Special Session Summary Expectations Filter Reality: How Individual, Sub-Cultural and Culturally Induced Schematic Expectations Influence Consumers


Tina Kiesler and Lauren Block (1999) ,"Special Session Summary Expectations Filter Reality: How Individual, Sub-Cultural and Culturally Induced Schematic Expectations Influence Consumers", 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: 240-242.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, 1999      Pages 240-242



Tina Kiesler, New York University, U.S.A.

Lauren Block, New York University, U.S.A.


In this session we explore the influence of schematic expectations. A schema has been identified as a generic knowledge structure, stored in memory, that consists of relevant attributes of some stimulus domain as well as interrelations among those attributes (Crocker, Fiske and Taylor 1984; Fiske and Linville, 1980: Fiske and Taylor, 1984). One may possess schemas for types of people, including the self, social roles (salesperson, customer), or events. Basically, the schema is an organized pattern of expectations (Bettman, 1979). These expectations are extracted from information obtained through knowledge and experience. In turn, knowledge and experience are filtered through one’s individual identity, subcultural experience and identity, and cultural membership. Our session explores how these individual, subcultural and cultural identities create schematic expectations that influence our information processing and subsequent behavior.

We present three studies, each examining a different relationship between schematic expectations and identity: individual, subcultural or cultural. In the first paper, Block and Kiesler take an individual level perspective. They explore how individuals have varying expectations regarding different types of advertisements. Deviations from individual expectations result in variations in processing and behavior. We then move to a group identity level with the Henderson et al. paper. These authors stuy how visual expectations are related to subculture membership. Visual familiarity with members of other subcultures changed expectations and recognition of individuals within the subculture. In the final paper, Williams and Aaker expand our understanding of expectations to a larger cultural level. They examine cultural differences in emotional reactions when confronted with deviations from expectations.

In addition to presenting three levels of social aggregation (individual, subcultural, cultural), this session also offers three unique methods and outcome measures for examining the impact of these expectations on consumers. Block and Kiesler show that individuals’ different expectations of ads result in different processing of the ad content and differential persuasion. This paper takes more of a traditional information processing approach and focuses on traditional measures of advertising persuasion. In contrast, the Henderson et al. paper uses a less conventional retail customer role-playing method. With this method, they show that expectations based on subculture membership influence the ability to recognize individual consumers within subcultures. In the final paper, Williams and Aaker expand our understanding of expectations to a larger cultural level. They examine differences in emotional reactions and persuasion when confronted with deviations from culturally-derived expectations.

Although the study of schemas and expectations has been researched extensively, the three papers included in this session all present an entirely new way of looking at consumer schemas and expectations. The Block and Kiesler paper demonstrates that categories of ads are stereotyped, and that these stereotypes affect consumer response to the product. Extending the literature to show that categories of ads have stereotypes has numerous implications for advertising theory as well as practical applications for advertising strategy and design. Likewise, Henderson et al. present a truly provocative paper with direct implications for retailers and hiring decisions. In this paper, Henderson and her colleagues demonstrate that the well documented tendency for people to have an easier time recognizing faces of individuals of their own race than those of another race depends not on race, but on experience. They conclude with suggestions for hiring service providers based on experience who might be better able to serve an increasing African-American presence in the marketplace. Finally, Williams and Aaker examine expectations regarding the nature of emotional experience across cultures. In their paper, they find that while members of individualist cultures expect positive and negative emotions will not co-occur, members of interdependent cultures are comfortable with such duality of emotional experience. These culturally-derived differences in expectations lead to differences in emotional responses to advertisements featuring both positive and negative emotions, as well as differences in persuasion.

The three papers in this session cohere nicely as a group. Yet, at the same time, we believe the variety of methods and contexts should generate a rich discussion among conference participants. We expect this session to be of particular interest to anyone studying information processing, advertising theory or cross-cultural research.



Lauren Block, New York University, U.S.A.

Tina Kiesler, New York University, U.S.A.

