Dogmatism and Innovation: a Situational Perspective

ABSTRACT - The influence of the gift giving situation on the well established dogmatism-innovation relationship is demonstrated. High dogmatics in a gift giving situation were found to be more innovative than low dogmatics in the same situation. More importantly, the direction of the dogmatism-innovation relationship under the gift giving situation was reversed.


Kenneth A. Coney and Robert R. Harmon (1979) ,"Dogmatism and Innovation: a Situational Perspective", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 06, eds. William L. Wilkie, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 118-121.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, 1979      Pages 118-121


Kenneth A. Coney, Arizona State University

Robert R. Harmon, Portland State University


The influence of the gift giving situation on the well established dogmatism-innovation relationship is demonstrated. High dogmatics in a gift giving situation were found to be more innovative than low dogmatics in the same situation. More importantly, the direction of the dogmatism-innovation relationship under the gift giving situation was reversed.


Generally, researchers in consumer behavior have found a disappointing lack of predictive power on the part of personality variables relative to purchase and choice phenomena. As Kassarjian (1971) points out, however, it is almost too much to expect specific variables alone to explain a great deal of the variance in complex behavioral phenomena. To some extent, the development of psychographics has been a response to this need for a combination of variables to better understand and predict behavior (Belk 1975a). Recently, however, Belk (1975b) has provided a potentially more powerful explanation and conceptualization of why there is such a lack of predictive relationships between personality variables (or any other potentially predictive variables) and behavior have been found. Although Belk's view is certainly not new (Ward and Roberson 1973, Lavidge 1966) it is more productive than earlier discussions as Belk provides a taxonomy of situations for research consideration.

Specifically, Belk (1975b) defines five groups of situational characteristics: 1) Physical Surroundings, 2) Social Surroundings, 3) Temporal Perspective, 4) Task Definition, and 5) Antecedent States. Any of these situations in interaction with a specific object and person can influence subsequent behavior. Although there is still a question as to the best way to define a situation, particularly in terms of degree of generality (Barker and Wicker 1975, Belk 1975b), Belk's taxonomy seems reasonable to use as a starting point to determine the predictive effect of personality and situation on various behavioral phenomena.

Of particular interest to this paper is Belk's (1975b) task definition characteristic of a situation. He defines these features to be:

. . . an intent or requirement to select, shop for, or obtain information about a general or specific purchase. In addition, task may reflect different buyer and user roles anticipated by the individual. For instance, a person shopping for a small appliance as a wedding gift for a friend is in a different situation than he would be in shopping for a small appliance for personal use (p. 159).

The task definition of gift giving as described above would seem to be an important aspect of consumer behavior. Belk (1976) states that the gift giver must make inferences about the recipient's tastes, needs, desires, possible reactions and the gift-recipient relationship in order to complete the gift selection process (p. 155). Furthermore, the task requirement of the gift giver situation could conceivably have a much different impact on purchase behavior than the task requirement of a purchase for personal consumption situation. Indeed, if the changing of the task requirement from that of purchase for personal use to that of purchase for the purpose of giving a gift to another, resulted in a demonstrable and systematic effect on behavior, then this would lend support to Belk's inclusion of task definition in his situational taxonomy.


As innovative product choice is a real and important behavioral phenomenon to marketers, it seems important to determine if such behavior may be influenced in part by certain situations. Since the dogmatism-innovation relationship has already been established in the purchase for personal consumption situation it appears reasonable to extend the analysis of the relationship into another aspect of the task situation, in this case gift giving. Gift giving was chosen as a potentially important task situation as it represents a large proportion of purchase in many product classes (Belk 1976, Caron and Ward 1975). Also, it would seem that gift purchasing might have a very real impact on innovative products, where consumers may frequently want to be seen as giving something "new" and "different."

The relationship between dogmatism and innovation has been demonstrated by Jacoby (1971) and replicated by Coney (1972). Jacoby found that dogmatism and innovation were inversely related when individuals intended to buy for themselves (r = .36, p < .01). Unfortunately, Jacoby's methodology did not account for the task situation variables and actually succeeded in lumping them together. He instructed his subjects: "If you do not use a set of products, buy for someone else." Therefore, Jacoby's study was compounding the effects of the situational influence of buying for oneself vs. buying for someone else. Not controlling for this dichotomous variable assumes that the situation does not make any difference in the dogmatism-innovation relationship.

