Involvement-Response Models of Joint Effects: an Empirical Test and Extension

Utpal M. Dholakia, University of Michigan
ABSTRACT - The influence of the motivational state arising from involvement with the product category on subsequent behaviors is of great interest to consumer researchers. Driven by this interest, the present paper describes an empirical study examining the joint influence of enduring and situational product involvement on two distinct and important behavioral responses of consumers: information-seeking and information-dissemination. A literature review is used to present the different possible involvement-response models of joint effects. In an experimental study, the interactive-ceiling model of joint effects is found to describe information-seeking behavior while the additive model describes information-disseminating behavior of involved consumers. This research directly extends the findings of Richins, Bloch & McQuarrie (1992). In addition, suggestions for future research are provided and implications of these findings for marketers and consumer researchers are discussed.
[ to cite ]:
Utpal M. Dholakia (1998) ,"Involvement-Response Models of Joint Effects: an Empirical Test and Extension", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, eds. Joseph W. Alba & J. Wesley Hutchinson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 499-506.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, 1998      Pages 499-506

INVOLVEMENT-RESPONSE MODELS OF JOINT EFFECTS: AN EMPIRICAL TEST AND EXTENSION

Utpal M. Dholakia, University of Michigan

ABSTRACT -

The influence of the motivational state arising from involvement with the product category on subsequent behaviors is of great interest to consumer researchers. Driven by this interest, the present paper describes an empirical study examining the joint influence of enduring and situational product involvement on two distinct and important behavioral responses of consumers: information-seeking and information-dissemination. A literature review is used to present the different possible involvement-response models of joint effects. In an experimental study, the interactive-ceiling model of joint effects is found to describe information-seeking behavior while the additive model describes information-disseminating behavior of involved consumers. This research directly extends the findings of Richins, Bloch & McQuarrie (1992). In addition, suggestions for future research are provided and implications of these findings for marketers and consumer researchers are discussed.

INTRODUCTION

The concep of involvement has played an important role as a moderating and explanatory variable when examining various facets of consumer behavior. Product involvement is an important determinant of the depth, complexity and extensiveness of cognitive processes of the consumer when interacting with the product class and also influences product-related behaviors like information-search and word-of-mouth communications, which together constitute involvement responses (e.g.: Houston & Rothschild, 1978; Park & Mittal, 1985).

Within the diverse involvement literature, two distinct types of involvement are associated with a product class. Enduring involvement is a stable perception of importance resulting from the product’s relatedness to the person’s self-concept and identity, while situational involvement is a temporary state arising from environmental factors or attributes of the purchase occasion. Consumer researchers have examined the joint influence of these two involvement types on the subsequent overall involvement response (e.g.: Richins, Bloch & McQuarrie, 1992; Slama & Tashchian, 1987) as well as on cognitive responses (e.g.: Celsi & Olson, 1988) but extant research has not examined the possibility of the two involvement types combining to influence different types of behavioral responses in different ways. In this paper, I seek to fill this gap and empirically examine the impact of enduring and situational involvement on two different and distinct types of behavioral responses. This research extends the findings of Richins, Bloch & McQuarrie (1992) and highlights the differences in the manner enduring and situational involvement combine to affect behavioral responses, as well as suggests ways in which these differences can be utilized by marketers and consumer researchers.

INVOLVEMENT DEFINITION AND TYPES

In this research, the focus is on product involvement, which has received considerable attention in the involvement literature because of its importance in influencing consumers’ purchase and communication behavior (see Laaksonen, 1994 for a review). Consistent with this role, involvement is defined as "an internal state variable that indicates the amount of arousal, interest or drive evoked by a particular product class," which has been endorsed by several consumer researchers (see for example, Mittal & Lee, 1989). Thus, it represents a motivational state of mind of a person with respect to the product class and can be characterized as "a goal-directed arousal capacity" (Park & Mittal, 1985).

