The Effect of Enduring Involvement on Evoked Set Size: a Motivational Orientation Perspective


Richard L. Divine and Thomas J. Page, Jr (1994) ,"The Effect of Enduring Involvement on Evoked Set Size: a Motivational Orientation Perspective", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, eds. Joseph A. Cote and Siew Meng Leong, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 10-16.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, 1994      Pages 10-16


Richard L. Divine, Central Michigan University

Thomas J. Page, Jr, Michigan State University


Previous research has established that involvement has a negative relationship with evoked set size (Belonax and Javalgi 1989, Rothschild and Houston 1977). However this research only examined situational forms of involvement. This paper, citing motivational orientation research, makes the case that enduring involvement may actually have a positive effect on evoked set size. This hypothesized relationship is thought to be a result of the mediating effects that a previously neglected variable, shopping enthusiasm, has on the involvement/evoked-set size relationship. The remainder of this paper will explain the conceptual reasoning underlying the hypothesized relationships between enduring involvement, shopping enthusiasm and evoked set size, and then present the results of a study that directly tests these hypothesized relationships.


Involvement has emerged as one of the most prominent concepts in consumer research (Sherrell and Shimp 1982). The primary reason for its importance is because it has been shown to be the main determinant of how much decision making effort an individual will exert when making a purchase (Assael 1984). Unfortunately involvement research has been hampered by a failure to establish a universally accepted definition of the construct (Houston and Rothschild 1978, Muncy and Hunt 1984, Stone 1984). As a result different researchers have defined and operationalized the construct differently, and have in some cases obtained conflicting results. Consequently researchers have made conceptual distinctions between some of the different types of involvement that have been operationalized. The need for such distinctions was demonstrated by Johnson and Eagly (1989) who performed a meta analysis on the effects of involvement on persuasion and found different results depending upon the type of involvement that was operationalized.

In the marketing literature the need to distinguish between different types of involvement has been advocated by a variety of researchers (Bloch and Bruce 1984, Hawkins, Best, and Coney 1992, Houston and Rothschild 1978, Park and Mittal 1985). While each has developed their own typology, they all essentially make the same basic conceptual distinctions between involvement types. Of these, the one most widely accepted is Houston and Rothschild's (1978) situational and enduring involvement classification. Situational involvement (SI) refers to the ability of the purchase situation to elicit concern from consumers about their responses. This is said to occur when consumers perceive adverse consequences will result if their decision making in the situation is sub-optimal. Perceived risk is the primary antecedent of SI, and it is the type of involvement most frequently addressed in marketing studies.

Houston and Rothschild's second type, enduring involvement (EI) refers to the strength of the pre-existing relationship between the individual and the product. The primary distinguishing feature of EI is that it is elicited by intrinsic interest in the product and not by situational concerns regarding the product's purchase. Thus, unlike situational involvement, it tends to be present even during those times in which the product is not being considered for purchase.

Since involvement is considered by many researchers to be a motivational state (Celsi and Olson 1988, Johnson and Eagly 1989, Park and Mittal 1985, Petty and Cacioppo 1986), another criterion that is considered appropriate for differentiating the two involvement conceptualizations is the type of motivational orientation they represent. There are two basic types of motivational orientation, intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsicly motivated behavior is that which is performed solely for the interest and enjoyment inherent in the activity (Reeve 1992). Extrinsically motivated behavior on the other hand is that which is performed in order to obtain some reward or avoid some punishment (Reeve 1992).

Since enduring involvement is elicited by intrinsic interest in a product, it is considered to be an intrinsicly oriented motivational state. EI motivates people to perform product related tasks because such activities are found to be self-rewarding. Since situational involvement is induced by concerns about the consequences of ones behavior and not by an intrinsic interest in the product (Arora 1982, Muncy and Hunt 1984), it is considered to be an extrinsicly oriented motivational state. SI motivates people to perform product related tasks because they fear a mispurchase will result if they do not perform these tasks.

