumption behavior.

The published research conducted thus far on Hispanic consumers has focused on three broad areas: levels of cultural assimilation of Hispanics living in the United States, segmentation of the Hispanic market, and comparison of Hispanic and Anglo consumer behaviors, with many studies combining two of these areas.

Cultural Assimilation Studies

Studies of cultural assimilation or acculturation have typically focused on changes in the behavior patterns of Hispanics in areas such as language, food, dress, information search, and consumption patterns. The Hispanic acculturation research has suggested that Hispanics' consumption patterns cannot be viewed as a simple median between their culture of origin and the dominant culture in the United States. Instead, it is proposed that these patterns represent a unique combination of elements from the culture of origin and ideas about the dominant culture which may be outdated by several years (Wallendorf and Reilly 1983; Penaloza 1994). Other studies have presented contrary findings, suggesting that Hispanics' consumption patterns fall on a continuum between the two cultures, depending on the level of acculturation of the sample (Faber, O'Guinn, and McCarty 1987).

Webster (1992) found that level of cultural identification can significantly influence the types of information search undertaken. High-Hispanic identifiers, or those Hispanics who more frequently use the Spanish language, are more influenced by radio advertisements, billboards, family members, coworkers, coupons and point-of-purchase displays, while Hispanics who more frequently use English are more influenced by magazine advertisements, brochure advertisements, Yellow Pages, sources such as Consumer Reports, window shopping, and product labels (Webster 1992). Donthu and Cherian (1994) found that High-Hispanic identifiers are more likely to seek Hispanic vendors, to be loyal to brands used by family and friends, and to be influenced by targeted media than Low-Hispanic identifiers. However, High-Hispanic identifiers are also less concerned about economic value (Donthu and Cherian 1994).

Use of Spanish-language media has been studied and found to be more frequently used by strong rather than weak Hispanic identifiers (Deshpande, Hoyer, and Donthu 1986). The preference for Spanish-language media over more mainstream media was also given as a reason for lower coupon usage among strong Hispanic identifiers (Donthu and Cherian 1992). O'Guinn and Meyer (1983) found that very real and significant differences exist between those Hispanics who prefer Spanish-language radio and those who do not. Those who prefer Spanish-language radio are more likely to be older, married, less educated, and speak Spanish at home. In addition, they tend to spend more on records and soft drinks than do Hispanics who do not prefer Spanish-language radio.


A related but smaller stream of research has focused on strategies for reaching the Hispanic market more efficiently through segmentation. Segal and Sosa (1983) gave an overview of the characteristics of the Hispanic ethnic group, its buying behaviors, and its media preferences. This information was then used to make suggestions for developing a strategy for segmenting the Hispanic market. O'Guinn and Meyer (1984) suggested that the Hispanic market can be segmented based on the language preferred when listening to the radio.


A third stream of research has focused on uncovering specific consumer behavior differences between Hispanic and Anglo consumers. There have been conflicting results regarding brand loyalty and coupon usage. Some studies found Hispanics to be more brand loyal than Anglo Americans (Deshpande, Hoyer, and Donthu 1986; Donthu and Cherian 1992) and less prone to use coupons (Donthu and Cherian 1992). Other studies found no differences (Saegert, Hoover, and Hilger 1985; Wilkes and Valencia 1986; Mulhern and Williams 1994). Kaufman and Hernandez (1990) suggested that lower coupon usage among Hispanics may be due to lack of support for coupons throughout the channel in Hispanic markets.

One study found no difference in price responsiveness between Hispanic and Anglo Americans (Mulhern and Williams 1994), although another found cost or availability of credit to be a major discriminating variable between Anglos and high and low acculturation Hispanics (Faber, O'Guinn, and McCarty, 1987). Hispanic and Anglo Americans have not been shown to differ in their purchase of generic products (Wilkes and Valencia 1985, 1986), but Hispanics do appear to be more likely than Anglos to buy the brand that their parents bought, prestigious brands, and brands advertised to their ethnic groups (Hoyer and Deshpande, 1982). In much of this research, income factors were controlled.

