Irritation-, Stress-, and Dejection-Alleviative Consumption: Initial Tests of Working Hypotheses

ABSTRACT - This study investigates irritation-, stress-, and dejection-alleviative consumption empirically. The empirical investigation encompasses initially the testing of certain working hypotheses. This paper seeks to contribute to consumer behavior research by producing empirical insights that can serve as theoretical building blocks in advancing the construction of a theory or model of mood-alleviative consumption. A survey methodology is harnessed to tap the spectrum of irritation-, stress-, and dejection-alleviative activities people possess. It is discovered that irritation-, stress-, and dejection-alleviative activities are different in character and that people differ with regard to their typical ways of coping with distinct negative moods, and that certain aspects of personal characteristics moderate engagement in mood-alleviative consumer behaviors. Finally, theoretical and managerial implications based on the empirical examinations are discussed.



Citation:

Harri T. Luomala (1999) ,"Irritation-, Stress-, and Dejection-Alleviative Consumption: Initial Tests of Working Hypotheses", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, eds. Bernard Dubois, Tina M. Lowrey, and L. J. Shrum, Marc Vanhuele, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 174-181.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, 1999      Pages 174-181

IRRITATION-, STRESS-, AND DEJECTION-ALLEVIATIVE CONSUMPTION: INITIAL TESTS OF WORKING HYPOTHESES

Harri T. Luomala, University of Vaasa, Finland

ABSTRACT -

This study investigates irritation-, stress-, and dejection-alleviative consumption empirically. The empirical investigation encompasses initially the testing of certain working hypotheses. This paper seeks to contribute to consumer behavior research by producing empirical insights that can serve as theoretical building blocks in advancing the construction of a theory or model of mood-alleviative consumption. A survey methodology is harnessed to tap the spectrum of irritation-, stress-, and dejection-alleviative activities people possess. It is discovered that irritation-, stress-, and dejection-alleviative activities are different in character and that people differ with regard to their typical ways of coping with distinct negative moods, and that certain aspects of personal characteristics moderate engagement in mood-alleviative consumer behaviors. Finally, theoretical and managerial implications based on the empirical examinations are discussed.

INTRODUCTION

The belief that negative moods play a major role in the lives of people in general and in their consumer behavior in particular seems well-warranted; the multitude of mood-alleviative habits (Rippere 1977; Parker and Brown 1982; Cunningham 1988; Thayer, Newman, and McClain 1994) lends support to the significance of the role of mood experiences in human life. In the words of Thayer et al. (1994, p. 910): "...mood is now recognized as a central element of human behavior."

As implied above, negative moods are not only experienced, they are handled as well (Frijda 1986, p. 401). People’s drive to self-regulate their negative mood experiences may be a rather basc human motive in maintaining general welfare (Schaller and Cialdini 1990, p. 281). Consumption, in one form or another is a major mood-alleviative device in modern western societies (cf. Gallup and Castelli 1989; Gould 1991; Kacen 1994; Luomala 1994; Grunert 1995; Luomala and Laaksonen 1999). In other words, different consumer behaviors are used to self-regulate the experiences of negative moods.

In consumer research, it has not been usual to view consumer behaviors from a mood-alleviative perspective (cf. McKeage 1992; Luomala 1998). Thus, there is not a solid base formed by past studies on which research concerning mood-alleviative consumer behaviors could be grounded. As a consequence, a need for theory-building research is obvious. On the other hand, there is a study (Luomala and Laaksonen 1997) which offers a few prelimenary theoretical conjectures concerning the relation between mood-alleviation and consumption.

Now, three objectives can be set for this paper. First, to introduce a few working hypotheses to guide the empirical examinations of this paper. Second, to initially test these working hypotheses empirically. Third, to offer theoretical and managerial implications on mood-alleviative consumption.

The paper seeks to contribute to consumer behavior research in two ways. First, it brings a neglected area of investigation to the attention of consumer researchers. Second, it offers empirical insights and results that can serve as theoretical building blocks in advancing the construction of a theory or model for mood-alleviative consumption. Thus, in summary, the potential of this study for stimulating further research is high.