This distinction regarding the kind of motivational orientation underlying the two involvement types is important because empirical research on the consequences of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation has uncovered numerous differences in response tendencies. These findings have shown that an extrinsic motivational orientation leads to a reduction in the enjoyment of the activity (Condry 1977, Lepper, Greene, and Nisbitt 1973), a reduction in learning and task mastery (Condry 1977, 1987), more short cuts in the performance of the activity (Pittman, Boggiono, and Rubble 1983), more frustration with the activity (Garbarino 1975), a preference for simpler tasks (Pittman, Emery, and Boggiono 1982), and a faster termination of the activity when a satisfactory outcome is achieved (Kruglanski, Stein & Riter 1977). Essentially these findings show extrinsic motivation lessens the enjoyment one receives from performing an activity. Intrinsic motivation on the other hand increases enjoyment of the activity since by definition it is brought about by the inherent pleasure one feels when performing the activity (Reeve 1992). In a marketing context then, it is hypothesized that enduring involvement is positively related and situational involvement is negatively related to a consumer's enjoyment of or enthusiasm toward the purchasing task.

The implications of these hypothesized differences in shopping enthusiasm might mean that previous research findings regarding relationships between involvement and other consumer decision making constructs may not be valid for both types of involvement. Since the bulk of previous empirical research has only operationalized situational involvement (Bloch and Bruce 1984, Muncy and Hunt 1984) it is possible that such findings are not applicable for enduring involvement. This is particularly relevant for the involvement-evoked set size relationship since evoked set size is likely to be affected by consumer enthusiasm toward the purchasing task.


An evoked set (also called a consideration set) is the subset of the brands in a product category that a particular individual considers when making a purchase (Campbell 1968, Howard and Sheth 1969). Since each product category contains a vast number of brands from which to choose, consumers use evoked sets to simplify their decision process. The evoked set is culled from a consumer's awareness set, which consists of those brands in the product category of which the consumer is aware (Narayana and Markin 1975).

The concept of the evoked set, with its view that consumers only seriously consider a small number of the available brands when making a purchase decision, has received wide spread acceptance and solid empirical validation from within the marketing literature (e.g. Campbell 1969, Parkinson and Reilly 1979). Empirical research on evoked set size has found positive correlations between it and the following antecedents: awareness set size (Brown and Wildt 1987), extent of information search (Ostlund 1973), temporal proximity to purchase (Eroglu et. al. 1983), and venturesomeness (Gronhaug 1974). Evoked set size has been found to be negatively correlated with the number of evaluative criteria used, information variability (Belonax and Mittlestaedt 1978) brand loyalty (Ostlund 1973, Campbell 1969), and variability of product class quality (Belonax and Javalgi 1989).


Review of Previous Research

Involvement has also been hypothesized to be a prominent determinant of evoked set size. The accepted view in the marketing literature is that involvement has a negative effect on evoked set size and this view is supported by the findings of a number of empirical research studies. Jarvis and Wilcox (1973) found larger mean evoked sets for product categories rated low in importance than for those rated more highly. Rothschild and Houston (1977) found evidence to suggest that the more important a consumer feels an attribute is, the more intolerant they will be of brands with less than ideal performance on that attribute (i.e. the more narrow their latitudes of acceptance). While they did not attempt to correlate involvement with evoked set size, a negative relationship was inferred since it can be assumed that the more involved one is with a purchase the more importance will be placed on the attributes. Since importance was found to cause narrower latitudes of acceptance, the end result of higher involvement would be fewer brands being found acceptable, and hence smaller evoked sets. Belonax and Javalgi (1989) did directly test the relationship between involvement and evoked set size using Rothschild and Houston's operationalizations, and did find a significant negative relationship.

There are two main conceptual explanations that have been given to justify the hypothesized negative relationship between involvement and evoked set size. The first, put forward by Jarvis and Wilcox (1973) and Rothschild and Houston (1977), states that involved consumers are more demanding and thus find fewer alternatives to be acceptable enough to merit inclusion in their evoked sets. High involvement causes consumers to maintain higher standards which fewer alternatives are able to satisfy. This perspective is based on social judgment theory research, that has found that people with high involvement have narrower lattitudes of acceptance regarding attitudinal issues (Sherif and Hovland 1961).