Research also suggests that because of family structure factors such as size, age, and language, Hispanics tend to spend more on consumer items and food, have different product needs, spend more on high status items, have higher brand loyalty, and use coupons less frequently (Alaniz and Gilly 1986). In addition, Webster (1994) found a positive relationship between husband dominance in the purchase decision and Hispanic ethnic identification: Wives from more acculturated couples have more equality in decision making but have not supplanted their husbands as the primary decision maker.

Significant differences have been found between the value orientations of Anglo and Hispanic Americans, but no statistically significant differences were found among various Hispanic subcultures (Valencia 1989). Compared to Anglos, Hispanics value imagination, independence, a comfortable life, pleasure, cheerfulness, politeness, and self-control more than Anglos (Valencia 1989); however, the methodology of this research has been questioned (Wood and Howell 1991).

In sum, the literature does suggest that there are distinct differences between Hispanic and Anglo American consumers. However, the nature of those differences appears to vary by domain. Since our research focuses on the ecological area, we next review that literature.


Since at least 1971 (Kassarjian) numerous studies have investigated ecological attitudes and/or behaviors. Many studies were published in the 1970s (e.g., Henion 1972; Mazis, Settle, and Leslie 1973; Kinnear and Taylor 1973; Kinnear, Taylor, and Ahmed 1974; Webster 1975; Fisk 1975; Maloney, Ward, and Braucht 1975; Brooker 1976; Reizenstein and Barnaby 1976; Murphy 1976; Henion and Wilson 1976; Belch 1979; Antil and Bennett 1979; Murphy, Laczniak, and Robinson 1979). Research activity subsided during the 1980s, as relatively few studies were conducted (e.g., Durand and Ferguson 1982; Robin 1984; DeYoung 1986; Gill, Crosby, and Taylor 1988; Balderjahn 1988; DeYoung 1989). In the 1990s, however, research on ecological attitudes and behaviors resumed more prominently (e.g., Newhouse 1990; Diamond and Loewy 1991; Kangun, Grove, and Kilbourne 1991; Kangun, Carlson, and Grove 1991; Granzin and Olsen 1991; Ellen, Wiener, and Cobb-Walgren 1991; Dickerson, Thibodeau, Aronson and Miller 1992; Alwitt and Berger 1993; Iyer and Banerjee 1993; Howenstine 1993; McCarty and Shrum 1993; Hackett 1993; Shamdasani, Chon-Lin, and Richmond 1993; Jackson, Olsen, Granzin, and Burns 1993; Banerjee and McKeage 1994; Joy and Auchinachie 1994).

A small percentage of ecological research has looked at cross-cultural or subcultural considerations. Several of these studies have focused on differences in ecological responsiveness between Anglos and African Americans (Murphy, Kangun, and Locander 1978; Caron 1989; Cornwell and Schwepker 1992) with even fewer investigating Hispanic ecological behavior (Noe and Snow 1990; Howenstine 1993).

In a study employing the "New Environmental Paradigm" (NEP) scale, Noe and Snow (1990) found that Hispanics sampled from national park visitors held a more pro-NEP (i.e., pro-environmental) attitude than did Hispanics from the general population. When Hispanics and Anglos were compared, attitudes of Hispanics who were park visitors were more similar to Anglos (park visitors and general population) than to Hispanics who did not use the park.

In a study of recycling behavior and obstacles to recycling, Howenstine (1993) found that Anglo Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanic Americans differ in their recycling behavior. Hispanics have the lowest reported incidence of recycling, yet unlike other ethnic groups, the reasons Hispanics give for not recycling do not differ significantly from non-Hispanics who do not recycle.

While the research is currently limited, there are empirical indications that Hispanics and Anglos do differ in their ecological orientations and behaviors. How this translates regarding ecological information receptivity has not been previously researched, but cognitive dissonance theory and selective exposure do give guidance on general predictions of influences on ecological information receptivity.


