Special Session Summary Psycholinguistic Perspectives on Consumer Learning

Richard F. Yalch, University of Washington
Claudiu V. Dimofte, University of Washington
[ to cite ]:
Richard F. Yalch and Claudiu V. Dimofte (2003) ,"Special Session Summary Psycholinguistic Perspectives on Consumer Learning", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 30, eds. Punam Anand Keller and Dennis W. Rook, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 382.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 30, 2003     Page 382



Richard F. Yalch, University of Washington

Claudiu V. Dimofte, University of Washington

Consumer researchers have devoted much time and effort to researching social (e.g., attitudes) and cognitive (e.g., schemata) aspects of how consumers process marketing information. This special topic session focused on how psycholinguistic research facilitates our understanding of consumer information processing. The focus is on advertising and brand information presented as short phrases or sentence fragments (e.g., tag lines, slogans) either in the context of an overall ad or as a separate piece of information. The consumer task is to integrate this information with existing brand information using their native language skills.

The session’s goal was to explore whether there are any unique aspects to the processing of marketing information compared to ordinary language. The three papers stretched the limits of psycholinguistics by investigating consumer-relevant situations not usually considered by psycholinguists. For example, Zhang and his colleagues test their proposal that brand names operate as special lexical items. Gregan-Paxton and Moreau contrast analogy and categorization effects and demonstrate that under special circumstances they can act together. Lastly, Dimofte and Yalch explore how contextual visuals can alter access to the most frequent interpretation of a multiple meaning phrase, thereby affecting recall of the slogan information. Considered together, this session demonstrates the uniqueness of marketing information in consumer language processing.

In the session’s first paper, Possidonia Gontijo, Zhi Zhang, Janice Rayman, and Eran Zaidel, (all from UCLA), presented their research examining whether responses to brand names are a special class of lexical items compared to control stimuli. They proposed that brand names may have a special neuropsychological status, possibly a consequence of people’s frequent exposures to brands and marketing communications. Using real brand names and a research paradigm from neuro-cognitive psychology, they showed that brand names are represented and processed (i.e., via hemispheric representation), differently than other types of lexical item in the mental lexicon, suggesting their special psychological status.

In the second paper, Jennifer Gregan-Paxton (University f Delaware) and Page Moreau (University of Colorado-Boulder) discussed recent research emphasizing the similarities between analogy and categorization. In their investigation, they merged the literature on analogy, categorization, and structure mapping theory to better understand their differences. In three experiments, they compared consumers’ responses to analogy and categorization cues and found that analogy constrains knowledge transfer more than categorization, since it directs consumers to attend to relational similarities.

In the third paper, Claudiu Dimofte and Richard Yalch, (both from the University of Washington-Seattle) studied consumer reactions to polysemous advertising slogans. Advertisers often use phrases with multiple meanings (polysemy) as brand slogans to attract consumer attention. Examples include Scotch ("Ideas that stick") and Travelocity ("Go virtually anywhere"). Psycholinguistic research has identified that polysemy comprehension and recall depend on the base frequency of each meaning and the contextual information at exposure. Using Internet web pages with polysemous slogans accompanied by photographs, they found that the rich contextual information in advertisements overcomes the superiority of base frequency found by psycholinguists. Further, the moderating effect of consumers’ linguistic ability suggests that the unconscious access to the secondary meaning of polysemous slogans impacts subsequent consumer attitudes.