Disentangling Regret From Expectancy-Disconfirmation

Lisa J. Abendroth, Boston University
ABSTRACT - Expectancy-disconfirmation has long been the dominant paradigm in satisfaction research. However, recent research suggests that multiple comparison standards may influence consumer satisfaction (Oliver, 1997, Fournier and Mick, 1999). One alternative comparison referent is the outcome of the unchosen product or service. When the chosen alternative is seen as inferior to a foregone alternative and the consumer experiences self-blame, the resulting emotion is regret (Sugden, 1985). Regret has been found to detrimentally affect consumer satisfaction (Inman, Dyer, and Jia, 1997; Taylor 1997) and reduce repurchase intent (Inman and Zeelenberg, 1998; Zeelenberg and Pieters, 1999).
[ to cite ]:
Lisa J. Abendroth (2001) ,"Disentangling Regret From Expectancy-Disconfirmation", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, eds. Mary C. Gilly and Joan Meyers-Levy, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 371-372.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, 2001     Pages 371-372

DISENTANGLING REGRET FROM EXPECTANCY-DISCONFIRMATION

Lisa J. Abendroth, Boston University

ABSTRACT -

Expectancy-disconfirmation has long been the dominant paradigm in satisfaction research. However, recent research suggests that multiple comparison standards may influence consumer satisfaction (Oliver, 1997, Fournier and Mick, 1999). One alternative comparison referent is the outcome of the unchosen product or service. When the chosen alternative is seen as inferior to a foregone alternative and the consumer experiences self-blame, the resulting emotion is regret (Sugden, 1985). Regret has been found to detrimentally affect consumer satisfaction (Inman, Dyer, and Jia, 1997; Taylor 1997) and reduce repurchase intent (Inman and Zeelenberg, 1998; Zeelenberg and Pieters, 1999).

The goal of this research is to disentangle regret from expectancy-disconfirmation by examining the unique and combined effects from using performance expectations and/or a preferred, foregone alternative for comparison. Effects on perceptions, emotions, and post-purchase behaviors are examined in turn following a brief description of the methods.

In this experiment, 129 participants chose between 2 cordless phones knowing that they might receive the phone they seleced. In order to tease apart the effects of expectancy-disconfirmation and regret, participants then received Consumer Reports information containing 2 key manipulations. The chosen alternative either met expectations (rated as "very good") or performed below expectations (rated as "good"), while the foregone alternative was either unknown (not rated) or known to be better (rated as "excellent"). This outcome information was manipulated between subjects along with a manipulation of processing measures, which were either asked pre- and post-outcome or post-outcome only.

Perceived Performance and Decision Quality. Although the perceived difference in performance between the chosen and foregone alternatives is the main driver of regret, I examined the individual ratings of the chosen and foregone alternatives and later computed the magnitude of the counterfactual comparison. There were two key findings. First, the results indicated that negative expectancy-disconfirmation caused a reevaluation of an unknown, foregone alternative. When the chosen alternative’s outcome was below expectation, the foregone alternative was perceived to perform below expectation as well, which is consistent with anchoring and adjustment. However, the reevaluation also led the foregone alternative to be perceived as slightly better than the chosen alternative, which is consistent with counterfactual thinking. Second, the results suggested that the precursor to regretBknowing the foregone alternative was betterBcaused the chosen alternative to be rated worse relative to expectations, even when it’s outcome was described as very good (meeting expectations).

Self-blame should stem from the perceived quality of the decisionBthe source of the wrong choice. When the foregone alternative was described as better, decision quality (process and reasons) should be perceived in hindsight to be poor, and the results showed a pre- to post-outcome decline in decision quality. However, the negativity associated with a below expectations outcome should also trigger attributional processes (Weiner, 1985) that cause perceived decision quality to decline. This was also found to be the case. The shifts in perceived performance and decision quality based on outcome information are important, as they are the key components of regret.

Affective Responses. Regret should be greater when the foregone alternative is known to be better, which it was. More interesting is the magnitude of regret when the foregone alternative’s performance was unknown. Given that negative expectancy-disconfirmation caused the foregone alternative to be reevaluated as better than the chosen alternative and perceptions of decision quality to decline, then regret should have increased when the chosen alternative performed below expectations, which it did. However, when the chosen alternative performed below expectations, providing information that the foregone alternative was better did not further increase regret. The conclusion from this is that expectancy-disconfirmation alone, through its effect on perceived performance and decision quality, can trigger the same level of regret as information that the foregone alternative is better.

Satisfaction should decrease when the chosen alternative performs below expectation (Oliver, 1997) or when the foregone alternative is known to be better (Inman et al., 1997). Not only were both effects significant, but the magnitude of decrease was the same. However, their combined effect (chosen below expectations and foregone known to be better) was no different than either effect alone.

Looking at the relationship between the regret and its determinants, regression results showed that expectancy-disconfirmation, counterfactual comparison (the difference in perceived performance between the chosen and foregone alternatives), and decision quality were all significant predictors of regret. In addition, building on earlier research which showed that regret decreases satisfaction (Inman et al., 1997; Taylor 1997), mediation analyses found that regret only partially mediated the effects of expectancy-disconfirmation and counterfacual comparison on satisfaction, although it fully mediated the effect of decision quality on satisfaction.

Post-Purchase Behavior. Brand switching should increase when the chosen alternative performs below expectations as well as when the foregone alternative is known to be better. Although both effects were significant, the magnitude of the effect from information about the foregone alternative was much greater. Loyalty, a factor of positive word of mouth and repurchase intent, was also affected by both manipulations as predicted. More interesting results were found in the regression and mediation analyses. Brand switching and loyalty were both affected by counterfactual comparison and satisfaction, with the latter mediating the effects from regret. However, expectancy-disconfirmation had no effect on switching behavior, but had a large effect on loyalty. These results are significant for two reasons. First, they show that post-purchase behaviors are affected by both cognitive and emotional factors, and second, that different referents for comparison have different effects on post-purchase behaviors, even if they have the same effect on satisfaction.

REFERENCES

Fournier, S. and D. G. Mick (1999), "Rediscovering Satisfaction," Journal of Marketing, pp. 5-23.

Inman, J.J., S.S. Dyer, and J. Jia (1997), "A Generalized Utility Model of Disappointment and Regret Effects on Post-Choice Valuation," Marketing Science, v. 16, pp. 97-111.

Inman, J.J., and M. Zeelenberg (1998), "#Oh Wow, I Could’ve Had a V8!’: The Role of Regret in Consumer Choice," Working Paper, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI.

Oliver, R.L. (1997), Satisfaction: A Behavioral Perspective on the Consumer, Boston, MA: Irwin McGraw-Hill.

Sugden, R. (1985), "Regret, Recrimination, and Rationality," Theory and Decision, v. 19, pp. 77-99.

Taylor, K.A. (1997), "A Regret Theory Approach to Assessing Consumer Satisfaction," Marketing Letters, v. 8, pp. 229-238.

Weiner, B. (1985), "’Spontaneous’ causal thinking," Psychological Bulletin, v. 97, pp. 74-84.

Zeelenberg, M., and R.G.M. Pieters (1999), "Comparing service delivery to what might have been: Behavioral responses to regret and disappointment in services," Journal of Service Research, v. 2, pp. 86-97.

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