The Impacts of Personality Differences on Product Evaluations

Chingching Chang, National Chengchi University
ABSTRACT - This study suggests that subjects’ personalities will affect product evaluations in two ways. First, subjects with certain personality traits are likely to evaluate products differently regardless of the advertising appeals employed. In addition, subjects’ personalities will affect their product evaluations based on the discrepancies between their self-images and the advertised product’s image. This study specifically examines subjects’ personality differences on introversion/extroversion. Findings of this study showed that, overall, extroverted subjects evaluated products in more positive ways than introverted subjects. In addition, their evaluations of the advertised brand are more positive if the portrayed product image is more congruent with their real or ideal self-concepts. Most importantly, this study showed that subjects’ sense of slf-referencing and their ad-evoked negative emotional responses played mediating roles in the brand evaluation formation process.
[ to cite ]:
Chingching Chang (2001) ,"The Impacts of Personality Differences on Product Evaluations", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, eds. Mary C. Gilly and Joan Meyers-Levy, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 26-33.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, 2001     Pages 26-33

THE IMPACTS OF PERSONALITY DIFFERENCES ON PRODUCT EVALUATIONS

Chingching Chang, National Chengchi University

ABSTRACT -

This study suggests that subjects’ personalities will affect product evaluations in two ways. First, subjects with certain personality traits are likely to evaluate products differently regardless of the advertising appeals employed. In addition, subjects’ personalities will affect their product evaluations based on the discrepancies between their self-images and the advertised product’s image. This study specifically examines subjects’ personality differences on introversion/extroversion. Findings of this study showed that, overall, extroverted subjects evaluated products in more positive ways than introverted subjects. In addition, their evaluations of the advertised brand are more positive if the portrayed product image is more congruent with their real or ideal self-concepts. Most importantly, this study showed that subjects’ sense of slf-referencing and their ad-evoked negative emotional responses played mediating roles in the brand evaluation formation process.

Individual differences are important variables to consider when examining advertising effects. Several types of individual differences such as self-monitoring (e.g., Snyder & DeBono, 1985), need for cognition (e.g., Venkatraman, et al., 1990), involvement (e.g., Park & Young, 1986), and product knowledge (e.g., Maheswaran & Sternthal, 1990) have been explored in the past. With the increased importance of target segmentation, more researchers are paying attention to consumers’ value and personality trait differences (e.g., O’Connor, 1997) and attempting to identify consumers with respect to these differences. However, instead of simply categorizing consumers into different groups, cognitive psychologists suggest that it is important to view personality differences as a part of self-knowledge and to explore these differences in terms of how they function as a framework that organizes and directs information processing (Fiske & Taylor, 1991). This study adopts this approach, viewing personality traits as important dimensions of self-concepts. Specifically, this study will explore the influence of individuals’ introversion/extroversion, a trait that is well explored in past psychological literature, on advertising effects.

In treating personality traits as part of self-schemata, a logical question that follows then is, how does an individual’s perception of him/herself as high or low on certain personality dimensions affect his/her responses to persuasion messages? This question has not drawn enough attention in past literature. Specifically, this study suggests that impacts of personality differences on advertising effectiveness can be inspected from two different perspectives. The first perspective explores how individuals’ personality differences by themselves will influence the ways in which individuals respond to advertising messages in general. Past studies showed that subjects with different personality orientations tend to engage in different processing strategies, as a result they prefer different advertising appeals or imagery (e.g., LaBarbera, Weingard & Yorkston, 1998). Moreover, individuals with certain personality traits, as opposed to individuals with other personality traits, react to ads either more positively or negatively regardless of which appeals an ad applies (Mehta, 1999). Given that introverts, as opposed to extroverts, have been shown to react more negatively to their environment (Graziano, Rahe & Feldesman, 1985), it is important to explore whether introverts will evaluate ads or brands differently from extroverts even when imagery or appeals in ads are not necessarily directly tied to introversion or extroversion.

The second, and most popular approach to examining personality differences is to investigate the influence of congruency between self-concept and product image on product evaluations. Since advertising is an important vehicle to build up brand personalities (Kimani & Zeithamal, 1993), how ad messages are delivered is a crucial research question to explore. Past studies examining self-concept and brand image congruency effects reported positive and consistent results. That is, self-congruent brand images are perceived to be more positive (e.g., Sirgy, 1982) and ad messages that delineate users with a profile similar to subjects are more effective (e.g., Hong & Zinkhan, 1995). As discussed earlier, this study will treat personality attributes as part of an individual’s self knowledge and test whether self-congruent personality appeals are more effective. Furthermore, what is not clear in past literature is the mechanism in the brand evaluation formation process. Therefore, this study tries to examine the mechanism involved in the process and specifically explores the mediating roles that self-referencing and ad-evoked emotions play.