In general, a broad distinction is made by involvement researchers between the stable enduring elements and the transient situational elements of product involvement (see for example Bloch & Richins, 1983; Houston & Rothschild, 1978). Enduring involvement is defined as an on-going concern for a product class which is independent of specific purchase situations (Richins & Bloch, 1986) and arises from the relatedness of the product to the individual’s self-concept, values and ego. It is characterized by relatively stable structures of personally relevant knowledge, derived from past experience and stored in long-term memory (Celsi & Olson, 1988). In other words, a product is perceived as causing enduring involvement when importance perceptions are based on the product’s ability to intrinsically satisfy consumers’ enduring needs, rather than on specific purchase or usage goals. Enduring involvement is also closely associated with the consumer’s experience and familiarity with the various brands in the product class and may be positively affected if the consumer has meaningful relationships with one or more brands (Fournier, 1996; Fournier & Yao, 1996).

Situational involvement on the other hand, refers to concern arising from a specific situation like a purchase occasion. Bloch & Richins (1983) define situational involvemnt as "a temporary perception of product importance based on the consumer’s desire to obtain particular extrinsic goals that may derive from the purchase and/ or usage of the product" (p. 72). Situational involvement is thought to result from two major classes of stimuli: objective stimuli like cost and performance features associated with the product or service being considered and stimuli arising from the social and psychological environment surrounding the purchase and consumption of a product or service. There is considerable support for the conceptual as well as empirical distinction between enduring and situational involvement (see for example, Parkinson & Schenk, 1980; Richins & Bloch, 1986).

RESPONSES TO PRODUCT INVOLVEMENT

One of the important reasons for studying product involvement is to examine its motivational influence on important consumer processes and behaviors. Responses to involvement have been treated in involvement research as a distinct form of involvement and called "Response Involvement" [This is similar to Stone's (1984) concept of "behavioral involvement" which arises from using and working with the product or service and the accumulating experience with it and is manifested by intensity and frequency of cognitive and behavioral acts when dealing with the product class.] (Laaksonen, 1994) which has been defined as "the complexity or extensiveness of cognitive and behavioral processes characterizing the overall consumer decision process" (Houston & Rothschild, 1978, p.185). These cognitive and behavioral responses are of several different types. While cognitive responses like elaboration of category and knowledge structures, depth of processing and, attention and comprehension processes are likely to be of importance to the strength of attitudes, behavioral intentions etc. as well as to subsequent behaviors (e.g.: Celsi & Olson, 1988; Molvey, Olson, Celsi & Walker, 1994), in this research I focus on behavioral responses resulting directly from the involvement (see Muehling, Laczniak & Andrews, 1993 for a review and discussion of cognitive responses to involvement). Stone (1984) defines the essence of behavioral involvement as "time and/or intensity of effort expended in the undertaking of behaviors," (p. 210) which forms the focus of this research. Behavioral responses are viewed as consequences of enduring and situational involvement.

A high level of involvement is thought to result in the manifestation of several distinctive behaviors like active searching of product-related information and increased information dissemination. Previous research has identified several distinct types of behavior to be directly influenced by the level of product involvement. For example, Richins, Bloch & McQuarrie (1992) isolated three categories of behavior to measure involvement responses in their study: (a) acquiring information about the product class, (b) giving information or advice about the product class and (c) engaging in word-of-mouth communication about one’s own possessions or experiences with the product class. Tyebjee (1979) proposed that the effects of involvement with beer are manifested through the following behavioral outcomes: interest in product information and public endorsement of serving beer on campus. Similarly, Stone (1984) identified searching, questioning and arguing as important indicators of behavioral involvement. Finally, Richins & Root-Schaffer (1988) found both enduring and situational involvement to influence different types of word-of-mouth activities of consumers. This review therefore suggests two important and qualitatively distinct types [These responses are qualitatively distinct in the sense that the underlying motivations, and more importantly, the consequences and marketing implications of these two types of behavioral responses are very different from one another.] of behavioral responses to product involvement: (1) acquisition of information about the product class and (2) dissemination of product (or brand)-related information, which are examined in this study.

