The Effect of Affect and Initial Expectation on Information Seeking and Judgments


Catherine Yeung and Robert S. Wyer, Jr. (2002) ,"The Effect of Affect and Initial Expectation on Information Seeking and Judgments", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, eds. Ramizwick and Tu Ping, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 107.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, 2002      Page 107


Catherine Yeung, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong

Robert S. Wyer, Jr., Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong

The affect that consumers experience at the time they evaluate a product can either be elicited by features of the product itself or can come from other sources (e.g., the mood they happen to be in). This affect can influence product evaluations through its impact at several stages of processing, including (1) the formation of an initial impression of the product, (2) the active search for attribute-relevant information, (3) the processing of attribute-relevant information, and (4) the formation of an overall product evaluation. The present research investigated the nature of these effects.

Past literature suggests that consumers who encounter a product spontaneously form a global impression of its desirability (stage 1 of product evaluation). One ingredient of this impression is likely to be spontaneous affective reactions that are elicited by the product’s appearance (Shiv & Fedorikhin, 1999). However, people who encounters a product can often not distinguish clearly between affect that is elicited by the product itself and affect that are experiencing for other reasons. Consequently, the two sources of affect may combine to influence the initial impression they for of the product. Further, this influence is hypothesized to occur regardless of the type of criteria (hedonic vs. utilitarian) that people use to evaluate the product. Thus, this hypothesis contrasts with the assumption that affect only influence evaluations of products that are based on hedonic rather than utilitarian criteria (e.g., Adaval, 2001; Pham, 1998).

On the other hand, consumers’ mood may only have an impact on their initial impressions when they are unable to distinguish it from product-induced affect. This is most likely to be the case when mood is induced before people encounter the product. Suppose instead that consumers see an affect-evoking product at the outset. In this case, they may spontaneously form an impression of the product and store this impression in memory. Under these circumstances, any mood that is induced subsequently should have little effect on this impression.

We assume that the initial impression that consumers form of a product induces an expectation to like or dislike the product. This expectation might guide both consumers’ search for additional information about the product’s attribute (stage 2 of product evaluation) and their attention to specific information that concerns these attributes (stage 3). Consequently, the judgment they ultimately make of the product (stage 4) is likely to be biased toward the initial impression they had formed of the product at the outset.


We induced participants to feel happy or unhappy by having them recall a pleasant or unpleasant life experience. Then, as part of an ostensibly unrelated experiment, we asked them to consider either a product that on a prior grounds is likely to be judged on the basis of hedonic criteria (salad dressing), or a product that was likely to be judged on the basis of utilitarian considerations (a backpack). To investigate the interactive effects of mood and product-elicited affect, participants in some conditions were shown an attractive picture of the product whereas other participants were not. We also varied the order in which extraneous affect and product-relevant affect (pictures) were induced. Thus, the experimental design was a 2 (affect: positive vs. negative) by 2 (product type: hedonic vs. utilitarian) by 3 (no pictures vs. pictures-before mood vs. picture-after-mood) factorial.

Participants before receiving the product attribute information were asked to select a set of questions that they would be most likely to ask if they wished to learn more about the product. Some questions pertained to desirable attributes, but others pertained to undesirable ones. Afterwards, they read some descriptions of product attribute and indicated how much they would like the product. Finally, they were asked to recall the attribute information they had received.


According to our conceptualization, participants should actively seek information about attributes that would confirm the implications of their initial impressions (or the expectations that are based on it). Moreover, they should selectively attend to product attribute information that provides this confirmation, and their evaluations of the product should reflect this bias.

Information Seeking

Participants selected a greater proportion of questions about attributes that were evaluatively congruent with the affect they were experiencing than questions about attributes that were incongruent with it. However, this difference was largely restricted to conditions in which participants did not see a picture of the products. Possibly, participants who saw pictures of the products generated expectations based on the pictures, and these pictur-based expectations overrode the effect of affect. (A follow up experiment confirmed this speculation.)

Product Evaluation

When a picture of the product was not presented, participants’ mood had a substantial effect on evaluations of the hedonic product, but not on those of utilitarian product. These results confirm those reported earlier by Adaval (2001) and Pham (1998). When participants saw a picture of the product after stimulating them to feel happy or unhappy, however, these feelings had a positive impact on judgments of both types of product. Moreover, presenting pictures at the outset eliminated the impact of mood on these judgments. The favorableness of the attributes that participants later recalled showed a pattern very similar to the judgment data. Thus, our results confirmed the interactive effects of mood-induced affect and product-elicited affect on product evaluations. They further suggested that the effects of affect on judgments were at least partially mediated by participants’ selective attention to information that confirmed their affect-based initial impressions for what the product would be like.


Adaval, Rashmi (2001), "Sometimes It Just Feels Right: The Differential Weighting of Affect-Consistent and Affect-Inconsistent Product Information," Journal of Consumer Research, 28 (June), 1-17.

Pham, Michel T. (1998), "Representativeness, Relevance and the Use of Feelings in Decision Making," Journal of Consumer Research, 25 (Setember), 144-159.

Shiv, Baba and Alexander Fedorikhin (1999), "Heart and Mind in Conflict: The Interplay of Affect and Cognition in Consumer Decision Making," Journal of Consumer Research, 26 (December), 278-292.



Catherine Yeung, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong
Robert S. Wyer, Jr., Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5 | 2002

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