THE CONCEPT OF SELF

Early psyhologists were interested in identifying individuals with respect to certain dimensions of enduring characteristics (Cantor & Kihlstrom, 1981). With developments in cognitive psychology, scholars tend to see each individual as a cognitive being and the self as part of the information processing system (Kuiper & Derry, 1981). Individuals’ knowledge of themselves is generally referred to as self-concepts or self-schemata. These are defined as "the person’s mental representation of his or her own personality attributes, social roles, past experience, future goals, and the like" (Fiske & Taylor, 1991, pp.181-2). According to Markus and Smith (1981), each individual has a set of knowledge of who or what he/she is, with personality differences as some of the features contained in prototypes of the self. Self-concepts as a knowledge structure, like other cognitive systems, are functional (see Fiske & Taylor, 1991, for a review). They determine how we attend to, encode, and process incoming information about the self. An individual’s prediction of his/her future behavioral orientation is also based on his/her self-concepts (Markus, et al., 1982). Finally, a unique and important function that self-concepts serve is affect regulation (Markus & Wurf, 1987).

Possible Selves

There are different possible perspectives that we can use to define ourselves (Markus & Nurius, 1986; Markus & Wurf, 1987). Among them are the real self, the ideal self (Higgins, 1987; Munson & Sirgy, 1980; Sirgy, 1985), the looking glass self (Munson & Spivey, 1980), and the ought self (Higgins, 1987), although most researchers identify just the real and ideal selves. Since a person’s ideal self has been shown to be significantly correlated with his/her real self (Landon, 1974), even though some researchers argue that the ideal self is more salient in the purchase decision-making process, this study will examine both subjects’ real selves and ideal selves.

Multi-dimensionality of Self

Self-concepts are multi-dimensional (e.g., Markus & Wurf, 1987). Individuals differ from each other not only in terms of how they define themselves on these various dimensions (Markus, et al., 1982), but also in terms of which dimensions are central. Personality traits are important dimensions in our self-knowledge structure and they have drawn more research attention than other self-relevant constructs. This study will focus on one enduring personality differenceCintroversion/extroversionCto investigate how subjects with different levels of introversion/extroversion respond to persuasive messages differently. The following literature review will first examine past studies on personality difference and then specifically focus on how introverts and extroverts are likely to respond to persuasive messages.

PERSONALITY DIFFERENCE AND PERSUASION

Individual differences in personalities have been shown to affect peoples’ processing strategies. Holbrook (1986) developed scales to identify subjects with different personality orientations and showed that subjects’ personality differences impacted their preferences for esthetic features of fashion designs. LaBarbera, Weingard and Yorkston (1998) suggested that individuals with different personality types reacted to and processed advertising imagery in different ways. Specifically, they examined the sensing/intuiting dimension of personality identified by Jung (1971). Their findings showed that the sensing type of subjects evaluated advertising images, as well as advertising as a whole, more positively when the ad contained more concrete visuals, whereas the intuitive type of subjects favored ad appeals that employed more abstract visuals.

In general, past findings showed that individuals with different personality traits tend to process information in different manners and, as a result, they favor certain types of imagery configurations. However, what has not been discussed is whether or not an individual’s personality traits contribute to his/her evaluation of advertising messages regardless of which specific appeals are applied. When Mehta (1999) examined the effects of the convergence of consumer self-concept and the perceived brand image, results showed that the sensitive type of subjects, as opposed to adventurous and sensual types of subjects, rated commercials more negatively regardless of the appeals that were employed. This indicates that an individual’s personality orientations might impact his/her view of things as well as his/her view of advertising. Thus to examine whether individuals’ personalities will influence their responses to ads in general is one objective of this study.