This paper is structured in the following way. In the first section, the working hypotheses are introduced. Next, the method and sample are briefly described. Two general working hypotheses are considered in the light of empirical data in the third section of the paper. The results of initial tests of more specific working hypotheses are reported in the fourth section. The paper is concluded by a discussion highlighting theoretical and managerial implications.

WORKING HYPOTHESES

Two general working hypotheses are deduced before the more specific working hypotheses are introduced. First, there are theoretical reasons to believe that, as experiences, all negative moods are not alike, even though consumer research has often treated negative moods as a unitary construct.

Many theorists would accept the following tripartition of negative moods: irritation, stress, and dejection. For instance, according to Johnson-Laird and Oatley (1989), sadness (relates to dejection), fear (relates to stress), and anger (relates to irritation) are amongst the emotions that are most basic (cf. also Watson and Clark 1992). The phenomenology of these moods are different because their "emotional roots" are distinct.

The mood of irritation is a derivative of the emotional family of anger (cf. Shaver, Schwarz, Kirson, and O’Connor 1987; Lazarus 1991). It is a milder version of anger. Irritation has a lot of synonyms. These include: annoyance, hostility, agitation, grouchiness, aggravation, grumpiness, and frustration. A person experiencing irritation is, in terms of Mehrabian and Russell’s (1974) three-dimensional mood model, feeling unpleasant, engaged, and submissive simultaneously.

The mood of stress is a derivative of the emotional family of fear (cf. Shaver et al. 1987; Lazarus 1991). However, stress is subtler than fear. Terms synonymous with stress are also not uncommon. Anxiety, distress, nervousness, jitter, tenseness, apprehension, uneasiness, worry, and restlessness are some illustrations of these terms. In terms of Mehrabian and Russell’s (1974) three-dimensional mood model, a person experiencing stress is feeling unpleasant, engaged, and dominant simultaneously. It may appear odd that stress is marked by dominance or perception of having too muc control (cf. Kacen 1994). However, the oddity is removed when dominance is construed to reflect the perception of having too great responsibility (cf. Ellsworth and Smith 1988; Manstead and Tetlock 1989).

The mood of dejection is a derivative of the emotional family of sadness (cf. Shaver et al. 1987; Lazarus 1991). Once again, dejection has a lot of synonyms: depression, blues, down-heartedness, gloominess, sadness, unhappiness, misery, and woe, to name only a few. In terms of Mehrabian and Russell’s (1974) three-dimensional model, a person experiencing dejection is feeling unpleasant, disengaged, and submissive simultaneously.

In conclusion, past research suggests that the moods of irritation, stress, and dejection are distinct emotional experiences. This conclusion leads to a general working hypothesis: if irritation, stress, and dejection are distinct emotional experiences, then the behaviors aimed at alleviating them are also distinct by their nature.

As regards the second general working hypothesis, the past research on people’s mood-alleviative habits cited in the introductory section of the paper suggests that many individuals have a certain set of behaviors in which they repeatedly engage when they want to manipulate their moods. This raises the question: how do different people usually self-regulate their negative moods? Against this background, the second general working hypothesis can be stated: people can be divided into groups on the basis of their typical ways of alleviating different negative moods.

TABLE 1

SPECIFIC WORKING HYPOTHESES

The theoretical foundations for the more specific working hypotheses (see Table 1) are based on Luomala and Laaksonen (1997) and are not fully repeated here. Suffice to say that Luomala and Laaksonen (1997) suggested that certain aspects of personality, lifestyle, values, shopping orientation, and involvement moderate engagement in mood-alleviative consumer behaviors.

In terms of the personal characteristics highlighted above, the profile of a consumer most likely to initiate mood-alleviative consumer behaviors is as follows. He or she has a high optimum stimulation level and is a nonscreening low self-monitor, is enjoying a hedonic, experiential, or sensualist consumption lifestyle, has internalized materialistic values to some extent; his or her shopping orientation is characterized by a pronounced recreational dimension, and he or she is highly involved in products, product classes, services, and/or shopping activities in general.

METHOD AND SAMPLE

The method used in the present study was survey. The questionnaire consisted of four main sections. The first three sections were devoted to the experiences of irritation, stress, and dejection, respectively. Each of these sections began by a request to read through four (tested) mood scenarios. After reading the scenarios, the respondents were asked to write down what they usually associate with irritation, stress, and dejection. The purpose of these exercises was twofold: first, to orient the respondents to think about irritation-, stress-, and dejection-related matters; second, to lower the respondents’ threshold of reporting their own irritation-, stress-, dejection-alleviative behaviors.