Cognitive dissonance, one of several cognitive consistency theories, is defined as an inconsistency between two or more cognitions held by a person (Festinger 1957). Cognitions can include such things as knowledge, opinions, or beliefs about oneself, about one's behavior, or about issues such as ecology. Dissonance theory states that people seek to reduce dissonance by eliminating or reducing these inconsistencies through two methods: 1) avoiding information that contradicts existing attitudes, choices, or behaviors, and 2) seeking out information supportive of existing attitudes, behaviors, and choices (Festinger 1957; Tan 1981).

Selective exposure to information is one of the main derivations of this theory of cognitive consistency. It states that the search for information on a topic does not stop after a decision has been made or an attitude has been formed, but continues as the person weighs the advantages and disadvantages of the various alternatives. The most general case states that people will be more receptive to information which is consistent with their decisions, beliefs, and attitudes and will avoid information which is dissonant (Frey 1986).

Thus, people who engage in a particular behavior or who hold positive attitudes about a topic will be more receptive to information that supports those attitudes and behaviors. This can be measured as one's receptivity to information. In addition, selective exposure also suggests that receptivity will also be biased by certain factors activated in the decision-making or attitude formation process, such as freedom of choice in developing the decision or the belief, the level of dissonance, the level of commitment to the cognition, and the reversibility of the decision (Frey 1986; Festinger 1964).

Since its introduction in 1957 (Festinger), the popularized conceptualization of dissonance theory has narrowed greatly, and it is now often framed as a post-decision phenomenon, with the consumer seeking to alleviate discomfort after a decision (particularly a purchase) about which uncertainty exists. While this study relies more on the original, more encompassing definition of dissonance theory, it is still consistent with those versions of the theory which state that a decision must be made for dissonance to occur. In the case of ecologically-conscious behaviors, consumers are faced several times each day with the decision whether or not to behave in an ecologically-conscious manner. Shopping for groceries, disposing of household garbage, and consuming scarce resources (such as water when showering [Dickerson, Thibodeau, Aronson, and Miller 1992] or energy when driving to work) all involve a decision to behave ecologically or not. These decisions, while easily revisable when next confronted, are all capable of creating dissonance within the consumer.


Dissonance theory and the derived concept of selective exposure to information suggest that receptivity to information will be a function of ecological attitudes and prior behaviors such that consumers whose attitudes, intentions and behaviors are more ecologically-oriented will have higher receptivity to future ecological information. This leads to the following hypotheses.

H1: Receptivity to ecological information will be significantly influenced by ecological concern such that consumers with the highest ecological concern will have the highest receptivity to ecological information.

H2: Receptivity to ecological information will be significantly influenced by ecological self-perceptions such that consumers with the highest ecological self-perceptions will be the most receptive to ecological information.

H3: Receptivity to ecological information will be significantly influenced by the responses to ecologically-friendly packaging such that consumers with the highest intentions to purchase products with ecologically-friendly packaging will be most receptive to ecological information.

H4: Receptivity to ecological information will be significantly influenced by prior ecological buying behaviors such that consumers who are most ecologically-oriented in their buying behaviors will be the most receptive to ecological information.

H5: Receptivity to ecological information will be significantly influenced by prior recycling behaviors such that consumers who recycle the most frequently will be the most receptive to ecological information.

In addition, as previously discussed, prior research on Hispanic and Anglo consumers has shown both differences and similarities between the groups depending on the phenomenon being studied. In this research we are testing the following null hypothesis for Hispanic and Anglo consumers:

H0: There will be no difference between Hispanic and Anglo consumers with respect to the influences on receptivity to ecological information.


A self-administered questionnaire was developed after an extensive review of the literature. Schwepker and Cornwell's (1991) work provided items for ecological packaging response measurement and several other attitudinal questions. Other studies provided inspiration for questions on ecological concern (Ellen, Wiener, and Cobb-Walgren 1991) and recycling behavior indices (Jackson, Olsen, Granzin, and Burns 1993). In sum, six ecological indices were included in the instrument, each incorporating multiple measures (see Table 1 for final indices).