INTROVERTS/EXTROVERTS AND PERSUASION

A person’s introversion or extroversion is one of the most important personality dimensions that has been recognized and explored in past literature (e.g., Eysenck & Eysenck, 1976). Introverts and extroverts not only differ in terms of their behavior orientation (e.g., Eysenck, 1967), but also the values they hold (Furnham, 1984), and their attitudes toward their environments (Marjoribanks, 1989). In addition, introverts perform better under negative rather than positive reinforcement, whereas extroverts perform better under positive rather than negative reinforcement (Boddy, Carver & Rowley, 1986). Most importantly, introverts seem to systematically recall and expect more aversiveness in their social encounters with others than extroverts (Graziano, Rahe, & Feldesman, 1985). Eysenck (1977) proposed that introverts and extroverts have a different sense of the power they possess to control their behavior outcomes. Introverts are motivated toward avoiding costs whereas extroverts are oriented toward gaining awards. Due to the motivational differences, introverts tend to perceive things in a more negative light as a way to decrease the likely costs whereas extroverts tend to view things in more positive ways in order to enhance their sense of rewards. Since personality seems to be an underlying force that influences the way we interact with our environment, it is likely that introverts and extroverts will evaluate advertising differently regardless of ad message differences.

Hypothesis 1: Regardless of ad message differences, extrovert subjects will evaluate ads in more positive ways than introvert subjects.

Hypothesis 2: Regardless of ad message differences, extrovert subjects will evaluate brands in more positive ways than introvert subjects.

SELF-CONCEPT CONGRUENCY

Self-concept Congruency and Product Evaluation

What we possess reflects our identities (Belk, 1988). Our possessions help us present the self to others. Consumption, thus, is believed to be symbolic (Grubb & Grathwohl, 1967; Sirgy, 1982) and in service of the self (Shavitt & Brock, 1986). Given the symbolic self-defining functions that consumption or possession serve, it is not difficult to understand that individuals prefer products that are congruent with thir real self-concept or ideal self-concept.

Indeed, an individual’s evaluation of and intention to purchase a product has been shown to be determined by the interaction of his/her self-perception and the brand’s personality (e.g., Grubb & Grathwohl, 1967; 1968; Sirgy, 1982). To the degree that they are congruent, an individual’s responses to the product are more likely to be positive. This type of congruency effect was documented when both real self-concepts and ideal self-concepts were examined (e.g., Dolich, 1969; Sirgy, 1985).

In the 60s and 70s, the congruency between product image and self-image was extensively tested in consumer research. However, since it is generally accpted that advertising is one of the most important vehicles for imbuing a product with a specific personality and image (Kimani & Zeithamal, 1993), studies on self-concept congruency effects in the 90s were mainly conducted in the advertising processing context. This line of research will be reviewed in the following section.

Self-concept Congruency and the Effects of Different Advertising Appeals

Consumers who perceive themselves in opposing ways tend to respond to advertising messages differently. Since self-concept functions as a basic frame on which an individual’s information processing and reference-making is based (Markus, et al., 1982), it is applied to situations in which advertising messages are processed. Past studies indicated that advertising messages that are congruent with an individual’s self-concepts are more effective than advertising messages that are incongruent with an individual’s self-concepts (e.g., Hong & Zinkhan, 1995; Wang & Mowen, 1997).

One of the reasons that self-concept congruent messages are more effective is that self-congruent messages are more likely to draw viewers’ attentions and when advertising information is encoded with self-knowledge being activated, the enhanced linkages and associations make message recall more likely (e.g., Hong & Zinkhan, 1995). However, Hong and Zinkhan’s (1995) studies have not empirically established the superior effects of memory due to message congruency. Instead, their study, as well as most other studies, demonstrated that self-concept congruent messages generate better ad attitude and brand evaluation, and higher purchase intention.

Ad messages that are congruent with or relevant to a person’s self-concepts are usually evaluated more positively. For example, Wang and Mowen (1997) determined subject’s orientations toward separatedness or connectedness then tested their responses to ads with a separate ad appeal or a connected ad appeal. The findings indicated that subjects preferred ads employing ad appeals that were congruent with their self-concepts. Leach and Liu (1998) found that ideocentric subjects rated in-group advertising message appeals more positively than out-group advertising appeals whereas allocentric subjects evaluated out-group message appeals in more positive ways. Dutta (1999) documented the same results when examining health campaign messages. He demonstrated that functional AIDS ad appeals are favored by ideocentric subjects, whereas social AIDS ad appeals are preferred by allocentric subjects when subjects are highly involved in processing ad messages. Emotional appeals have also been shown to work differently for individuals who have independent versus interdependent constructs of the self (Aaker & Williams, 1998). Aaker and Williams (1998) demonstrated that ego-focused emotional appeals generated more favorable evaluations for subjects in individualistic cultures, whereas other-focused emotional appeals elicited more positive evaluations for subjects in collectivist cultures.