Next, the respondents were asked how often they experience irritation, stress, or dejection. The respondents were also requested (in different sections) to write down what they typically did in order to alleviate the felt irritation, stress, or dejection. These mood-alleviative habits were freely elicited (for example, the respondents were not specifically instructed to report habits that are related to consumption). Finally, in this same connection, the respondents were asked to indicate how effective these activities were in alleviating irritation, stress, and dejection.

In the final main section, the respondents were asked to provide some general background information and to respondto a few statements on a Likert-type scale. These statements pertained to the specific working hypotheses in Table 1 and are treated in a more detailed manner when the results of the survey are reported.

The questionnaire was sent to a thousand randomly selected adults in a city in western Finland in the fall of 1996. Originally, the response rate was 23 %. A dunning letter was sent and the response rate rose to 37 %. The final response rate of 43 % was achieved after the second dunning letter. The initial number of the returned questionaires was 432. However, 78 of the returned questionnaires were not usable, so the final number of usable questionnaires was 354.

The demographic and socioeconomic profile of the sample is provided in Table 2. The representativeness of the sample was looked into (z-test). The sample was significantly biased with respect to gender only. The sample includes significantly more (p-value 0.05) women than the Finnish population in general. This fact must be borne in mind when the results of the survey are presented. Most of the respondents possess vocational, high school, or institute level education. Also people with academic degrees and students are represented in the sample. The respondents’ monthly gross earnings varied evenly. Each of the income classes is more or less equally represented. Most of the respondents were married. Two other important groups are singles and persons living in companionate marriage. One third of the respondents do not have children and another third have two children. People with one child and three children are well represented in the sample too. There are fewer respondents who have four (or more) children.

TABLE 2

DEMOGRAPHIC AND SOCIOECONOMIC PROFILE OF THE SAMPLE (N=354)

TESTING GENERAL WORKING HYPOTHESES

Generally, it was found that people commonly encounter situations in daily life in which they experience irritation, stress, and dejection. Second, people possess a set of coping behaviors that are aimed at alleviating the felt irritation, stress, and dejection (2866 mood-alleviative responses were produced by the respondents). Third, people perceived the mood-alleviative behaviors they pursue as effective in relieving these moods. However, there were a few individual mood-alleviative behaviors (e.g. eating and drinking) that actually worsened the felt irritation, stress, and dejection.

The large number of reported mood-alleviative activities varied a lot in terms of their nature and detail specification. It soon became clear that this body of empirical data must be reduced somehow. The dimensional approach was chosen as a way to reduce the data.

Due to the subject matter and empirical research task, it appeared natural that one of the dimensions is the consumption-relatednessBconsumption-unrelatedness of mood-alleviative behaviors. In the search for other appropriate dimensions in the data reduction, mood and mood-regulatory literatures were consulted. One of the mood dimensions itself, namely the activityBpassivity dimension, emerged as a viable candidate in the data reduction process. The activityBpassivity dimension has consistently been in the focus of attention in mood theorizing. Thayer et al. (1994, p. 922) support the selection of this dimension by asserting that "These strategies range from active to passive, and this activeBpassive distinction may be the most important differentiation". Cunningham’s (1988) work inspired the third dimension: the socialityBasociality dimension. In his study, Cunningham (1988) used sociality as a dimension to categorize different mood-regulatory behaviors.

Combining these three bipolar dimensions yields an 8-cell matrix that can be utilized in categorizing mood-alleviative activities. However, after an initial inspection of mood-alleviative behaviors, it was noted that mental activities are also mentioned. That is why one additional category for mental mood-alleviative activities was added. Thus, the final classifictory scheme comprised nine categories of different mood-alleviative behaviors.

In categorizing, the biggest problem was which mood-alleviative behaviors should be categorized as consumption-related, which as consumption-unrelated, which as active, what as passive, and so on? An absolute solution to this dilemma could not be found. Common sense was used to categorize mood-alleviative activities. For instance, if a mood-alleviative activity was categorized as social, it had to include reference to another person/other persons (e.g. phoning a friend, partying). Otherwise, it was categorized as an asocial activity (e.g. cycling, singing). Similarly, if a mood-alleviative behavior was categorized as active, it had to be related to the expenditure of physical energy (e.g. jogging, going to the sauna). Otherwise, it was categorized as a passive behavior (e.g. sleeping, reading).