Consumer researchers have long been interested in consumers’ categorization of product categories and brands. Theories of categorization specify that consumers construct organized knowledge structures in memory pertaining to a category. That organized knowledge structure, consisting of attributes and relationships among attributes, is called a schema and serves as a basis for one’s expectations regarding future experience with category members. These generalized beliefs and expectations about categoriesof items are often called stereotypes. In a previous study of advertising stereotypes, Goodstein (1993) examined consumers’ motivation to process television advertisements based on whether the ad was typical or atypical of ads in particular product categories (dog food, shampoo, and fast food restaurants). He found that stereotypic ads elicited less extensive processing than nonstereotypic ads.

We extend this literature to examine the depth of the stereotype. We had two goals with this research: 1) to explore whether consumers have stronger versus weaker stereotypes for different categories of ads, and 2) to examine whether depth of stereotype moderates the differential persuasiveness of ads that match or do not match these stereotypes. Using health-related advertisements as our umbrella category, we tested the first goal using two different sub-categories of health-related ads: Public Service Ads (PSA) vs. Direct-to-Consumer (DTC; weak stereotypes). We find that PSA ads have a much stronger stereotype, represented by depth of stereotypic schema, than DTC ads.

Our results indicate that expectations of DTC ads influenced ad processing and persuasion. These stereotypic expectations were used as a heuristic, and judgments were formed based on these expectations. Specifically, respondents who saw the typical ad claimed greater persuasion, stated greater levels of knowledge about the product (its safety, what it is for, when to use it), and reported they were more convinced by the ad and more influenced to buy the product. How do we know that the respondents’ expectations were driving persuasion and not the ad itself? Despite the reported favorableness of the typical ad, our results show that people spent the same amount of time looking at the typical DTC ad and the atypical DTC ad. However, the two groups of consumers spent that time differently. The respondents viewing the atypical ad spent more time looking at the copy in the ad, and tended to recall more information. The respondents who viewed the typical ad recalled more incorrect irrelevant items. Thus, those who saw the typical ad seemed to be making up information. Finally, although respondents indicated different levels of persuasion, both groups were similar in their ratings of the credibility of the ad they saw, the informativeness of the ad, how interesting they found the ad, and they both reported similar levels of liking their ads.

A second experiment using a category of ads with stronger or more in-depth stereotypical schemasCpublic service ads (PSA) does not support the theorizing that expectations about an ad category drive message persuasion. Contrary to experiment 1, results demonstrate no significant differences between the stereotypical and the atypical ads in this category on message processing and persuasion. In this case, heuristic processing is used for the entire ad category regardless of deviations from the stereotype. We speculate that a sort of "heuristic-halo-effect" occurs in categories with a strong stereotype that attenuates the effect of expectations on message processing and persuasion. We conclude with suggestions for future research on the moderating effect of depth of stereotypes on advertising persuasion.



Geraldine R. Henderson, Howard University, U.S.A.

Amy L. Ostrom, Arizona State University, U.S.A.

Tiffany D. Barnett, Duke University, U.S.A.

Kimberly D. Dillon, Duke University, U.S.A.

John G. Lynch, Duke University, U.S.A.

Little attention has been given to the effect of race on service provider-customer interactions and customers’ evaluations of services. This research examines the effect of race early in the encounter by studying the other-race effect (ORE). ORE is the tendency for people to have an easier time recognizing faces of individuals of their own race than those of another race. This effect has been well documented in the psychology literature, but poorly understood. Our goal was to consider the implicatins of such an effect for establishing customer relationships in a retail service context, to replicate ORE, and to gain insight into psychological mechanisms underlying the other race effect.

In this research, we find that experience matters, in that the ability of subjects to recognize black faces improves with experience, regardless of the race of the subject. That is, the more experience that subjects report with Blacks, the better they are in a role-playing exercise at distinguishing between regular customers and new shoppers both of whom happened to be Black. We find no impact of experience on the ability of subjects to differentiate between regular customers and new shoppers who both happen to be White. These findings hold for both black and white respondents in the U.S. and South Africa.