Product evaluations also vary depending on how ad messages delineate product users. Hong and Zinkhan (1995) examined introverted and extroverted consumers and showed that consumers’ evaluations of advertised brands were determined by the congruency between ad messages and self-concepts. Purchase intent has also been shown to increase when a messages are congruent with subjects’ self-concepts. For example, categorizing subjects into three groups: adventurous subjects, sensual subjects, and sensitive subjects, Mehta (1999) found that the higher the convergence of self-concept and brand image delineated in ads, the higher subjects’ purchase intent. Therefore, this study suggests:

Hypothesis 3: Subjects favor brands with user portrayals that are congruent with their real selves.

Hypothesis 4:Subjects favor brands with user portrayals that are congruent with their ideal selves.

The Mediating Role of Self-referencing

Viewers may or may not refer messages to themselves when they are exposed to advertising. According to Burnkrant and Unnava (1995), self-referencing is regarded as the processing of information by relating it to the self-structure or aspects thereof. Early studies on self-referencing found that recall of words or phrases was greater when subjects were asked to relate words or phrases to themselves (e.g., Bower & Gilligan, 1979; Bellezza, 1984; Rogers, Kuiper, and Kirker, 1977). The greater recall resulting from self-referencing is attributed to subjects’ more thorough elaboration (Burnkrant & Unnava, 1989; Burnkrant & Unnava, 1995). Since people’s knowledge about the self is rich and plentiful, relating words to aspects of the self activates a well-connected cognitive structure. This activation makes more linkage points between incoming information and existing cognitive structures, thus making multiple retrieval routes available, and in turn enhancing recall (Burnkrant & Unnava, 1989; Burnkrant & Unnava, 1995).

The self-referencing effects on recall have been demonstrated in studies that explored advertising effects (e.g., Burnkrant & Unnava, 1989; Burnkrant & Unnava, 1995). Burnkrant and Unnava (1995) showed that self-referencing advertising messages encouraged subjects to engage in central route processing and led to more elaboration of messages. Under conditions in which messages prompting self-referencing were embedded in advertising copy, subjects rated a strong-argument message as significantly more effective than a weak-argument message. On the other hand, under conditions in which self-referencing was not evoked, subjects did not rate messages with strong arguments and weak arguments differently.

The author argues that it is important to examine whether self-concept congruent ad messages encourage subjects to refer messages to themselves. Self-concept congruent messages in ads may activate subjects’ self-schemata, which most people have available though they may not be activated at all times, and engage subjects in more self-referencing thinking. To the extent they feel engaged, they are likely to have positive attitude toward the advertised brand. In other words, their brand attitudes are determined by the level of self-referencing that ad messages evoke.

Hypothesis 5: Subjects’ self-referencing mediates their evaluations of the advertised brand.

The Mediation of Subjects’ Emotional Responses for Congruency Effects

Why do consumers favor self-concept congruent messages? It is suggested that inconsistency and dissonance have emotional consequences such as evoking tension, stress, and discomfort (see Higgins, 1987 for a review). Self-conflicts have also been shown to cause emotional problems (e.g., Rogers, 1961). Based on self-discrepancy theory, Higgins (1987) suggests that individuals are motivated to meet the expectations of others. He further proposes that discrepancies between a person’s perceptions of his/her actual self and others’ perceptions of what he or she should be will evoke a sense of dejection due to the anticipated loss of social ffection or attractiveness.

As documented in past literature, media is said to set the standards and norms of our behaviors. It shows us what we should or ought to be in order to be socially attractive. By the same token, advertising can shape an image that we believe others will favor. Consumer researchers suggest that an individual’s consumption is symbolic in that the individual is attempting to gain social recognition or self-image enhancement (e.g., Markus & Wurf, 1987; Sirgy, 1985; Zinkhan & Hong, 1991). To the extent that user images portrayed in advertising and consumers’ real self-concepts are discrepant, consumers are likely to feel frustrated and sad. In turn, their emotional states may alter the way they feel toward the advertised brand due to mood congruency effects (Clore, Schwarz & Conway, 1994; Schwarz & Clore, 1996). Therefore, this study argues that the discrepancy between real self-concept and product image will elicit more negative emotions and less positive emotions. These emotional responses further mediate subjects’ evaluations of the advertised brand.