Perhaps the most problematic dimension in this respect was the consumption-relatednessBconsumption-unrelatedness dimension. What mood-alleviative activities can actually be regarded as consumption-related and what as consumption-unrelated? It seemed that some mood-alleviative behaviors were directly connected with consumption (e.g. going to the movies, going shopping) whereas some mood-alleviative behaviors were only indirectly connected with consumption (e.g. listening to music, tending house chores). There were also mood-alleviative activities that were not judged to be connected with consumption at all (e.g. walking, writing), even though it may be argued that many of these activities too are remotely connected with consumption. For example, to be able to go for a walk, shoes and clothes are needed; to be able to write, pen and paper are needed, and so on.

It seemed reasonable to assume that, for example, buying chocolate is more closely associated with consumption than listening to music, which, in turn, is more closely associated with consumption than going for a walk. Thus, it really is a question of degree rather than kind. Those mood-alleviative behaviors that were judged to be either directly or indirectly connected with consumption were categorized as consumption-related. The rest of the mood-alleviative behaviors were categorized as consumption-unrelated.

FIGURE 1

FREQUENCY MATRICES, DIMENSIONAL SCORES, AND ABSOLUTE DIMENSIONAL VALUES OF IRRITATION-, STRESS-, AND DEJECTION-ALLEVIATIVE BEHAVIORS

This study being an initial test of working hypotheses, the author was the sole categorizer. Due to the theory-building nature of the study and the scarcity of resources, this was deemed to be an appropriate and justifiable solution. Moreover, due to the general nature of working hypotheses the author could not, in practice, code different irritation-, stress-, and dejection-alleviative activities in the way which would inevitably verify them. Thus, knowing the hypotheses does not necessarily biase the categorization (made by the author) in this research context. Still, from the perspective of reliability and validity, it is important that multiple coders are used in similar future studies.

Subsequently, each individual mood-alleviative activity of each respondent was categorized as belonging to one of the nine classes. Founded on the resulting categorization, the frequency matrices, dimensional scores, and absolute dimensional values could be generated for irritation-, stress-, and dejection-alleviative behaviors (see Figure 1). The dimensional scores were calculated by adding the frequencies on each of the dimensions. This was done separately for irritation-, stress-, and dejection-alleviative behaviors. Lastly, the absolute dimensional values were calculated by subtracting the dimensional scores from each other.

The total number of irritation-, stress-, and dejection-alleviative responses was counted in order to find whether the irritation-, stress-, or dejection-alleviative responses were significantly over- or underrepresented. Fortunately, only small differences in the total number of irritation-, stress-, and dejection-alleviative responses were detected. The biggest difference (4.9 %) was between the number of stress- (980) and dejection-alleviative (932) responses. (This difference was not statistically significant.) Thus, these differences were deemed too small to jeopardie the reliability and meaningfulness of the comparative analysis.

The comparative analysis regarding the nature of irritation-, stress-, and dejection-alleviative activities is based on the absolute dimensional values. The x2 goodness-of-fit test was performed to see whether the detected differences were statistically significant.

Table 3 summarizes the statistical results of the comparisons and x2 goodness-of-fit tests. Eight of the twelve comparisons revealed significant differences in the nature of mood-alleviative behaviors. The directions of these differences were as follows. First, stress is alleviated less mentally than irritation and dejection. Second, stress is also alleviated more actively than irritation. Third, stress is alleviated more asocially than irritation and dejection. Additionally, irritation is alleviated more asocially than dejection. Fourth, stress is alleviated more consumption-unrelatedly than irritation and dejection.