After initial construction, the questionnaire was submitted to a focus group of six regional environmental experts, four from the United States and two from Mexico, for critique concerning content, relevancy, wording, and any possible misinformation. Members of the focus group represented five different environmental groups or agencies, as well as county and city officials. Focus group suggestions were incorporated into the development of the questionnaire prior to pre-testing which resulted in minor changes.

The questionnaire was constructed in both Spanish and English. In constructing the Spanish version of the questionnaire, the questionnaire was translated into Spanish by one translator and "back-translated" into English by a second translator. Any ambiguities were reconciled by a third translator. Both the English and Spanish versions of the questionnaire were pre-tested twice with the different subcultural groups. More than two hundred respondents participated in the pre-testing procedure.


Two hundred Mexican Americans and two hundred Anglo Americans completed the consumer environmental behavior survey during a two-week period in the spring of 1994 in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. Local Mexican American residents were surveyed randomly during their visit to the largest shopping mall in the area, with every Mexican American surveyed having the option of responding to an English or Spanish version of the questionnaire. The two hundred "winter Texans," predominantly retired Anglo Americans from mid-eastern states, were contacted in the shopping mall and in recreational vehicle and mobile home (RV/MH) parks to insure an adequate sample size, as the shopping mall consumers in the area are heavily Hispanic. The number of refusals to participate was slightly less than three percent, but two percent of the final surveys were discarded due to lack of sufficient information for processing.


The ecological indices were refined using exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis. The final ecological attitude, intention, and behavioral indices resulting from those analyses are listed in Table 1, which provides a complete description of the questions comprising the six ecological indices. All factor loadings were +.56 or greater, and the confirmatory factor analysis' goodness of fit measures met current standards for acceptable fit (c2/df=1.88, LISREL's Goodness of Fit Index=.92 and Adjusted Goodness of Fit=.88 [J÷reskog and S÷rbom 1988]).

Relationships between Receptivity to Information and the Ecological Indices

Separate regression analyses were run for each group with the Receptivity to Information Index (RII) as the dependent variable and the other ecological indices as independent variables. As shown in Table 2, the adjusted R2 value for Anglo Americans is .25 and for Mexican Americans is .39. A statistically significant amount of the variance in RII is explained by the other attitudinal and behavioral ecological indices.



The Ecological Concern Index (ECI) is significantly associated with information receptivity for both Anglo and Mexican Americans (Table 2). Hypothesis 1 predicted that there will be a statistically significant relationship between receptivity to information (RII) and ecological concern (ECI) such that persons with the highest ecological concern will be most receptive to ecological information. Thus, this hypothesis is supported for both Anglo and Mexican Americans.

The Ecological Self-Perception Index (ESPI) is not significantly associated with information receptivity for either Anglo or Mexican Americans; thus hypothesis 2, predicting a statistically significant relationship is not supported for either subcultural group. Hypothesis 3 predicted that there will be a statistically significant relationship between receptivity to information and ecological packaging response (EPRI) such that persons most responsive to ecological packaging will have the highest receptivity to information. This hypothesis is supported for Mexican Americans but not for Anglo Americans. Likewise, hypothesis 4 which predicted a statistically significant relationship between receptivity to information and ecological buying behavior (EBBI) is only supported for Mexican Americans. Since recycling behavior is not significantly associated with receptivity to information, hypothesis 5 is not supported for either group.

The null hypothesis, Ho, stated that there would be no difference between the two groups on the factors that influence their receptivity to information. The null hypothesis is not supported, as different variables statistically influence information receptivity for Mexican and Anglo Americans. As mentioned above, only ECI is statistically significant for both groups. No other ecological index is statistically associated with receptivity to information for Anglo Americans, but the Mexican American receptivity to information is statistically associated with ECI, EPRI, and EBBI.