INVOLVEMENT-RESPONSE MODELS: JOINT-EFFECT MODELS OF EI AND SI

There is general agreement among consumer researchersthat enduring and situational involvement combine to influence the level of cognitive and behavioral responses. However, this agreement does not extend either to the manner in which the combined influence occurs or to factors which determine a particular type of joint influence. Celsi & Olson (1988) state this issue succinctly: "It would be interesting to determine whether SSPR (situational involvement) and ISPR (enduring involvement) combine non-interactively on every occasion. Future experimental research could seek to identify factors that determine which type of combination will occur." (p. 222). Extant research shows support for several conceptually different types of involvement-response models.

Several researchers propose an additive model, where both enduring and situational involvement influence behavioral responses separately and independently (e.g.: Richins, Bloch & McQuarrie, 1992). This stems from the view first proposed by Houston & Rothschild (1978) that while situational involvement provides a between-products perspective and arises from external factors related to the consumer’s environment, enduring involvement represents a between-individuals perspective arising from factors internal to the consumer. Similarly, Peter & Olson (1987) suggest that the total involvement experienced by consumers is comprised of the base level of enduring involvement plus the level of situational involvement due to the physical and social context of the situation. In an experimental study, Celsi & Olson (1988) found both enduring and situational involvement to have significant main effects on time spent in processing product-related information, intensity of effort during comprehension, focus of attention and amount of elaboration of the information, but found no evidence of an interaction in any of the four cases, thus supporting the additive model. Similarly, in a recent study, Richins, Bloch & McQuarrie (1992) found support for the additive model, using an index of overall involvement responses as the dependent variable. This additive model is graphically summarized in Part A of Figure 1.

At the same time, considerable support also exists for interaction models of combination. One type of interaction is the case where high levels of situational involvement magnify the responses of consumers who already have high enduring involvement with the product class. In this case, enduring and situational involvement interact positively to influence responses. Slama & Tashchian (1987) present a model in support of this view, where enduring involvement influences involvement responses directly as well as through its influence on situational involvement. Partial empirical support for this model was found by the authors, who found that while enduring involvement had only little impact on direct response involvement, it acted through situational involvement to influence responses (see also Beatty, Kahle & Homer, 1987). Arora (1982) presents a different view where situational involvement raises involvement response directly, as well as through raising perceptions of enduring importance associated with the product class. Using a causal modeling methodology, the indirect influence of situational involvement on involvement responses was supported but no direct effect was found. For this model too, high levels of enduring involvement combine with high levels of situational involvement to affect responses to involvement. Parkinson & Schenk (1980) support a positive interaction model where "the effects of situational involvement on the pre-search stage are enhanced at higher levels of enduring involvement" (p. 697). All these conceptualizations can be summarized by the "interactive magnification model" (Richins et al., 1992) which is presented in Part B of Figure 1. In essence, this model suggests that very high levels of behavioral response are likely to occur only if the consumer is both enduringly and situationally involved with the product class.

A second type of interaction model where enduring and situational involvement interact negatively to influence consumer responses i equally plausible. This model suggests that enduringly involved consumers show a high level of response for all levels of situational involvement. In contrast, low enduringly involved consumers show high levels of response only if they are situationally involved with the product or service. Thus, enduring involvement with the product provides most of the impetus to engage in behavioral responses and while low enduring involvement consumers may show increased response when becoming situationally involved, this effect is not expected to occur for high enduringly involved consumers since they are already responding at levels near their maximum potential. This model, first suggested by Richins, et al. (1992) who labeled it as the "interactive ceiling model," is shown in Part C of Figure 1.

These different models of joint involvement effects provide a useful theoretical framework to examine different behavioral responses.