TABLE 3

COMPARING THE NATURE OF IRRITATION-, STRESS-, AND DEJECTION-ALLEVIATIVE BEHAVIORS

Consequently, mood-specific summaries are as follows. First, regarding stress, it is likely that it is alleviated more concretely, asocially, and consumption-unrelatedly than irritation and dejection. It is also alleviated more actively than irritation. Second, it is likely that irritation is alleviated more passively, socially, consumption-relatedly, and mentally than stress. It is also alleviated more asocially than dejection. Third, it is likely that dejection is alleviated more socially than irritation and stress. It is also alleviated more consumption-relatedly and mentally than stress. Thus, it appears that consumer behaviors are to the greatest extent linked to irritation-alleviative activities. In this respect, dejection-alleviative activities are in the second place. In turn, consumer behaviors are to the least extent connected with stress-alleviative activities.

As regards the testing of the second general hypothesis, the way in which each respondent’s mood-alleviative activities were categorized served as a foundation for classifying him/her. Regarding the activityBpassivity and socialityBasociality dimensions, an arbitrary fifty percent rule was applied. According to this rule, the respondent is classified as active or as a social mood-alleviator only if he/she has mentioned at least double as many active or social mood-alleviative behaviors as passive or asocial mood-alleviative behaviors. Of course, if the respondent has mentioned at least double as many passive or asocial mood-alleviative behaviors as active or social behaviors, he/she is classified as passive or as a social mood-alleviator. If there is not the fifty-percent dominance, the respondent is not classified in terms of that dimension.

The consumption-relatednessBconsumption-unrelatedness dimension received special attention. A special consumption-relatedness index was calculated for the mood-alleviative behaviors of each respondent for two reasons. First, to receive additional confirmation of the results of the frequency-based analysis concerning the consumption-relatedness of irritation-, stress-, and dejection-alleviative behaviors. Second, this kind of index is needed when the rest of the working hypotheses are tested.

The consumption-relatedness index of mood-alleviative behaviors was calculated in the following way. First, each mood-alleviative behavior was given a weight (consumption-unrelated 0, indirectly consumption-related 1, directly consumption-related 2). Then these weights were summed up and divided by the number of mood-alleviative activities. The index was first calculated for irritation-, stress-, and dejection-alleviative activities separately. The magnitudes of these indices confirmed that alleviation of irritation is most closely linked to consumption (index 173.15), followed by dejection-alleviation (index 169.74). Stress relief is most remotely linked to consumption (index 165.74). The separate indices were later added up to form an overall consumption-relatedness index of mood-alleviative behaviors for each of the respondents.

This index was used to classify the respondents in terms of the consumption-relatednessBconsumption-unrelaedness dimension. The respondents with an index value smaller than 0.67 were classified as nonconsumption-oriented mood-alleviators. The respondents with an index value from 0.67 to 2 were classified as consumption-oriented mood-alleviators. The border value of the index was 0.67, because the highest possible index value is 2, and a mood-alleviative behavior may be connected with consumption in three ways, as discussed earlier. Table 4 illustrates the classification of the respondents according to their typical ways of alleviating negative moods.

The biggest group by far is the active asocial nonconsumption-oriented mood- alleviators. This implies that almost every third respondent alleviated negative moods by engaging in active, asocial, and consumption-unrelated behaviors. However, if the consumpion-oriented types are added up, the result is that a total of 34 % of the respondents used consumption in one form or another to alleviate negative moods. This percentage appears large considering that the mood-alleviative responses were freely elicited. On the other hand, the largeness of the percentage may also be associated with the liberal definition of consumption. At any rate, consumption seems to be an important mood-alleviative vehicle in modern urban societies.

The gender distribution within each type of negative mood alleviators was also looked into. The x2 goodness-of-fit test failed to detect any statistically significant gender-related differences. Thus, one cannot say that men usually alleviate their negative moods in one way and women in some other way. One main conclusion can be drawn at this stage: initial empirical evidence was found for the two general working hypotheses.

TABLE 4

CLASSIFICATION OF MOOD-ALLEVIATORS

TABLE 5

STATEMENTS USED TO MEASURE PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS IN THE QUESTIONNAIRE

TESTING SPECIFIC WORKING HYPOTHESES

The specific working hypotheses listed in Table 1 were also preliminarily tested. The test to be reported is a tentative one and its results are suggestive. The major reason for this cautiousness is the fact that the stimulus seeking tendency, the screening tendency, self-monitoring, materialism, experiential lifestyle, recreational shopping orientation, and shopping involvement are complex psychological phenomena which in the questionnaire are measured only by one item (see Table 5). Rigorous measurement of these phenomena requires the utilization of sophisticated multiple-item scales. In other words, the single-item measurement has poor reliability. Still, the single-item measurement was selected to keep the time required for filling in the questionnaire as short as possible, which in turn was expected to enhance the response rate.

