Special Session Summary Understanding Consumers’ Response to Incongruent Product Information: New Research and Insights

Prashant Malaviya, University of Illinois at Chicago
Joan Meyers-Levy, University of Chicago
[ to cite ]:
Prashant Malaviya and Joan Meyers-Levy (1998) ,"Special Session Summary Understanding Consumers’ Response to Incongruent Product Information: New Research and Insights", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, eds. Joseph W. Alba & J. Wesley Hutchinson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 115.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, 1998      Page 115

SPECIAL SESSION SUMMARY

UNDERSTANDING CONSUMERS’ RESPONSE TO INCONGRUENT PRODUCT INFORMATION: NEW RESEARCH AND INSIGHTS

Prashant Malaviya, University of Illinois at Chicago

Joan Meyers-Levy, University of Chicago

A sizable body of consumer research has examined how consumers react to varying degrees of product incongruity (Meyers-Levy, Louie, and Curren 1994; Meyers-Levy and Tybout 1989; Stayman, Alden, and Smith 1992; Peracchio and Tybout 1996). Consumers respond more favorably to goods that possess moderate incongruity than those that are either completely congruent or extremely incongruent with existing product schemas. Presumably this occurs because schema incongruity stimulates elaboration of the incongruent information as consumers try to resolve the incongruity. The resolution of incongruity can enhance product evaluations for several reasons: a positive bias exists in how incongruity is resolved, attitude polarization is prompted, or satisfaction ensues over successful resolution.

While considerable research has demonstrated the beneficial effects of moderate incongruity, the research presented in this session offered additional insights into the theoretical underpinnings of this phenomenon by identifying conditions that may moderate response to incongruent product data. Margaret Campbell and Ronald Goodstein report results which showed that products containing moderate incongruity are judged more favorably only when low risk is associated with the product or the decision task (e.g., product evaluation is requested). When such risk is high (e.g., a product choice is requested), incongruity of any level can undermine evaluations. As the discussant, Alice Tybout, pointed out, future research must disentangle alternate plausible explanations for this finding. For example, it may be that in high risk situations, the focus of people’s processing shifts from resolving incongruity to minimizing risk, in which case evaluations may be unfavorable because people devote inadequate attention to the incongruity, causing it to remain unresolved.

A study by Prashant Malaviya and Joan Meyers-Levy demonstrated how the ad context in which schema incongruent information is presented and the gender of the ad recipient can alter the degree of schema incongruity that a given advertising message is perceived to contain. In addition, their study suggests that sometimes seemingly extreme and thus unresolved incongruity may generate positive affect. This appears to occur when multiple categories could plausibly resolve the incongruity, but no single category uniquely resolves it. As noted by the discussant, future rsearch needs to show that such relatively favorable affect occurred even though the incongruity indeed was unresolved versus the possibility that the incongruity was resolved yet it went undetected.

Finally, Ashesh Mukherjee and Wayne Hoyer distinguished between incongruous versus novel attributes and hypothesized about the interaction between both types of attributes. Presumably while incongruous attributes can be resolved by drawing on general knowledge about these attributes, such resolution is impossible for novel attributes because prior knowledge about the attribute is lacking entirely. These researchers proposed that when consumers’ category knowledge is low and an ad conveys moderately incongruent product information, both people’s interpretation of novel product attributes and their overall product evaluations are likely to be highly negative. Yet, when an ad conveys congruent product information, such novel product attributes are likely to be viewed as moderately incongruent and prompt both favorable attribute interpretations and favorable overall evaluations, regardless of consumers’ level of knowledge about the product category.

 

THE ROLE OF RISK IN CONSUMERS’ EVALUATION OF SCHEMA INCONGRUITY

Margaret C. Campbell, UCLA

Ronald C. Goodstein, Indiana University

Research results on the effect of moderate incongruity on evaluations are mixed: some research indicates that moderate incongruity leads to higher evaluations than congruity while other research does not. We propose that these mixed results arise because there are a number of factors that moderate the relationship between congruity and evaluations and suggest that risk is one such factor. Three studies demonstrate that perceived risk and incongruity interact such that high risk results in negative evaluations of moderate incongruity relative to congruity, but that this negative evaluation of moderate incongruity does not arise when risk is low.

 

SCHEMA INCONGRUITY: THE MODERATING EFFECT OF ADVERTISING CONTEXT AND GENDER

Prashant Malaviya, University of Illinois at Chicago

Joan Meyers-Levy, University of Chicago

Schema incongruity theory suggests that moderate incongruity is evaluated more favorably than either congruity or extreme incongruity. We extend this by showing that the advertising context in which an ad appears and the gender of the message recipient influence the perceived incongruity represented in an ad message and thus people’s evaluations. This occurs because, together, these two variables can either facilitate or inhibit the activation of categories that affect message recipients’ ability to resolve the incongruity. Further, the results suggest that extremely incongruous information could prompt moderately favorable evaluations, if the incongruity cannot be uniquely resolved because multiple categories can be identified as equally plausible ways for resolving incongruity.

 

THE IMPACT OF NOVEL ATTRIBUTES ON NEW PRODUCT EVALUATION: MODERATING ROLE OF SCHEMA INCONGRUITY AND SCHEMA KNOWLEDGE

Ashesh Mukherjee, University of Texas, Austin

Wayne Hoyer, University of Texas, Austin

This paper investigates the impact of unknown or novel product attributes on overall product evaluations at different levels of schema incongruity and schema knowledge. Specifically, we suggest that, when other associated product attributes are know to be incongruous (moderate or high) and schema knowledge is low, the addition of a novel attribute to a product will have a negative effect on product evaluation; otherwise, the addition of a novel attribute is expected to improve product evaluation.

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