Differences Between Subcultural Groups on Ecological Indices

It is interesting to note the differences between subcultural groups with respect to their receptivity to information and scores on the ecological indices. ANOVA results and ScheffT tests for each index between subcultural groups are shown in Table 3. All indices were composed of three questions and, hence, had a maximum possible mean score of 21 except for EPRI which was composed of four questions and had a maximum score of 28.

Mexican Americans and Anglo Americans do not differ significantly from each other on their information receptivity (RII), ecological concern (ECI), or ecological buying behavior (EBBI), but do differ in terms of their ecological self-perceptions (ESPI), ecological packaging response (EPRI), and recycling behaviors (RBI). The Anglo Americans are more ecologically-oriented in their response to packaging, perceive themselves as being significantly more ecologically-oriented, and report higher levels of recycling behavior than do the Mexican Americans. Not only are different scales influential in terms of receptivity to information between Anglo and Mexican Americans, but the two groups exhibit differences in their ecological orientations via self-perceptions and behavior.






The conclusions that can be drawn from this research are restricted to the sample characteristics and methodology used. Neither of the samples can be considered a cross-section of their respective subcultures. Nonetheless, relevant insights into differences between Anglo and Mexican Americans can be obtained from this research.

The results suggest that the stronger the ecological concern, the higher the receptivity to information for both Mexican and Anglo Americans. This supports dissonance theory and selection exposure perspectives. However, receptivity to ecological information is more complicated than this, as the influences upon ecological receptivity do appear to vary by ethnic group.

More of the ecological attitudes and behaviors examined in this research are associated with information receptivity for Mexican Americans than for Anglo Americans, and these attitudes and behaviors explain much more of the variance for Mexican Americans. For Anglo Americans, ecological concern (ECI) is the only significant predictor for information receptivity. Behavior and other attitudes are not related. Conversely, for Mexican Americans, a complex of attitudes, intentions, and behaviors are important influences on information receptivity: ecological concern (ECI), ecological packaging response (EPRI), and ecological buying behavior (EBBI). The results point out that the receptivity to information of Anglo Americans and Mexican Americans is not influenced by the same factors. Neither group's information receptivity is influenced by prior recycling behavior or ecological self-perception, according to this study.

The relationships between the independent and dependent variables could also be driven by involvement theory. Involvement theory would suggest that the more personally relevant an issue is to a person, the more attention a person will give to information on that issue (Celsi and Olson 1988). Therefore, the more one is involved with ecological issues, either situationally or enduringly, the more likely one is to give attention to ecological information.

Another aspect of selective exposure to information suggests that people may choose to be exposed to dissonant information when they believe that they may have the chance to revise their decision in the near future or when future similar decisions are anticipated (Frey 1986). Buying behavior, particularly for non-durables, is a decision that is "revisable" at the next time of purchase, and in most cases, future similar decisions are anticipated. Receptivity to information of Mexican Americans, who exhibit lower ecological buying behavior than Anglo Americans, is influenced by previous ecological buying behavior. This may be relevant for the practical use of increasing ecological buying practices in the future.

Recycling behavior suggests a similar situation. As described above, when a behavior is to be repeated and hence can be modified, receptivity to dissonance-creating information may increase if that information can be used to alter behavior. Therefore, one might expect recycling behavior to be negatively related to information receptivity: those who do not recycle now may wish to know more, while those who already recycle may not need to know more. In fact, this may be the situation for Mexican Americans, who have a low mean for recycling but for whom the recycling behavior index had a negative influence (p<.10) on receptivity to information.

Marketers who wish to position their products as ecologically beneficial will reach the most receptive Anglo American audience by targeting those Anglo Americans who already exhibit ecological concern. Other than the ecological concern index, no other index was associated with the receptivity of Anglo Americans. However, for Mexican Americans, ecological buying behavior and ecological packaging response was associated with receptivity to information, suggesting that the Mexican American audience can also be reached via information on product labels, ecologically-friendly packaging, and ecologically-conscious practices on the part of the firm.


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