The statements used are adapted from studies dealing with these personal characteristics (see Luomala and Laaksonen 1997). In the questionnaire, the respondents were asked to indicate whether they completely agree (1), to some extent agree (2), to some extent disagree (4), or completely disagree (5) with the statements. They were also allowed not to take a stand on the statements (3).

To test the working hypotheses, the respondents were divided into two groups according to the way they responded to the statements. For instance, in the case of a recreational shopping orientation, the first group was formed by the respondents who completely or to some extent agreed with the statement. The other group was formed by the respondents who completely or to some extent disagreed with the statement. These two groups were then contrasted with regard to the value of their overall consumption-relatedness index of mood-alleviative behaviors. A t-test was performed to verify or invalidate the working hypotheses. The first, third, and fourth hypotheses did not receive empirical support.

In turn, the second, fifth, sixth, and seventh working hypotheses received empirical support. Nonscreeners were found to alleviate their negative moods more consumption-relatedly than screeners (difference significant at the 0.002 level). People having an experientil lifestyle were found to alleviative their negative moods more consumption-relatedly than people having other lifestyles (difference significant at the 0.006 level). People with recreational shopping orientation were discovered to alleviate their negative moods more consumption-relatedly than people with other shopping orientations (difference significant at the 0.007 level). Lastly, people involved with shopping were found to alleviate their negative moods more consumption-relatedly than people who are not equally involved with shopping (difference significant at the 0.07 level).

DISCUSSION

In this section of the paper, the theoretical and managerial implications are discussed. The theoretical implications are tackled first. Firstly, what could explain the detected differences in the nature of irritation-, stress-, and dejection-alleviative behaviors? It was discovered that stress-alleviative activities can be characterized as less mental than irritation- and dejection-alleviative activities. A plausible explanation for this may be the fact that irritation and dejection typically originate from uncontrollable sources; nothing can be done about them. Thus, mental maneuvers may be a more natural way to alleviate them than stress, which is often characterized by the perception of being personally responsible for something self-relevant.

Stress-alleviative behaviors appeared to be more active than irritation-alleviative behaviors (which were the least active of the three). Irritation-alleviative behaviors are probably least active, because they work against high activation, which is a mark of the irritation experience. Similarly, dejection-alleviative behaviors may be more active than irritation-alleviative behaviors, because they work against low activation, which is a characteristic of the dejection experience. Stress-alleviative behaviors are likely to be most active, because stress is typically associated with the perceptions of being in a hurry and being personally responsible for something self-relevant. Thus, a way to get rid of stress is to work actively to solve a problem or achieve a goal.

Dejection-alleviative activities were found to be more social than irritation- and stress-alleviative activities (which were least social). The social and emotional support may be resorted to in dejection, because it is characteristically associated with uncontrollability and feeling of overwhelmingness. Stress-alleviative activities are the least social probably for the same reason that they are the most active (see above). Irritation-alleviative activities may be less social than dejection-alleviative activities because irritation is more fleeting and an irritated person may feel hostile toward other people. On the other hand, irritation-alleviative activities can be more social than stress-alleviative activities, because an irritated individual typically experiences that he or she has suffered injustice. The perception of experienced injustice pushes the irritated person to get social support and confirmation of the righteousness of his or her irritation.

According to the findings of the present study, irritation- and dejection-alleviative behaviors are related to consumption more closely than stress-alleviative behaviors. The underlying reasons for this result are hard to uncover. However, two potential explanations are offered. First, since many people associate stress with being in a hurry and expending a lot of physical and mental energy, a superficial explanation could be that stressed persons simply do not have the time and energy to alleviate stress through consumer behaviors which require both these resources.

Another, a more profound explanation, may be connected with the fact that the experiences of irritation and dejection are marked by uncontrollability or perception of powerlessness while in the stress experience a person is still aware of being able (even though just barely) to take on self-elevant responsibility. Engaging in a consumer behavior reasserts the feeling of being in control, especially when the consumption activity is linked to the area in which a person has expertise and is involved. In other words, engaging in a consumption activity can be seen as the exertion of power over that situation and sales people. For instance, Barnes and Ward (1995, p. 207) discovered that feeling dominant, in control of the service environment, is one of the strongest antecedents to a good mood.