We conclude with speculation based on our findings. As the marketplace becomes more diverse, and as more African-American shoppers increase their presence in the marketplace, service providers may be better able to serve them by hiring front-line personnel who have had more experience with them. In past studies, the race of the respondent has covaried strongly with the degree of interaction that the respondent has with black versus white people in day-to-day life, perhaps making it appear that the race of the respondent was crucial to the "other race effect." In our studies, (black versus white) race of respondent was only mildly correlated with proportion of life interactions with black (versus white) others. Consequently, we find that race of respondent was not a factor in the ability to recognize black versus white faces. Insofar as ability to recognize good customers is a component of good service, our results imply that retailers with a higher percentage of black customers should recruit employees with more everyday experience with black people, regardless of the race of the prospective employee.



Patti Williams, New York University, U.S.A.

Jennifer Aaker, University of California, Los Angeles, U.S.A.

Significant research in the emotion literature has explored the relationship between positive and negative emotions (e.g., Diener and Emmons 1985). Some say that positive and negative emotions can be felt jointly, while others suggest that one cannot feel differently valenced emotions simultaneously (Bagozzi, Wong and Yi, 1997). The goal of this research is to address this question by determining whether emotions are perceived and processed differently by individuals with distinct self-construals. Specifically, we examine whether individuals with interdependent (versus independent) selves are more likely to feel both positive and negative emotions simultaneously (two dimension emotion model), while individuals with independent (versus interdependent) selves are more likely to feel only one emotion at a time (one dimension emotion model).

With their strong emphasis on self-knowledge and inner-psychological experiences, independent individuals are likely to perceive positive and negative emotions as distinct categories, unlikely to be simultaneously experienced, each arising from particular types of situations and each leading to unique action tendencies (Frijda 1987). In contrast, interdependent individuals tend to have a greater concern for understanding social context than self-knowledge, and are more likely to perceive emotions and events as arising from a combination of contextual factors, representing multiple aspects of a single experience. As a result, they are likely to look for and experience both types of emotions across a wide variety of situations, reflecting an underlying acceptance of the duality of emotional experience. For example, even in the domain feelings of romantic love, members of interdependent cultures appear to focus on both the positive and negative emotions experienced in a relationship to a greater degree than do members of independent cultures (Rothbaum and Tsang 1988).

In twoexperiments we manipulate the extent to which conflicting emotions (happy and sad) are portrayed in an advertising appeal, and measure resulting attitudes and emotional reactions across cultures. Initial results indicate that less favorable attitudes exist for independent versus interdependent individuals when exposed to appeals that contain conflicted emotions (relative to control conditions). Further, insight into the process underlying these effects is provided: those with more independent versus interdependent self-construals tend to experience increased feelings of confusion, imbalance and tension when exposed to appeals that simultaneously portray both happy and sad emotions (compared to appeals that feature just a single emotion). Theoretical implications involving the role of culture and self in the perception of emotions are discussed.


Bagozzi, Richard P., Nancy Wong and Youjae Yi (1997), "The Representation of Affect in Independent- and Interdependent-Based Cultures," Working Paper.

Bettman, James R. (1979), An Information Processing Theory of Consumer Choice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Crocker, Jennifer, Susan T. Fiske and Shelley E. Taylor (1984), "Schematic Bases of Belief Change," in Attitudinal Judgment, Ed. J. Richard Eiser, New York: Springer-Verlag, 197-226.

Diener, E. and R. A. Emmons (1985), "The Independence of Positive and Negative Affect," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 1105-1117.

Fiske, Susan T. and Patricia W. Linville (1980), "What Does the Schema Concept Buy Us?," Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 6 (December), 543-557.

Fiske, Susan T. and Shelly E. Taylor (1984), Social Cognition, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 139-181.

Frijda, Nico H. (1987), "Emotion, Cognitive Structure and Action Tendency," Cognition and Emotion, 1, 115-143.

Goodstein, Ronald C. (1993), "Category-based Applications and Extensions in Advertising: Motivating more Extensive Ad Processing," Journal of Consumer Research, 20 (June), 87-99.

Rothbaum, Fred and Bill Yuk-Piu Tsang (1998), "Lovesongs in the United States and China: On the Nature of Romantic Love," Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Vol. 29, No. 2, March, 306-319.



Tina Kiesler, New York University, U.S.A.
Lauren Block, New York University, U.S.A.


E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4 | 1999

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