Discussion Involvement, Learning and Attitudes

David M. Gardner, University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign
[ to cite ]:
David M. Gardner (1981) ,"Discussion Involvement, Learning and Attitudes", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 08, eds. Kent B. Monroe, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 76.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 8, 1981      Page 76



David M. Gardner, University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign

These three papers are a good example of the diversity in consumer research that exists today. The Huber and Elrod study is aimed at theory development using non-consumer stimuli. Block's paper represents an attempt to point out a missing tool in the involvement research field and develops a specific measuring tool. And different yet is the Barnaby, Philpot and Reizenstein paper that is very much an applied attitude study.

It is encouraging to see research of the type presented by Huber and Elrod. Any discipline can benefit by theory development research. Our tendency in consumer behavior is to "borrow" and therefore we often avoid some of the basic steps in theory development. Therefore, an attempt to understand choice, unencumbered by any previous experience or learning is welcome. Unfortunately, the writeup of this effort leaves out a discussion of many of the critical details that should allow others to evaluate the design and results of the study. This may be a very worthwhile study that will serve as the basis for other research, but it is almost impossible to determine from the writeup. For instance, the authors do not specify what the seven-point quality scale was measuring (i.e., the direct measure). Also, it is not at all clear how the dependent variables were measured. The manipulation of systematic error seems questionable as many cues (attributes) predict expected worth of value. Without knowing the rationale for using only 32 trials (in another place 48 trials were specified) it seems that the results of this experiment might be very different if subjects were given more trials.

In addition to including a larger number of trials, this study would have been more useful if it had been replicated in four versions. The first replication would have been without any manipulation of either stimulus or systematic error. The second and third replications would have included one of these error manipulations. The fourth replication would have included both. In its present form, only the fourth replication has been attempted. Therefore, the effect of the manipulations are confounded and make interpretation difficult.

The reaction to Block's paper dealing with involvement with automobiles is almost certain to be mixed. On the one hand, the author is to be commended for the compact and relevant review of the literature and for the design and execution of the study. But, on the other hand, one must question the rationale for the study and ask--why do we need one more involvement scale.

In many ways, this study is a straightforward application of the standard methodology for scale development and testing. Unfortunately, there is little concrete support for asserting that the scale measures "involvement." If in fact, Block does want to build on existing work, then it is important to carefully link one's work to existing work. Therefore, a potential and serious flaw in the study is the lack of statistical correlation with other measures of involvement. It seems important to determine, if in fact, this new scale truly contributes any additional insight into our understanding of involvement. Specifically, does this new scale differentiate better than the Lastovicka and Gardner scale or even a simple question like, "How much do you care about cars" or "How important are cars to you?"

In addition, Block seems to overlook the difference between scales that measure differential involvement between consumers for a particular and specific product class and scales that measure differential involvement for an individual consumer toward different products. The study presented here deals only with the former. A brief procedural note is the seeming lack of evidence that criterion validity is adequately assessed. Pre-tests are not reported.

The Barnaby, Philpot and Reizenstein study is a relatively straightforward, practical, management oriented study. It is not exciting, and does not develop any new frontiers. Its analysis is not sophisticated nor the results particularly startling, although they may be useful as a management tool.

Two observations seem appropriate, however. First, no organizing or conceptual framework for this study is specified or evident. Therefore, it is not completely clear why the exact attitudes, attributes or demographics specified should correlate with CVS preferences. Future investigators who will look at this study for direction, may go away empty handed if they desire to learn what predicts CVS preferences from a conceptual perspective.

Second, the authors do not seem to take advantage of the "involvement" literature mentioned in the Block study. CVS is most likely a higher involving activity, at least initially. Therefore this would suggest an analysis to sort out variables that would be more apt to predict initial behavior toward CVS based on high involvement issues.