Secondly, the results of the survey tentatively show that certain personal characteristics (screening tendency, experiential lifestyle, recreational shopping orientation, shopping involvement) moderate the extent to which an individual’s mood-alleviative behaviors are linked to consumption. A better understanding of the moderating role of different personal characteristics and other factors requires additional theoretical elaboration (e.g. concept identification and relation specification) and more stringent empirical tests.

Thirdly, there are a few more specific theoretical implications. First, it would be interesting to see to what extent mood-alleviative consumer behaviors are deliberately (or spontaneously) engaged in. The ability of the respondents to report different mood-alleviative consumer behaviors suggests that they are engaged in a more deliberate than spontaneous way (cf. also Luomala and Laaksonen 1999). However, the utilization of a methodological approach that is based on self-reporting may have been a biasing factor. Second, what is the influence of different cultures on negative mood experiences and the way they are coped with? For instance, are there differences in the way in which and the extent to which negative moods are alleviated through consumer behaviors in dissimilar cultures?

Third, it seems that loneliness is akin to dejection (cf. Forman and Sriram 1991, p. 230). Generally, it would be useful to know to what extent lonely people feel dejected and what they usually do about it. For example, Forman and Sriram (1991, p. 239) suggest that the segment of the population that is characterized as lonely relies on the retailing encounter as a means of social contact. In other words, it may be that lonely people often feel dejected and use consumer behaviors as dejection-alleviation. This issue clearly requires empirical attention. Fourth, it would be interesting to find out how the degree of sophistication of the supply structure (e.g. in rural areas vs. small cities vs. big cities) affects the forms and intensity of mood-alleviative consumer behaviors. Finally, it is important that future research tries to replicate the results and findings of the present study by using diverse samples from different settings.

If marketers wish to design and implement marketing concepts that appeal to consumers wanting to self-regulate different mood states, they need to know in what kind of situations different negative moods are experienced, what are the characteristics of these negative mood experiences, and what is typically sought by consumers in different negative mood states. Moreover, information on the ways in which different consumption situations affect the emotional states of consumers would also be useful to marketers.

On the basis of this information, marketers can create product offerings whose marketing exclusively serves the idea of irritation-, stress-, and dejection-alleviation. Furthermore, for retail marketers, specialty storekeepers, and gift storekeepers, the purposeful utilization of atmospherics is a potential tool in facilitating the realization of mood-alleviative consumer behaviors. For example, if a specialty store operates solely on the basis of the idea of mood-alleviation, then every aspect of the atmospheric solutions of the store should be used to serve the ideas of mood-alleviation and therapy. In turn, retail managers could apply zoning (cf. Yalch and Spangenberg 1993). In zoning, smaller thematic departments are constructed within bigger premises. These departments are decorated in a manner that exclusively supports the theme. Perhaps special "therapy" departments would be worth creating.

h econdly, through advertising marketers can harness and legitimize consumption as a mood-alleviative instrument and try to change the moral climate, since it has traditionally been morally reprehensible in most Western countries to use consumption to treat emotional problems. Marketers could plan and carry out advertising campaigns aiming at reducing the feelings of disapproval, shame, and guilt that are associated with engaging in mood-alleviative consumer behaviors. As a consequence, the threshold of pursuing mood-alleviative consumer behaviors could be lowered and consumers could feel more encouraged to execute these behaviors in an open way.

Thirdly, since the results of the survey indicate that people differ in terms of the degree to which their mood-alleviative activities are related to consumption, segmentation is an additional managerial implication. It was found that a significant proportion of the survey respondents used consumption (liberally defined) in one form or another to alleviate negative moods. Marketers are certainly interested to know what kind of people belong to this group of "consumption-oriented mood-alleviators". Perhaps people who are consumption-oriented mood-alleviators have a certain type of demographic and psychographic profiles. For retail marketers, development of an instrument for identifying different kinds of mood-alleviating individuals is clearly desirable.

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----------------------------------------

Authors

Harri T. Luomala, University of Vaasa, Finland



Volume

E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4 | 1999



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