FIGURE 1

JOINT-EFFECT INVOLVEMENT-RESPONSE MODELS

RESEARCH HYPOTHESES

As stated before, in this research I focus on two important and qualitatively distinct behavioral responses of involved consumers: information-seeking and information-dissemination. Information seeking can be further classified into two types: pre-purchase information seeking, which occurs only after an explicit intention to purchase in the product category has been made, and on-going information seeking, which the consumer performs to keep his or her knowledge current. In this research, the focus is on the level of information-seeking behavior prior to purchase, given the interest in studying the joint effects of enduring and situational involvement.

First, information seeking has been positively related to the level of involvement in earlier research. For example, intensity of information search forms an important component of response involvement in Houston & Rothschild’s (1978) framework. Similarly, Zaichkowsky (1985) empirically demonstrates a linkage between involvement and search intentions. Further, involvement researchers have found interesting distinctions between pre-purchase search and on-going information search behaviors of consumers. On-going information search is closely related to the enduring involvement of consumers. For example, Bloch, Sherrell & Ridgway (1986) found a significant positive relationship between enduring product involvement and ongoing information search for clothing and personal computers. For the joint-effects model, this suggests that enduringly involved consumers are likely to constantly obtain and update their knowledge about the product class, keeping current with available brands, their attributes, perceived strengths and weaknesses etc. and exhibit high levels of information-search regularly. Consequently, I expect such high enduringly-involved consumers to be less affected by the raised situational concerns resulting from an approaching purchase. Consistent with this, Dowling & Midgley (1993) also found fashion aware and experienced shoppers to use commercial sources of information to keep their knowledge of clothing styles up-to-date and showed no increased search behavior prior to purchase of new fashions.

At the same time, in a segmentation study of car-buyers based on their information search and acquisition strategies, Furse, Punj & Stewart (1984) found significant differences between consumers engaging in moderate or low in-store search and those engaging in extensive search prior to purchase of the automobile. Consumers engaging in low in-store search were found to be more experienced, had owned more cars before and had engaged in prior out-of-store information acquisition, both from advertisements and from opinions of others. In other words, these were the enduringly involved consumers. In contrast, younger and inexperienced consumers were more likely to engage in in-store information search. This suggests that consumers who are not enduringly involved with the product class will be less lkely to collect information on a regular basis and will therefore be relatively uninformed when they approach the purchase occasion. For such consumers, the increased situational involvement arising from the purchase occasion is likely to trigger an extensive pre-purchase information search. Consistent with this, Smith & Bristor (1994) found greater purchase involvement to result in greater external search activity. Using this discussion, the following hypothesis can be stated:

Hypothesis 1: Consumers who have high levels of enduring involvement will exhibit a high propensity to seek information, irrespective of their level of situational involvement. For low enduring-involvement consumers on the other hand, information-seeking will increase with the level of situational involvement.

In other words, the interactive-ceiling model is likely to be a good descriptor of information-seeking behavior of consumers. A second important behavioral consequence of product involvement is dissemination of product-related information to friends and acquaintances about purchasing from the product class. Within the opinion leadership literature, there is an implicit assumption that opinion leaders are motivated to talk about the product and engage in information-giving because of their enduring involvement with it (Feick & Price, 1987; Richins & Root-Shaffer, 1988). Similarly, Bloch & Richins (1983) view word-of-mouth (WOM) activities to be closely related to enduring importance of the product class. Turnbull & Meenaghan (1980) suggest that opinion and advice-giving occurs when the stable involvement with the product is put into the service of self-affirmation by the consumer, to reassure himself or herself in front of significant others as well as to confirm his or her assessment of the product or service. In an empirical study, Richins & Root-Shaffer (1988) found enduring involvement to positively determine the giving of product news, advice related to purchase as well as talking about product experiences. For the joint-effects model, this suggests that propensity to give information will be directly related to the level of enduring involvement with low enduringly involved consumers engaging in less information-giving than high enduringly involved consumers.

