Special Session Summary Cognitive Appraisals, Consumer Emotions, and Consumer Response

Anand Kumar, Vanderbilt University
Richard L. Oliver, Vanderbilt University
[ to cite ]:
Anand Kumar and Richard L. Oliver (1997) ,"Special Session Summary Cognitive Appraisals, Consumer Emotions, and Consumer Response", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 24, eds. Merrie Brucks and Deborah J. MacInnis, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 17-18.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 24, 1997      Pages 17-18



Anand Kumar, Vanderbilt University

Richard L. Oliver, Vanderbilt University

In the past few years marketing practitioners have increasingly turned their attention to understanding consumer emotions. These practitioners believe that the best way to gain customer loyalty is to ensure that customers have an "emotional" experience with products or services. However, there is a big gap in management’s understanding of what constitutes an emotional experience for a consumer. This issue, until recently, was a black box to academic scholars as well. The situation is now changing with the growing acceptance by cognitive psychologists of an appraisal theory of emotions. This theory has been widely tested recently and so far has stood up well to empirical analysis. The theory proposes that emotions are formed as a result of a process of appraisals of what an event/stimulus can do for one’s well-being. Further, the pattern of evaluations made by an individual on a small set of appraisals determines what emotions are felt by the person. Cognitive psychologists are now trying to understand the appraisals associated with different emotions, and also the antecedents of these appraisals.

Current appraisal theory of emotion has potential for application in different areas of consumer behavior research. Research based on this theory can help us understand what appraisals would constitute a particular "emotional experience" for consumers. This has implications for design of service environments, product features, etc. Yet, in spite of its potential wide ranging application to consumer behavior research, there has been very little work in marketing based on appraisal theory. This session tried to stimulate consumer researchers’ interest in applying recent advances in appraisal theory and in the study of emotions to improve our understanding of consumer emotions. The session included a theoretical presentation, which introduced the appraisal approach to studying emotions and its relationship to current postpurchase response frmeworks, and two presentations which showed the application of appraisal theory in two different consumer behavior contexts.

The first presentation by Craig A. Smith and Richard L. Oliver consisted of two parts. In the first part, Smith provided a theoretical overview of the appraisal approach to emotion. This approach posits that one’s emotional state is a product of how one appraises, or evaluates, the implications of one’s circumstances for personal well-being. Different evaluations are hypothesized to result in the experience of different emotions. For instance, fear results from appraisals of danger or threat, sadness from the appraisal of an irreparable harm or loss, anger from blaming someone else for an undesirable situation, and so on. A specific model detailing both the key issues, or questions, evaluated in appraisal, and the specific appraisal outcomes, or cognitions, that were associated with specific emotions (e.g., anger) was described. At a global level, the two main appraisal issues that are addressed are-"What’s at stake?" and "What resources and options do I have to cope with what’s happening?" Empirical evidence supporting the model was reviewed, and the conceptual relations between the appraisals associated with specific emotions and the adaptational functions proposed to be served by those emotions were also discussed. It was emphasized that the appraisal approach also enabled researchers to make inferences about the kind of cognitions or evaluations made by consumers based on a knowledge of their emotional experience.

In the second part, Oliver discussed appraisal theory in the context of current frameworks of postpurchase response. Beginning with the expectancy disconfirmation model, he suggested how disconfirmation may be evocative of various consumption- specific appraisals consistent with those in appraisal theory. Using an approach similar to that of Ortony, Clore, and Collins (1988), disconfirmation was viewed as priming an appraisal structure consisting of three branches, namely the favorable outcome sequence, the unfavorable outcome sequence, and the surprising outcome sequence. Each sequence was further evaluated in terms of whether the outcome was yet to happen, has happened, or has not yet happened and is unlikely to do so. The specific emotions resulting from these appraisal sequences were shown to describe the affective content of the satisfaction response as currently interpreted and as reported in Oliver (1997).

The second paper, by Baggozi and Gopinath, showed the results of three studies designed to test the effects of particular combinations of appraisals in service settings upon discrete emotions and coping responses. The studies used a framework built on Roseman’s (1991) structural theory of the determination of emotions by cognitive appraisals, which was similar in form and content to that proposed by Lazarus (1991), Smith and Ellsworth (1985, 1987), and others.

Study 1 was a 2 (low/high motive inconsistency) x 2 (low/high power) x 3 (agency: self, other, circumstances) experiment. Subjects (N=200) read a brief scenario about a protagonist (self) experiencing a breakdown with the transmission in their car and subsequent encounter with a repair person. The appraisals were manipulated so as to produce one or more of nine emotions (e.g., disgust, frustration, anger) and one or more of twenty action tendencies or coping responses (e.g., want to seek comfort or advice). High and low motive inconsistency were manipulated by the cost to the consumer ($360 vs. $36). High and low power were manipulated by giving the person relevant foreknowledge or not with respect to actions taken. Agency was manipulated by having the self, another person, or an accident produce the failure.