Hypothesis 6: Subjects’ emotional responses mediate their evaluations of the advertised brand.

METHODOLOGY

Subjects

Three hundred and ninety-six subjects were recruited for this study. Subjects were from the campus of a university in a metropolitan area and were paid for their participation. They were randomly assigned to one of two conditions (ads with introvert user portrayals vs. ads with extrovert user portrayals).

Procedures

Subjects were ushered into a classroom. After they were seated, the coordinator told them that the study was designed to examine the effects of various ad formats or techniques on viewers’ information processing. This story was designed to discourage them from guessing at purposes of the study. Then subjects, at their own pace, read a filler ad followed by the stimuli ad and another filler ad. After reading the stimuli ad, they were asked to rate their affective states. Then after reading all ads, they rated their levels of self-referencing to the ad, after which they measured their perceptions of user images in ads. Following this they rated their ad attitudes and product attitudes. Finally, they rated their real selves and ideal selves on Eysenck et al’s (1985) introversion/extroversion scale. After they finished the study, the coordinator provided a short debriefing.

Stimuli

Bottled water, a low-involving product identified in a pretest, was chosen as the advertised product because it is likely that risky or high-involving products will generate different responses from introverts, as opposed to extroverts, due to their orientation toward risk avoidance. Stimuli ads were created by professionals working at Ogilvy & Mather Ad Agency. Professional copywriters wrote ad messages to fit different personality portrayals and creative people provided visuals to fit message descriptions. Visuals and layouts were similar for ads with introvert user portrayals and ads with extrovert user portrayals in order to reduce any possible confounding effects. To improve external validity, the stimuli ad was inserted between two real filler ads.

Independent Variables

Real Self-image and Ideal Self-image on Introversion/Extroversion

Subjects rated their real selves and their ideal selves on Eyenck, Eysenck & Barrett’s (1985) introvert/extrovert scale. This scale was composed of 12 items. Cronbach’s reliability alpha was assessed to be satisfactory at .88 for the ratings of their real selves and at .82 for their ideal selves. For statistical analyses, subjects’ responses to the 12 items were summed and averaged. A low figure indicates that the subject is more likely to be introverted, whereas a high figure indicates the subject is more likely to be extroverted.

Product User Image on Introversion/Extroversion

Subjects were exposed to ads containing messages delineating ad characters with either introvert characteristics or extrovert characteristics. Eysenck et al.’s (1985) introvert/extrovert scale was applied to measure subjects’ perceptions of product users portrayed in ads. Cronbach’s reliability alpha estimate for the scale is satisfactory at .98. A t-test analysis indicated that users portrayed in introvert ads did generate a significantly lower rating than ad characters in extrovert ads (F(1, 391)=889.94, p<.01, Mintrovert=2.79, Mextrovert=.5.71).

Discrepancy of Self-image and Product Image

Subjects’ ratings of ad users minus from their ratings of real selves formed a scale that captures the discrepancy between real self-image and product image. Similarly, subjects’ ratings of ad users minus from their ratings of ideal selves formed a scale that captures the discrepancy between ideal self-image and product image. The discrepancy estimates will be used to test whether the larger the discrepancy, the more negative responses subjects generate toward brands.

Dependent Measures

Self-referencing

Subjects rated how well they could relate themselves to the users described in ads. The scale had four items "picture oneself in setting," "picture oneself in position of ad character," "similarity to life experience," and "similarity to ad character." This scale was adopted from Debevec & Iyengar (1988). The Cronbach’s reliability estimate is satisfactory at .89.

Ad-evoked Emotion

Subjects rated their emotional states on a 20-item scale. These items were selected from Edell and Burke (1987). Factor analyses with varimax rotation generated three factors with eigen-values larger than one. The first factor includes seven items and is labeled "positive emotions." The second factor consists of six items and is labeled "negative emotions." The third factor has four items and is named "sentimental emotions." Three items had split loadings and were dropped from the analyses. Ad-evoked emotions were analyzed as if there were three sub-scales. Cronbach’s reliability alphas for positive emotions, negative emotions and sentimental emotions are satisfactoy at .91, .86, and .73 respectively.