Further, Bloch & Richins (1983) also suggest that situational importance also stimulates short-term WOM activity. They implicitly assume that consumers use this as a risk-reduction strategy. Consistent with this, I posit that situational involvement generates product-related tension because of the need to make a purchase or otherwise interact with the product class. Giving advice to others and engaging in product-related conversations may therefore represent a means to relieve this tension and to reduce the deleterious effects arising from situational involvement experience. Providing support to this, Richins & Root-Shaffer (1988) found situational involvement to result in greater WOM about personal experiences with buying the product or service, independent of the effect of enduring involvement on WOM. Therefore, information-giving is also likely to be directly related to level of situational involvement, with low levels of information-giving by low situationally-involved consumers and vice versa. In addition, Venkatraman (1989) found that situational risk perceptions for enduringly involved consumers were significantly less than for situationally involved consumers, suggesting that this use of information-giving as a risk-reduction strategy prior to purchase is not likely to depend on the level of enduring involvement. This discussion suggests that enduring and situational involvement operate on word-of-mouth activity and information-giving behavior through different and unrelated mechanisms and are therefore more or less independent of each other. Consequently, the following hypothesis can be stated:

Hypothesis 2: Cosumers who have high levels of enduring involvement will exhibit a higher propensity to give information than consumers who have low levels of enduring involvement, irrespective of their level of situational involvement. In addition, for both high and low enduring-involvement consumers, information giving will increase with the level of situational involvement.

In other words, the hypothesis states that the additive model of involvement response describes the information-giving behavior of consumers.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

An experimental framework was used to test the research hypotheses. Data were collected by means of the internet and through e-mail. E-mail uses text-editing and communication tools to provide high-speed message service over the internet. Data-collection using this method is characterized by high speed of response, reduced costs of sending and receiving surveys, the facility of asynchronous communication between the researcher and the respondents, and the absence of intermediaries (Sproull, 1986).

Experimental Instrument and Measures

A 2x2

A 2x2 experimental design was used with two (high and low) levels each, of enduring and situational involvement. The instrument was designed to include a number of different products, including car, bathrobe, champagne and can of soup, to include high and low levels of enduring and situational involvement. Realistic scenarios were constructed in which the subject was asked to put himself or herself in the protagonist’s place and imagine a situation in which he or she was thinking about buying the product mentioned. Enduring involvement was manipulated by asking the subject to imagine a high enduringly-involved consumer (e.g.: "You love clothes! There is nothing you would rather do than spend an afternoon in the mall, hunting for garments The greatest compliment that anyone could give you is that you are always well-dressed.") or a low enduringly-involved consumer (e.g.: You are a little irritated because you generally think of grocery shopping as a tireless and mindless chore."). Situational involvement was manipulated similarly. The scenario for high enduring involvement and low situational involvement, which represents the most difficult case to manipulate, is presented here for purposes of illustration. [Due to space constraints, the other scenarios are not provided here and can be obtained from the author on request.]

"You love clothes! There is nothing you would rather do than spend an afternoon in the mall, hunting for great garments. The biggest complaint that your spouse has about you is that you spend too much time and money on clothes, but by now, you have both accepted that that’s the way you are. On your trip to France too, your high-point was the heavenly day you spent at Les Champs Elysees, browsing in designers’ boutiques, and your purchase of a Chanel bag and an Armani suit. The greatest compliment that anyone could give you is that you are always well-dressed.

Today however, you are headed out to buy a regular robe for daily wear. You laugh to yourself, when you picture your old dog gamboling about with your old robe. There was nothing you could do to salvage the chewed-up and tattered garment and you had to come out to buy a new one. "It’s not like this was my favorite silk robe but Spot will have to go without his treats this week," you think to yourself as you drive to the store."

