Special Session Summary Accessibility Revisited: When and How It Is Diagnostic For Consumer Judgments

Geeta Menon, New York University
Michaela WSnke, UniversitSt Heidelberg
[ to cite ]:
Geeta Menon and Michaela WSnke (1998) ,"Special Session Summary Accessibility Revisited: When and How It Is Diagnostic For Consumer Judgments", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, eds. Joseph W. Alba & J. Wesley Hutchinson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 264-265.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, 1998      Pages 264-265



Geeta Menon, New York University

Michaela WSnke, UniversitSt Heidelberg

The notion that people use accessible information to evaluate persons and objects is well established (cf. Higgins, Rholes and Jones 1977). [Feldman and Lynch (1988) define accessibility as the ease with which an input can be retrieved from memory.] In the marketing context, several studies have established that consumers are influenced by information readily accessible in memory (for a review see Kardes, 1994) or made accessible by the context (e.g., Menon, Raghubir and Schwarz 1995). Relatively new, however, is the idea that consumers may use this accessibility or experienced ease of retrieval as a diagnostic input in their decision-making, independent of the actual content of the information retrieved (e.g., Raghubir & Menon 1997; Schwarz et al. 1991; WSnke, Bless & Biller, 1996; WSnke, Bohner & Jurkowitsch, 1997). What this literature suggests is that the information accessibility is itself diagnostic for judgments independent of the actual content of the information. The purpose of the special session was to extend this literature and: (a) delineate the theoretical underpinnings of the mechanism by which accessibility (or ease of retrieval) affects consumer judgments of different kinds, (b) determine the conditions under which the relative diagnosticity of information accessibility and content may vary, and (c) explore these effects in different domains and under different task conditions.

Three papers examined the relative diagnosticity of information accessibility vs content of information and their implications for consumer judgments. Each paper provided a distinct piece of the overall puzzle regarding the mechanisms underlying the influence of information accessibility, and in combination, they contributed to an integrative theoretical framework. Norbert Schwarz synthesized the findings in his role as the discussion leader, and provided an overview of their relevance for other domains.

Michaela WSnke and her collaborators investigated the impact of ease of retrieval under different stats of involvement. The classical finding of reduced impact of information content under difficult retrieval replicates even under high involvement. This finding argues against the use of ease as a heuristic processing strategy. In addition, experienced difficulty itself seems to elicit more systematic processing. The paper pointed to the parallels in the mood literature. Complementing the roles of heuristic and systematic processes and ease of retrieval, Geeta Menon and Priya Raghubir posited that the process by which the experienced ease of retrieval is used as an input in consumer judgments is automatic, as opposed to the information content that is more conscious. Four experiments demonstrate that consumers first anchor on the accessibility of information, then process the anchor in an automatic manner, and finally consciously adjust based on content of the information retrieved. The last paper by Gita Johar and Michel Pham focused on memory strategies when information cannot be retrieved or seems undiagnostic. Because difficulty in retrieval renders information as undiagnostic and extreme difficulty equals non-retrieval their findings bear direct relevance to the processing strategies following experienced difficulty.




Michaela WSnke, UniversitSt Heidelberg

Sabine Werrmann, UniversitSt Heidelberg

Herbert Bless, UniversitSt Heidelberg

Recent research has documented the impact of experienced or anticipated ease of information retrieval on attitudinal judgments. The processes underlying this effect are, however, not yet entirely clear. The present paper found evidence that (a) difficulty in retrieval did affect product judgments directly by decreasing the perceived quality of the retrieved product information even under high involvement and (b) difficulty did induce more systematic processing of the information even under low involvement. Rather than operating with self-generated information the study employed recall of product information that had previously been presented in an ad in order to hold amount and quality of recalled information absolutely constant.



Geeta Menon, New York University

Priya Raghubir, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

This paper proposes that the accessibility of information is an automatic source of information used along with the diagnosticity of the content of the information retrieved to make related judgments. Four studies provide evidence consistent with the proposition that people first anchor on the accessibility of information. This anchor is then processed in an automatic manner, with a subsequent controlled adjustment based on the content of the information retrieved as a function of the diagnosticity of the latter. Implications for the accessibility-diagnosticity framework (Feldman and Lynch 1988), and the accessibility-as-information hypothesis (Schwarz et al. 1991) are discussed.



Gita Venkataramani Johar, Columbia University

Michel Tuan Pham, Columbia University

Effective communication requires that consumers attribute the message content to its intended source. The proposed framework distinguishes four types of source identification processesCcued retrieval, memory trace refreshment, schematic inferencing, and pure guessingCand delineates their contingencies. The framework suggests that consumers first try to retrieve the source directly from memory. However, when the source is not accessible (e.g., time delay after ad exposure), consumers try to access the memory trace for the ad and use this trace if it is perceived to be diagnostic (e.g.,is unique). If the memory trace is not accessible and/or not diagnostic, schematic inferencing, perceived to be less diagnostic than memory trace refreshment, is used.


Feldman, Jack M. and John G. Lynch, Jr. (1988), "Self-Generated Validity and Other Effects of Measurement on Belief, Attitude, Intention and Behavior," Journal of Applied Psychology, 73 (August), 421-35.

Higgins, E. Tory, W. S. Rholes, C. R. Jones (1977), "Category Accessibility and Impression Formation," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 181-192.

Kardes, Frank (1994), "Consumer judgment and decision process", in Robert S. Wyer and Thomas K. Srull (eds.) Handbook of social cognition (2nd edition, 323-417). Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum.

Menon, Geeta, Priya Raghubir and Norbert Schwarz (1995), "Behavioral Frequency Judgments: An Accessibility-Diagnosticity Framework," Journal of Consumer Research, 22 (September), 212-228.

Raghubir, Priya and Geeta Menon (1997), "AIDS and Me, Never the Twain Shall Meet: Factors Affecting Judgments of Risk and Advertising Effectiveness," NYU working paper.

Schwarz, Norbert, Herbert Bless, Fritz Strack, Gisela Klumpp, Helga Rittenauer-Schatka, and Annette Simons (1991), "Ease of Retrieval as Information: Another Look at the Availability Heuristic," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61 (February), 195-202.

WSnke, Michaela, Herbert Bless, and Barbara Biller (1996), "Subjective Experience versus Content of Information in the Construction of Attitude Judgments," Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 1105-1115.

Wanke, Michaela, Gerd Bohner, Andreas Jurkowitsch (1997), "There are Many Reasons to Drive a BMW: Does Imagined Ease of Argument Generation Influence Attitudes?" Journal of Consumer Research, 24, 170-177.