Ad Attitude

A five-item seven-point semantic-differential scale was used to measure subjects’ attitudes toward ads. The items were adopted from Madden, Allen, & Twible (1988). The five items include: "interesting-not interesting," "good-bad," "likable-not likable," "not irritating-irritating," and "pleasant-not pleasant." Factor analyses generated one factor with an eigen-value larger than one. Therefore, in all later analyses, ad attitudes will be examined by summing and averaging subjects’ responses to the five items. Cronbach’s reliability alpha is deemed satisfactory at .87.

Brand Attitude

Brand attitudes were measured with a five-item semantic-differential scale. The items were adopted from Mitchel and Olson (1981) and Holbrook and Batra (1987). The five items are "good-bad," "like-dislike," "pleasant-unpleasant," "positive-negative," and "high quality-low quality." Factor analyses generated one factor with an eigen-value larger than one. Therefore, in all later analyses, brand attitudes will be examined by summing and averaging subjects’ responses to the five items. Cronbach’s reliability alpha of this scale was deemed satisfactory at .93.

RESULTS AND ANALYSES

Subjects’ introversion/extroversion was not measured in advance as a means of assignment to different experimental conditions. Instead, individual differences on introversion/extroversion were measured after subjects were exposed to advertising messages. Therefore, regression analyses rather than MANOVA or ANOVA were applied to test the hypotheses. Hypothesis one suggests that, regardless of ad type difference, extroverted subjects will evaluate ads in more positive ways than introverted subjects. Regression analyses indicated that, in addition to the variance explained by ad type difference, subjects’ ratings of their real self-images did not contribute significantly more variance to ad liking (see Table 1). However, subjects’ ratings of their ideal selves contributed significantly more variance to their attitudes toward ads other than what can be explained by ad type differences. Subjects who rated their ideal selves as more extroverted evaluated ads more positively than subjects who rated their ideal selves as less extroverted. Therefore, hypothesis one is supported when examining subjects’ ideal selves but not their real selves.

Hypothesis two suggests that, regardless of ad message difference, extroverted subjects will evaluate brands in more positive ways than introverted subjects. Regression analyses indicated that, in addition to the variance explained by ad type difference, subjects’ ratings of their real self-images did not contribute significantly more variance to brand liking (see Table 2). However, subjects’ ratings of their ideal selves contributed significantly more varance to their attitudes toward ads other than what can be explained by ad type differences. Subjects who rated their ideal selves as more extrovert evaluated advertised brands more positively than subjects who rated their ideal selves as more introvert. Therefore, hypothesis two is supported when examining subjects’ ideal selves but not their real selves.

TABLE 1

THE IMPACTS OF SELF-CONCEPT IN TERMS OF INTROVERSION AND EXTROVERSION ON AD ATTITUDE

TABLE 2

THE IMPACTS OF SELF-CONCEPT IN TERMS OF INTROVERSION AND EXTROVERSION ON BRAND EVALUATIONS

TABLE 3

THE IMPACTS OF SELF-IMAGE AND PRODUCT IMAGE DISCREPANCY ON BRAND EVALUATION

Hypothesis three proposes that subjects favor brands with user portrayals that are more congruent with their real selves. The discrepancy between subjects’ ratings of their real selves and the product users on introversion/extroversion was run as an independent variable on brand attitude in the regression analysis. Results indicated that the impact of the discrepancy between their real selves and product image was significant (see Table 3). The larger the discrepancy, the more negative the brand attitude. Therefore, hypothesis three is supported.

Hypothesis four suggests that subjects favor brands with user portrayals that are congruent with their ideal selves. The discrepancy between subjects’ ratings of their ideal selves and product image on introversion/extroversion was regressed on brand attitude. Results indicated that the impact of the discrepancy was significant (see Table 3). Subjects who perceive a large difference between their ideal selves and product users tend to evaluate the advertised brand in a more negative light. Therefore, hypothesis four is supported.

Hypothesis five proposes that subjects’ levels of self-referencing mediate their evaluations of brand attitude. To test this hypothesis, a series of regression analyses were conducted (see Table 4). If the relationships among these variables could be demonstrated as specified by Baron and Kenny (1986), the mediating role of subjects’ emotional responses can be established. Results indicated that the real self/product discrepancy had significant impacts on subjects’ self-referencing (see equation 1). In addition, subjects’ self-referencing significantly contributed to brand evaluation variance (see equation 5). However, the impacts of discrepancy disappeared when subjects’ self-referencing was in the equation (see equation 9). The same patterns of impacts were obtained for ideal self/product user discrepancy (see Table 5). The results indicated that subjects’ self-referencing functions as the mediator in the brand evaluation formation process. Therefore, hypothesis 5 is supported.