The second explanation for a negative involvement-evoked set size relationship is based on information processing theory. This explanation features two basic propositions. The first is that high involvement consumers evaluate evoked set alternatives across a greater number of attributes because their heightened concern motivates them to make more thorough product evaluations. The second is that evaluating on more attributes requires greater processing capacity on a per brand basis thus limiting the number of brands a consumer is capable of considering (Belonax and Mittelstaedt 1978). The high involvement consumer is said to simplify the processing task by reducing the number of alternatives, not attributes, because doing so reduces the number of comparisons that must be made, and eliminating attributes would force consumers to forego consumption goals (Belonax and Mittelstaedt 1978).

Enduring Involvement and Evoked Set Size

While empirical research has tended to support a negative linkage between involvement and evoked set size, it is not particularly clear whether this relationship is valid for both enduring and situational involvement. While no specific type of involvement was identified in any of the previous research that provided support for the negative relationship, all three of these studies used operationalizations that were more consistent with SI than EI. Jarvis and Wilcox (1973) assessed involvement using product category importance, which is very similar to SI. Importance is much less consistent with EI since there are many products that consumers consider important but not intrinsically interesting (e.g. dishwashers, mattresses).

Both Belonax and Javalgi (1989) and Rothschild and Houston (1978) measured involvement using the "Consumer Involvement Matrix" (CIM). With the CIM, involvement is measured using a formula that divides the number of attributes the subject indicated he/she would use to evaluate alternatives by the average width of the lattitudes of acceptance for each evaluative attribute. This is considered to be more consistent with SI than EI because it measures cognitive responses, not intrinsic interest in the product category. This type of measure equates involvement with the amount of cognitive activity elicited in the decision making process, and thus does not address the affective evaluative aspects typically associated with EI (Park and Mittal 1985).

There have been two studies on the involvement-evoked set size relationship that have operationalized involvement in a manner more consistent with EI than SI. In these two studies a different pattern of results have emerged. In the most noteworthy of these two, Gronhaug (1974) found that consumers who had professed an interest in cars had larger mean evoked sets for cars than those who had not. While interest in a product category is not completely isomorphic with EI it comes much closer than more typical SI measures such as how important or risky they thought a car purchase would be for them.

Elliott and Warfield (1992), examined the effects of market mavenism on evoked set size. Market mavens are defined as people who display high levels of marketplace involvement and expertise. While Elliott and Warfield did not find a significant relationship between market mavenism and evoked set size, the direction of the relationship was positive, contrary to their expectations.

In summary, the conflicting empirical results of these studies suggest that the nature of the relationship between involvement and evoked set size may be a function of the type of involvement that is being addressed. Additionally, this view is supported by the fact that the conceptual reasoning behind a negative relationship seems much more appropriate for situational than enduring forms of involvement. When involvement is conceptualized in a manner more consistent with enduring involvement, the validity of the theoretical explanations becomes questionable.

According to the social judgment explanation, a small evoked set for high involvement consumers is hypothesized because their heightened concern makes them less accepting of alternatives that do not meet all their criteria. However this rationale does not seem as applicable for enduring involvement for several reasons. First, enduring involvement is associated with a greater general interest in the product category, more extensive product knowledge, and ongoing information search (Bloch and Bruce 1984). This broader base of knowledge seems to indicate that enduringly involved consumers generally have larger awareness sets than those with situational forms of involvement. Since enduringly involved consumers are aware of more brands, then, other things equal, they would likely know more brands acceptable enough to be included in their evoked set.

Second, since those with enduring involvement have shopping goals besides the determination of the best purchase alternatives, the criteria for inclusion in the evoked set are likely to be less intensely focused on the sufficiency of functional attributes. For people who are enduringly involved, shopping is also a leisure activity, a way to satisfy curiosity about various brands, a way to acquire more product knowledge, and a way to socially interact with knowledgeable sales personnel (Bloch and Bruce 1984, Tauber 1972). All of these goals can work to encourage such consumers to shop for and evaluate a greater number of alternatives, even those they suspect are likely to be found unacceptable in the final analysis. For example, a car enthusiast may include a sports car in his evoked set that he knows does not offer sufficient room for his family, because of his admiration of its performance characteristics and his desire to test drive it.

