Special Session Summary the Effect of Affect: Examining New Contexts, Processes and Outcomes in Affect Research

Patti Williams, University of California, Los Angeles
Jennifer Aaker, University of California, Los Angeles
[ to cite ]:
Patti Williams and Jennifer Aaker (1998) ,"Special Session Summary the Effect of Affect: Examining New Contexts, Processes and Outcomes in Affect Research", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, eds. Joseph W. Alba & J. Wesley Hutchinson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 214.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, 1998      Page 214



Patti Williams, University of California, Los Angeles

Jennifer Aaker, University of California, Los Angeles

The objective of this session was further our understanding of the role of affect in consumer behavior. Each of the papers in this session focuses on a new development in affect research that may be applied to consumer behavior, as reviewed and discussed by Debbie MacInnis. First, Isen examines the role of positive affect on systematic decision making and creative problem solving. While past research has assumed that positive affect involves heuristic processing, this research reveals its facilitative effects upon systematic processing. To illustrate, physicians given a bag of candy (vs. a control group) show increased ability to integrate information and recognize the illness in a diagnostic problem and lessened anchoring in the diagnostic process compared to those in control conditions. Students given a lottery ticket report higher ratings on a need for cognition scale. And individuals smelling a pleasant odor emitted by a vaporizer show higher aptitude in categorization learning tasks. In three experiments, three different positive affect inductions led to higher levels of systematic problem solving in distinct contexts.

Second, Morris and Drolet focus on the role of nonverbal behavior as a correlate and mediator of emotion in interpersonal encounters. While previous research has noted the importance of nonverbal behaviors with respect to emotion, little consumer research has been conducted using this methodology. In four experiments, nonverbal emotional behaviors (i.e. rapport/empathy and intimidation/dominance) exhibited between individuals interacting with a single partner are found to predict, and in some cases, mediate attitudinal and behavioral outcome measures. For example, in Experiment 1, subjects negotiate with a partner to purchase a car, with level of exposure to nonverbal behaviors manipulated by having dyads negotiate in different communication media (e.g., face-to-face versus teleconference). Results showed that the level of rapport and empathy significantly predicts the pairs’ joint outcome while the level of intimidation vs. dominance significantly predicts differences in the pairs’ outcomes.

Finally, Aaker and Williams examine the impact of ego-focused versus other-focused emotions on persuasion for members of an individualist (United States) and a collectivist (China) culture. While work in cultural psychology has determined the importance and validit of the ego-focused versus other-focused emotion distinction, consumer behavior researchers have not yet examined the extent to which this typology is valid and yields systematically different results in new contexts, in this case across cultures. Previous research has implied that ego-focused (other-focused) emotions will be more accessible and intensely felt for members of individualist cultures (collectivist cultures). However, in two experiments, exposure to messages featuring other-focused emotions was found to result in significantly greater persuasion for members of individualist cultures, while exposure to ego-focused emotions has a greater persuasive impact on members of collectivist cultures. This finding is attributed to the prompting of culturally incongruent elaboration (self-oriented by collectivists and other-oriented by individualists) in response to the exposure to culturally-incongruent emotions. Moreover, explicit encouragement of self versus other-referencing in the target advertisements is found to exacerbate these effects. The results suggest that ego- and other-focused emotions do impact members of different cultures differently, and also provide additional perspective on the differences in self-structure which exist across cultures.