A total of four scenarios, one of each combination of enduring and situational involvement were used. The instrument was pre-tested on 19 graduate students of a large mid-western university. The dependent variables were measured using items measuring the extent of information given and dvice sought respectively, prior to making the purchase. For example, subjects were asked to state their agreement/ disagreement with "I would acquire a great deal of information about the different brands available before buying the robe" to measure information-seeking and to "I would give other people advice about buying a particular type of robe" to measure information-giving. These items were similar to the ones used by Richins, Bloch & McQuarrie (1992). Two items were used for each of the dependent measures. In addition, several items were used to measure enduring involvement and situational involvement to verify success of the manipulations.

Data-collection

Data

Data was collected in a systematic multi-stage procedure. In the first stage, short solicitation messages were posted on 30 popular and heavy-traffic Usenet newsgroups inviting members to participate in an "Academic Consumer Behavior Survey." A number of t-shirts were offered as prizes to participants chosen through a raffle, to encourage participation. A total of 188 interested responses were received as a result of this solicitation. One of four versions of the instrument, incorporating two scenarios were randomly sent to each respondent. Each subject was exposed to a single level of either enduring or situational involvement and both levels of the other involvement type. A total of 122 completed instruments were received, resulting in a response-rate of 64.9%. [This response-rate is not comparable to the conventional response-rate reported for mail or telephone surveys since only people soliciting the questionnaire are considered as potential respondents.] In addition, these instruments were also randomly administered to 33 undergraduate students in a medium-sized southern university. Participation was voluntary and no compensation was given, but all 33 subjects obliged by participation. No differences were found in the means of the different measures for these two samples and consequently, the samples were combined for data-analysis, resulting in a total sample size of 155.

The respondents were fairly evenly distributed by gender. Of the respondents who disclosed their gender, 86 (56.6%) were male and 66 (43.4%) female. The mean family income was $51,880 and the mean age was 33.1 years. Since these statistics indicate a fairly high socioeconomic status, no claim of representativeness is made for this sample. Because the goal in this case is synonymous with Calder, Philips and Tybout’s (1981) theory-testing, the samples are appropriate for the present study.

RESULTS

The dependent variables in this case are the averages of the items used to measure each of the two behaviors. In addition, I checked the manipulations of enduring and situational involvement for each scenario. Table 1 shows the means of enduring and situational involvement (on a scale from 1=low to 9=high) for each of the four conditions. T-tests show these values to be significantly different for all pair-wise comparisons, indicating success of the manipulations.

Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) was used to test the research hypotheses. An Enduring Involvement (low EI v/s high EI) X Situational Involvement (low SI v/s high SI) MANOVA revealed significant main effects for enduring involvement, F(3,298)=17.243, p<0.001; and situational involvement, F(3,298)=66.608, p<0.001. In addition, there was a significant interaction of EI x SI, F(3,298)=8.823, p<0.001, suggesting an overall support for the interaction model. Further, univariate F-tests reveal that high levels of either enduring or situational involvement lead to significantly greater information-giving as well as information-seeking behavior, relative to the corresponding low levels of the two types of involvement. In addition, the univariate F-test for the EIxSI interaction for information-seeking shows a negative interaction, suggesting that the interactive ceiling model operates in this case and providing support to hypothesis 1. As Figure 2A indicates, these high EI consmers (M=7.33) showed less information-seeking propensity than low EI consumers (M=6.87) under conditions of high SI, but the difference was not significant. In contrast, the EIxSI interaction is not significant for information-giving behavior, indicating that the additive model works best in this case and supports hypothesis 2. These results are provided in table 2 and graphically summarized in Figure 2.

DISCUSSION

This research takes a step forward in explicating the explanatory potential of the product involvement construct by examining its motivational role in affecting different behavioral responses. One of the most important findings of this study is that consumers who have a high level of enduring involvement with the product class are fundamentally different in their information seeking and disseminating behaviors with respect to the product class when compared to consumers who are not so enduringly involved. First, and consistent with Richins & Bloch (1986), enduring involvement is found to result in higher levels of both information seeking and giving, even in the presence of little situational involvement. Thus, the manner in which these high EI consumers make use of and are influenced by advertisements, promotions etc. pertaining to the product and especially to their favorite brands within the product class, is likely to be very different from consumers not so enduringly involved. This study suggests that these high EI consumers are likely to be receptive to and acquire product-related information on an on-going basis. Given that the amounts and types of information search strategies used by consumers is thought to be an important basis of segmenting consumers since this allows marketers to tailor programs aimed at consumers exhibiting certain similar information-search characteristics (Furse, Punj & Stewart, 1984), this research suggests that the level of enduring involvement with a product class may provide a convenient measure to segment consumers along these lines.