According to the information processing explanation an involved consumer will consider fewer alternatives because they evaluate brands on so many more attributes. This restricts the number of brands they are capable of evaluating due to limits in their processing capacity. However, enduringly involved consumers have better product knowledge than the situationally involved (Bloch and Bruce 1984) and thus likely have a better developed schema of the product category. This is reflected by research that has shown product knowledge enhances one's ability to process new information (Johnson and Russo 1984, Punj and Staelin 1983). In addition to being able to process information more efficiently, their greater pre-information search familiarity with brands and salient attributes frees up processing capacity that can be directed toward the consideration of lesser known brands in the product category. As a result they would be less restricted by information processing limitations than those who are situationally involved, and thus are better able to handle larger evoked sets.

Shopping Enthusiasm as a Mediating Variable

A new construct that might mediate the relationship between involvement and evoked set size is shopping enthusiasm. This refers to the level of enjoyment one expects to receive from the task of purchasing a specific product. It should be noted that this variable is not meant to be an indicator of how much one enjoys shopping in general but rather is specific to a particular product category. This recognizes that even the most reluctant shoppers probably have at least one product category that they enjoy shopping for. For example a sportsman may not enjoy shopping in general, but could still be a very enthusiastic shopper of guns and fishing equipment. Shopping enthusiasm is considered to be a potentially important mediator of the involvement evoked set size relationship because it is not only thought to be an antecedent of evoked set size but also because it is thought to be strongly affected by involvement.

H1:  Shopping enthusiasm has a positive effect on evoked set size.

Shopping enthusiasm is hypothesized to have a positive effect on evoked set size because consumers who are enthusiastic about shopping for a particular product will be less motivated to simplify the task by eliminating a lot of brands from their evoked set. Conversely to the extent that consumers find the purchasing process for a product to be stressful or unpleasant, the more motivated they will be to speed up this process by eliminating as many brands as possible from consideration.

H2:  Enduring involvement has a positive effect on shopping enthusiasm.

In terms of the effect of enduring involvement on shopping enthusiasm the relationship is thought to be positive as well. This is based on the motivational orientation research cited earlier. Enduring involvement is considered to be an intrinsic motivational state and people who are intrinsically motivated to perform an activity receive more enjoyment from the activity than those who are extrinsicly motivated (Condry 1977, Lepper, Greene and Nisbett 1973). Consumers with enduring involvement are motivated to shop by a hobby like interest in the product category and thus view the process as something closer to a leisure activity than a task.

H3:  Enduring involvement is positively related to evoked set size.

A positive relationship is hypothesized because enduringly involved consumers have been found to have better product knowledge and thus likely have more developed schemas of the product category. This gives them the additional processing capacity necessary to evaluate more brands in their evoked sets. In addition to this direct effect, enduring involvement is believed to have an indirect positive effect on evoked set size working through shopping enthusiasm (see H1: and H2:).


Study Design

A regression/correlational methodology was employed to test the hypotheses. Subjects were placed in a simulated purchasing context and asked to perform a hypothetical product evaluation task. In the course of this task, quantitative measures were taken of each of the three constructs in the study. The data were collected by means of a two part questionnaire that was administered to 183 undergraduate students in upper division marketing and management classes.

Since the majority of consumers have a low level of enduring involvement with most products (Bloch 1981) the category selected for this study needed to be one with that could elicit high levels of EI from a substantial segment of the market. The product category of car stereos was selected because it elicited the highest average level of interest from a convenience sample of college students, who were asked to rate their level of interest in seven product categories (stereo receivers, walkmans, cameras, VCRs, bicycles, and computers).