The expected three-way interaction was found, but only for the self and not the protagonists. Main effects were found for disgust, frustration, anger, dislike, regret, shame, and guilt, but not distress or sadness. Moreover, each emotion was related to action tendencies, according to predictions (e.g.,disgust or boil inside, want to hurt or lash out). Gender differences were foun as well.

Studies 2 and 3 manipulated appraisal conditions in a 2 (motive consistent/inconsistent) x 2 (pleasant/unpleasant) x 3 (agency: self, other, circumstances) design. Study 2 (N=202) was conducted in Kerala, India; Study 3 was conducted in Ann Arbor, Michigan (N=220). The setting in both was decision making with friends in a movie going context. A scenario approach was again used with both a protagonist and the self as the focal person. Motive consistency/inconsistency was manipulated with either a good or bad movie outcome. Pleasantness and unpleasantness were manipulated through different process oriented experiences related to comfort of seats, air conditioning, noise level, ambiance, etc. Agency was manipulated by protagonist (self) convincing others to see a particular movie, a friend convincing all, or the circumstances leading to the choice.

Combinations of appraisals were found to predict intensity of experienced emotions, specific action tendencies and coping responses to the positive and negative emotions. Moreover, based on work done by Frijda et al (1989), action tendencies and emotions were correlated with each other according to theories of coping. Example action tendencies and coping responses were wanting to patronize the theater again, positive or negative word of mouth, complaint behaviors, asking for refund, wanting to lash out, seek comfort, or hide feelings. Gender and cross-cultural differences in the pattern and intensity of emotional experience and in coping were found.

The third paper by Kumar and Olshavsky presented the results of a study which used appraisal theory as the basis for distinguishing between satisfaction and delight. The results of two studies were presented as evidence of the distinction between delight and satisfaction. The first study was done in three phases. In the first phase, subjects defined what they thought was meant by satisfaction and delight in a consumption context. In the second phase, a different set of subjects described recent personal experiences where they felt satisfied or delighted (between subjects design was used in this phase) as consumers. The responses from these two phases were coded by independent judges and then analyzed to identify differences between satisfaction and delight. The results indicated that satisfaction was associated with subjects’ expectations being met, subjects feeling they got "fair" value, and subjects feeling contented, while delight was associated with subjects feeling surprised, their expectations being exceeded, and feelings of elation. In the third phase, subjects were prompted with a long list of phrases and emotion adjectives and asked whether each phrase/emotion was characteristic of consumption situations where they experienced satisfaction or delight. They also had the options of saying that the phrases or emotions were equally characteristic of both satisfaction and delight or neither characteristic of satisfaction or delight. The results indicated that satisfaction and delight clearly differed in many more respects than what was revealed in the first two phases of this study.

In the second study, the authors first identified a set of appraisals which may be relevant in a consumption context. This was done on the basis of a review of the emotions literature and the marketing literature. The literature review identified appraisals that were likely to be made in consumption contexts. Next, an air travel scenario was used to systematically manipulate the appraisal of volition (i.e., extent to which customer perceives firm’s actions as being done volitionally by the firm and not under pressure) and the extent of surprise. A 2 (volition: high/low) x 2 (surprise: high/low) between subjects design was used. Scales were developed and validated to measure other appraisal dimensions that were considered relevant in consumption situations. The emotions of satisfaction and delight were also measured. It was found that, as hypothesized, there were differences in the set of appraisals that predicted the emotions of satisfaction and delight. Specifically, the perceptions of volition was found to be a significant predictor ofdelight and not a significant predictor of satisfaction.

The session ended with Mark Peterson, the session synthesizer, emphasizing the significance of the real world applications of the research presented in the session. Mark encouraged questions from the audience and this led to a lively discussion on appraisal theory and consumer emotions.


Frijda, N.H., Kuipers, P., & ter Schure, E. (1989), "Relations among emotion, appraisal, and emotional action readiness," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 212-228.

Lazarus, R.S. (1991), Emotion and adaptation. New York: Oxford University Press.

Oliver, R.L. (1997), Satisfaction: A Behavioral Perspective on the Consumer, New York: McGraw Hill.

Ortony, A., Clore, G.L., and Collins, A. (1988), The Cognitive Structure of Emotions, Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Roseman, I.J. (1991), "Appraisal determinants of discrete emotions," Cognition and Emotion, 5, 161-200.

Smith, C.A., & Ellsworth, P.C. (1985), "Patterns of cognitive appraisal in emotion," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 813-838.

Smith, C.A., & Ellsworth, P.C. (1987), "Patterns of appraisal and emotion related to taking an exam," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 475-488.