Hypothesis six proposes that subjects’ emotional responses mediate their evaluations of brand attitude. Results indicated that the real self/product user image discrepancy only had significant impacts on subjects’ negative emotions and sentimental emotions but not on subjects’ positive emotions (see Table 4, equations 3 & 4). Thus, positive emotion is not qualified to be the mediator. In addition, only subjects’ negative emotions significantly contributed to brand evaluation variance (see equation 7). However, the impacts of discrepancy disappeared when subjects’ negative emotion was in the equation (see equation 9). Sentimental emotion is not qualified to be the mediator here because its impact was not significant when discrepancy was also in the equation. The same patterns of impacts were obtained for the ideal self/product user discrepancy (see Table 5). The results indicated that, among three types of emotional responses, subjects’ negative emotional responses are the only mediator in the brand evaluation formation process. Therefore, hypothesis six is supported for negative emotion.

TABLE 4

THE MEDIATING EFFECT OF AD EVOKED EMOTION AND SELF-REFERENCING ON PRODUCT ATTITUDE WHEN THE DISCREPANCY BETWEEN THE REAL SELF AND BRAND IMAGE WERE EXAMINED

TABLE 5

THE MEDIATING EFFECT OF AD EVOKED EMOTION AND SELF-REFERENCING ON PRODUCT ATTITUDE WHEN THE DISCREPANCY BETWEEN THE IDEAL SELF AND BRAND IMAGE WERE EXAMINED

DISCUSSION

Research on personality and consumer behavior is generally limited to examinations of the impacts of self-concept and brand image congruency on product evaluation. This study suggests that there are two different ways that subjects’ personality orientations may interfere with their processing of advertising information. First, subjects of different personalitie are likely to view their environment from different perspectives. Extroverts are attracted to rewards and tend to see their environment from a more positive perspective. On the other hand, introverts shun risks and pay more attention to negative aspects of their environment. As a result, extroverts tend to favor ads and products in general regardless of the degree of congruency between brand image and their self-concepts. However, we should note that only those who rated their ideal selves high on extroversion responded to the products and ads more positively. Those who rated their real selves high on extroversion did not evaluate the products or ads differently from those who rated their real selves low on extroversion. Future studies should try to explore the different impacts driven by consumers’ real self-concepts and ideal self-concepts.

Second, subjects’ perceptions of the discrepancies between their self-concepts and product images affect their product evaluations. Most importantly, this study further investigated the mechanism involved in the process that leads to subjects’ preferences for product images similar to their self-concepts. Past research suggests that dissonance and discrepancy are causes of emotional discomfort. When advertising provides an image of whom a consumer should be, the consumer’s perception of discrepancy has direct emotional consequences. As Higgins (1987) argues, discrepancies between what a person’s perceptions of his/her actual self and others’ perceptions of what he or she should be will evoke a sense of dejection due to the anticipated loss of social affection or attractiveness. Consistent with Higgins (1987), this study demonstrated that only negative emotion, as opposed to positive emotion or sentimental emotion, functions as the mediator in the brand evaluation formation process. Additionally, when subjects’ self-concepts are congruent with a product’s image, subjects are likely to refer ad messages to their own lives. The more they refer ad messages to themselves, the more positive responses they have toward the product.

The findings of this study not only contribute to our understanding of how and why consumers’ personalities affect their product evaluations, they also have important implications for marketers. To develop appropriate advertising strategies appealing to their target segments, marketing managers should be aware of how target consumers’ self-concepts affect their evaluations of advertised brands and what mechanism is involved in the process. On the other hand, to accurately estimate campaign effects, marketing managers should take into account their target audience’s responses to advertising in general.

This study tests only one personality trait and examines only ads for bottled water. Since a person’s self-concept is multi-dimensional, examining other personality traits is necessary for replications. As discussed briefly earlier, bottled water is a low-involving product. Extroverts and introverts are likely to respond differently to high-involving products due to their orientations toward risk. Further research involving other product types is warranted to provide a better view of the impacts of personality differences on product evaluations.

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