In terms of data collection, part one of the questionnaire was administered to subjects first, without any instructions or explanation of the purpose of the study. In this preliminary questionnaire enduring involvement was assessed. This was done prior to the reading of the instructions because it was felt to be necessary to measure enduring involvement outside of the purchase context, so as not to confound it with situational involvement.



After the preliminary questionnaire was administered, the main questionnaire was distributed and instructions were read aloud to the subjects. These asked subjects to assume they were currently in the market for a car stereo, to look over the provided information and use it to evaluate the acceptability to them of 28 different models of car stereo. In return for their cooperation subjects were told their names would be entered into a drawing for a $100 cash prize. This was done not only to motivate subjects to give serious effort to the product evaluation task but also to provide them with a context in which it would be financially realistic for them to shop for a car stereo.

In the main questionnaire subjects were first asked to respond to the items that assessed the degree of shopping enthusiasm they had with regard to the purchase of a car stereo. They were then asked to perform the product evaluation task. Each subject was provided with a product information booklet to help them with the task of selecting an evoked set. This information booklet provided them with two types of information; first it supplied detailed descriptions of 16 different attributes commonly used to evaluate car stereos, second, it provided evaluations of 28 different models of car stereo, across the 16 attributes described earlier, using Consumer Reports-style ratings scales. Based on this information they were asked to indicate which of the different models of car stereo they would consider for purchase (evoked set size). The 28 models of car stereo used in the study were actual models that varied in price from $100 to $600 and the ratings across attributes were based on their actual performance specifications.


To measure enduring involvement, Zaichkowski's (1988) revised personal involvement inventory (RPII) was used. The original version of this scale (the PII), has been used by previous researchers to measure enduring involvement (Celsi and Olsen 1988). The RPII was designed to provide a context free measure of a person's involvement with any of three different psychological objects: products, advertisements, and purchase decisions. To measure enduring involvement this scale was used to assess involvement with car stereos and not with a purchase decision.

In addition to the RPII, items from other involvement scales in the literature were used in order to improve measurement reliability. These included five items from Lastovicka and Gardner's (1978) involvement scale that relate to interest and emotional attachment to the product and eight items from Bloch's (1981) product involvement scale. Since the Bloch scale was developed to measure involvement with the product category of cars, the items borrowed were modified to assess involvement with the car stereos. The enduring involvement items adapted from Lastovicka and Gardner (1978) and Bloch (1981), are presented in Table 1.

Since shopping enthusiasm is a new construct there were no existing instruments in the marketing literature to measure it. As a result, scales were borrowed from the leisure discipline and then adapted to a consumption context. Leisure scales were used because the measurement goal was to assess the level of affect one has for a particular activity, and this is the type of measurement task that is commonly performed in leisure research. The first scale was adapted from Unger and Dornoff (1979) and is a 10 point scale that asks subjects to rate their preference for shopping for car stereos in comparison to all other products. The second scale was adapted from Iso-Ahola (1979) and asked subjects to assess to what extent they feel shopping for a car stereo would be a leisure activity.

The final leisure scale consisted of six items adapted from Unger and Kernan (1983). The full scale features 26 items and seeks to assess the amount of subjective leisure one gets out of an activity. All the items give a statement and ask subjects to indicate whether they agree or disagree using a five point Likert format. In addition to the scales borrowed from the leisure literature, three additional five point agree-disagree Likert items were developed to directly assess shopping enthusiasm. A complete list of items used to measure shopping enthusiasm is provide in Table 2.

Evoked set size was measured by having the subjects indicate from the list of 28 rated models which ones they would seriously consider for purchase.



The reliability of the scales used to measure all three constructs in the study was assessed using internal consistency measures. The enduring involvement scale produced a coefficient alpha of .94, shopping enthusiasm had an alpha of .91, and evoked set size had a KR20 of .88. Since all three measures exceed Nunnally's (1978) criterion for satisfactory internal consistency of .60, the measures were considered acceptable for further analysis.





