Effect of Mood on Information Processing Style and Consequent Purchasing Decisions

Moods are a transient and slight mental state; they are different from emotions, which are strong and long lasting feelings (Peterson and Sauber 1983). Moods occur and fade away, any time, any place. Small environmental cues, for example, a piece of music, a store display, a smile sign, or some smells can elicit good or bad moods (Schwarz and Clore 1983). Therefore, it is feasible to suggest that moods may be manipulated through advertisements, level of service, shopping contexts and marketing tools. Thus the purpose of this study is to explore the effects of mood arousal by these methods on consumers’ cognition of product attributes. Previous research has shown that people in different moods may be inclined to adopt different information processing styles (e.g.: Mackie and Worth 1989; Gardner and Hill 1988; Kuykendall and Keating 1990). The primary mechanism behind the above is that people in a good mood have the motivation to maintain their good mood, so their cognitive resources are relatively lower than those of neutral or bad moods (Forest, Clark, Mills, and Isen 1979). In other words, due to the instinct to maximize reward and minimize punishment, people in a good mood will exert, consciously or unconsciously, an effect on prolonging happiness; hence, most of their attention and cognitive resources are employed to retain the good mood, and they don’t have the capacity and willing to contemplate things in a systematical way. When using the heuristic–systematic model (HSM) (Bohner, Moskowitz, and Chaiken 1995; Bohner, Ruder, and Erb 2002) to classify information processing styles, a good mood will lead to the heuristic thinking approach, because people with a heuristic thinking approach evaluate events based on available and applicable heuristics and employ less cognitive effort and capacity. On the contrary, a bad mood will lead to the systematic thinking approach, and people with a systematic thinking approach process information in a more analytical style; they analyze events more rationally and don’t give judgments based solely on environmental cues. Furthermore, people with different information processing styles will exhibit varied responses to marketing messages. This study suggests that people with different information processing styles pay attention to different product attributes, meaning that when shopping in a store or making purchasing decisions, the importance and attractiveness of the product attributes will change as the consumers’ information processing styles change. Product attributes have been dichotomized into intrinsic and extrinsic cues (Olson and Jacoby 1972): intrinsic attributes are the physical composition of the product, for example, color, texture and size. Extrinsic attributes are external to the product, such as brand name, advertising, and brand image (Olson and Jacoby 1972). Obviously, the evaluation and comparison of intrinsic attributes among several products requires more cognitive labor, while using extrinsic attributes, for example, brand reputation, to determine which to buy requires less cognitive resources. Therefore, it is proposed that the consumers who employ heuristic thinking tend to pay more attention to extrinsic attributes, while the consumers who employ systematic thinking tend to be concerned more with intrinsic attributes. In this study, the influences of mood on the consumers’ cognition of product attributes are examined. All the 60 respondents were randomly assigned to the three experimental conditions: good, bad, and neutral mood. Short films were then applied to elicit good, bad, and neutral moods. After seeing the 2 minutes short movies, all respondents were told to complete questionnaires about their favorite movie styles and movie-watching behaviors as the experimental filler – the purpose of the filler was to avoid the respondents guessing the objective of this study. When the questionnaires were completed the experimenter asked them to help with an “unrelated survey” – the digital camera purchasing decision survey. In the questionnaire, several intrinsic and extrinsic attributes were listed, and respondents were asked to evaluate the importance of every attribute to their purchasing decisions. The data of this research show that the consumers in a good mood are inclined to focus on extrinsic attributes more than intrinsic attributes (t = 2.21, p = 0.0453); the consumers in a bad mood are inclined to pay more attention to intrinsic attributes (t = -2.33, p = 0.0352). For the neutral mood respondents, there is no difference between the intrinsic and extrinsic attributes in their decision weight (t = -0.12, p = 0.9401). Therefore, this study shows that moods do indeed influence the cognition of product attributes via differing information processing approaches. A good mood results in concerns about extrinsic attributes, whereas a bad mood results in a focus on the intrinsic attributes. This is a meaningful and useful result that can be extended to advertising and market research, for example, the effect of retail settings, the service quality of waiters, or the advertisement context on mood and attitude.


Kang-Ning Xia (2007) ,"Effect of Mood on Information Processing Style and Consequent Purchasing Decisions", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 34, eds. Gavan Fitzsimons and Vicki Morwitz, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 402-404.


Kang-Ning Xia, National Chengchi University, Taiwan


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 34 | 2007

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