TABLE 1

MEAN LEVELS OF ENDURING AND SITUATIONAL INVOLVEMENT FOR THE FOUR SCENARIOS (MANIPULATION CHECKS

FIGURE 2

GRAPHICAL SUMMARY OF MANOVA RESULTS FROM THE EMPIRICAL STUDY

TABLE 2

SUMMARY OF MANOVA RESULTS

A second important finding of this study is that the information-seeking behavior of situationally involved consumers who are not enduringly involved, is likely to temporarily imitate enduringly involved consumers. While the level of information-search for such situationally involved consumers is high, the reasons underlying the search may be different. Situationally involved consumers may use information-search as a risk-reduction strategy while enduringly- involved consumers may obtain information for hedonic or recreational purposes or to develop expertise. The differences in the cognitive processes associated with collecting information in these two different modes (risk-reduction v/s hedonic/recreational) provides an interesting avenue for future research. In addition, distinguishing this temporary interest from the on-going interest is important to marketers for influencing choice processes, brand-switching behaviors etc. of consumers. Examining the differences between the information sources used by enduringly involved consumers and those used by situationally involved consumers may be one approach to do this and provides a promising area for future research (see Dodd, Pinkleton & Gustafson, 1996 for a recent study examining this issue for enduringly involved loyal and variety-seeking consumers).

A third important finding is the more or less additive influence of enduring and situational involvement on information-giving behavior. Relatively little previous research has examined the influence of product involvement on information-giving and opinion leadership (see Richins & Root-Shaffer, 1988 for an exception). The current research suggests that opinion-leadership may be an on-going process, that is sustained by enduringly involved consumers and further temporarily bolstered due to anxiety and risk perception arising from situational factors at the time of purchase. This finding therefore highlights the importance of word-of-mouth pocesses and their pervasiveness, and also points to the need for more research examining the information dissemination behaviors of enduringly and situationally involved consumers.

LIMITATIONS AND CONCLUSION

One limitation of this study is that both enduring and situational involvement were manipulated in an experimental setting rather than measured, as previous involvement researchers have done (e.g.: Richins & Bloch, 1986). This manipulation is based on the view that consumers in general are enduringly involved with many different product classes, which is supported by Fournier (1996; Fournier & Yao, 1996) who found evidence of consumers having strong and stable brand relationships for a number of different product classes. Similarly, Zaichkowsky (1985) found high levels of enduring-involvement for products as diverse as 35 mm cameras, red wine, laundry detergent and breakfast cereal. On the basis of this view, it is possible for a subject to successfully put himself or herself in the enduringly-involved consumer’s place, in the high enduring involvement condition. During debriefing, I further obtained support for this by asking subjects about the believability of the scenarios and the difficulty of imagining themselves as the actor/actress in the scenario and performing the specified actions. All subjects had no difficulty in doing either. A second limitation of the study is that I obtained cross-sectional measures of behaviors that are better studied using longitudinal methodology. Obtaining measures of these behaviors for high and low levels of enduring and situational involvement at the same time alleviates this shortcoming to a certain extent

In spite of these limitations, the study confirms earlier findings of involvement researchers (Richins & Bloch, 1986; Richins, Bloch & McQuarrie, 1992) that enduring and situational involvement are directly related to a number of consumer behaviors. Further, this research extends knowledge in this area by showing that these two involvement types can combine in different ways for different behaviors and points to some of the marketing implications of these differences.

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