Results Of Hypothesis Tests

The results of the three hypothesis tests are presented in Table 3. All of the correlations between the three variables were significant at the .05 level and all were in the hypothesized positive direction. For H1: a significant positive relationship was found between shopping enthusiasm and evoked set size. The correlation between the two is .163, and the p-value is .028. For H2: a significant positive relationship was found between enduring involvement and shopping enthusiasm. The correlation between the two was .65, and the p-value was < .001. For H3: a significant positive relationship was found between enduring involvement and evoked set size. The correlation between the two was .162, and the p-value = .028.

Because the correlation between enduring involvement and shopping enthusiasm was very high, there was a concern that the two constructs might lack discriminant validity. In order to investigate this possibility, two tests were made of the discriminant validity of the enduring involvement and shopping enthusiasm scales. Discriminant validity was first tested by comparing the c2 values produced by a one factor and a two factor confirmatory factor analysis of the items from the two scales, and seeing if the two factor model provides a significantly improved fit. The one factor model produced a c2 of 1776.36 at 527 degrees of freedom. The two factor model (in which scale items were constrained a priori as belonging to either shopping enthusiasm or enduring involvement) produced a c2 of 1373.80 at 526 d.f.. The difference in c2 values between the one and two factor models is 402.56 at 1 d.f. which is significant at the .01 level, thus indicating, discriminant validity. Discriminant validity was also tested by constructing a 95% confidence interval around the value of f produced by the two factor CFA, and seeing if it contained unity. The value of f was .71, with a standard error of .042, and thus the upper end of the 95% interval extends only to .797, considerably less than one. Thus the results of both of these tests indicate that there is discriminant validity between the shopping enthusiasm and value relevant involvement scales.

In order to assess the extent to which the enduring involvement/evoked set size relationship is attributable to the mediating effects of shopping enthusiasm a path analysis of the three variables was conducted. This analysis broke down the total effects of enduring involvement on evoked set size into direct and indirect effects. The total effects is represented by the simple bivariate correlation between the two variables of .162. Of this, the direct effect was .097 while the indirect effect (through shopping enthusiasm) was .065. Thus the indirect effect, mediated by shopping enthusiasm, accounts for 40% of the total effects that enduring involvement has on evoked set size. Thus while the total variance explained in evoked set size by enduring involvement is relatively small, shopping enthusiasm does account for a large portion of the explained variance.

In summary the results provide support for the two major propositions of the research; that enduring involvement positively affects evoked set size, and that shopping enthusiasm is a significant mediating variable in the involvement/evoked set size relationship.


This research challenged the accepted view that involvement has a negative effect on evoked set size by pointing out that the research results and theory that supported this view really only considered situational involvement. Using reserach from the area of motivational orientation, a case was made that a positive relationship might be more valid for enduring involvement. The main justification for a positive relationship is that those with enduring involvement have greater shopping enthusiasm for the products in which they have an intrinsic interest, and thus are less motivated to simplify the shopping process. Additionally their superior product knowledge enables them to handle the processing capacity demands of a larger evoked set. The results of the current reserach study provided support for this line of reasoning.

The results of this reserach study have three primary implications. First the accepted view of a negative involvement/evoked set size relationship should be qualified as only being appropriate for situational involvement. Secondly these findings indicate that it is possible that enduring involvement and situational involvement have differential effects on the consumer decision making process. As such it provides some evidence that situational and enduring involvement are truly separate constructs and not just different antecedents of a general form of involvement. Finally the significance of the two hypotheses relating to the new variable shopping enthusiasm, indicate that the consumer's attitude toward the shopping process could play a large role in consumer decision making despite the fact it has received little if any attention in previous research.


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Richard L. Divine, Central Michigan University
Thomas J. Page, Jr, Michigan State University


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1 | 1994

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Cueing Backwards: Attention Processes in Multi-Attribute Choices

Antonia Krefeld-Schwalb, Geneva School of Economics and Management
Agnes Scholz, University of Zurich
Ursa Bernadic, Geneva School of Economics and Management
Benjamin Scheibehenne, Geneva School of Economics and Management

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The Best of Both Worlds: Androgyny in Consumer Choice

Niusha Jones, University of North Texas
Blair Kidwell, University of North Texas

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