Coney, using male subjects instead of female subjects found an even stronger inverse relationship between dogmatism and innovation (r = -.474, p < .001). Coney's results may have been stronger because he did not confuse the dichotomous task requirement situation. Subjects were instructed to purchase for themselves. Therefore, his study only dealt with one half of the task situation dichotomy of interest to this present study. It is felt that the inclusion of the "buy for another" gift giving condition to the "buy for self" situational condition that was implicit in the Coney study and apparently dominant in the Jacoby study, would provide a good test of the predictive power of situation, object and person on behavior.

The intent of this study is to test the general null hypothesis that varying the task requirement of a purchase situation will have no impact on the dogmatism-innovation relationship. Rejection of this hypothesis should indicate that the specific situation has a direct effect on the strength and/or direction of the well-established dogmatism-innovation relationship. Such a finding would have direct implications for the inclusion of the situation in research on consumer purchasing processes. Again, the thrust of this research effort is to emphasize the potential effect of specific situational variables on general relationships between marketing related phenomena.


The same basic methodology used by Jacoby (1971) and Coney (1972) was followed. However, unlike the preceding studies, a dichotomous situational variable was added. The conditions are defined as the task requirement to (1) buy a product for one's personal use, and (2) buy a product as a gift for a friend. The friend was defined for subjects as someone close enough to the subject that they would realistically consider buying them a gift in the product categories shown. The same method of defining and determining innovative products was used in this study as in the previous two in order to replicate as closely as possible the basic methodology used to establish the inverse dogmatism-innovation relationship. The subjects were 110 unmarried male volunteers ranging in age from 19 to 28 years of age. All were business administration majors at Arizona State University.

The twelve product categories used in the study are listed in Table 1. These twelve were chosen from a larger list by a pretest group of 40 subjects similar to the general subject group. The products were determined prior to data collection to be ones that were familiar to and frequently purchased by the subject group. Every effort was made to provide subjects with product category choices that they currently purchase or would realistically be purchasing in the foreseeable future for themselves or give as a gift to a friend.



As subjects would be asked to choose one brand from a group of four brands in a product category, it was necessary to insure that the one choice defined as innovative (functional, fashion, or new brand) by the researchers was in fact seen as being innovative by subjects. The pretest group was shown the four brands in each category and asked to pick the one that they thought was an innovation. One could expect a chance innovation response rate of 10 when using a sample size of 40. As can be seen from Table 1, all product choices designated to be innovative were in fact considered to be so by the subjects beyond the .001 level of significance.

Subjects were administered the Rokeach Dogmatism Scale and divided into high and low dogmatic groups (see Table 2). Subjects in the experimental conditions were instructed to choose a product from each of the twelve product categories that they would be most likely to purchase (1) for themselves, or (2) as a gift for a male friend. The four pictures in each category were randomly mounted and could be viewed at the same time. All pictures were in color and matched on factors such as branded-unbranded, size and price.

The dependent measure used was purchase intention. While it would have been preferable to have an actual measure of behavior, given the limitations of the experiment, buying intentions seems to be an acceptable proxy. Fishbein (1975), for example, argues that a good predictor of a person's behavior is his/her intentions to perform the behavior irrespective of the nature of the behavioral criterion.


Subjects in each situational category were partitioned into two groups, based on their median dogmatism score. The 2 X 2 factorial design with mean innovation scores is shown in Figure 1 (a) and (b).



Table 2 shows the mean dogmatism score for high and low dogmatics for each situation. The expected inverse relationship was again found in the Buy for Self situation, however, a direct positive relationship was found in the Gift situation.



Table 3 shows the results of the ANOVA. Main effects for situation and dogmatism are not significant. However, the 2-way interaction is significant at p < .001.

These results are similar to earlier situational findings that demonstrated the dominance of interactions over main effects in contributions to variance (Belk 1974). In this instance, the significant interaction term suggests that innovative buying intentions are related to dogmatism and to the specific situational condition. The non-significant main effects can be interpreted as dogmatism and situation, when considered alone, cannot lead us to any general rules as to which level of either has the greatest impact on innovation.

In the buying for self situation the relationship between dogmatism and innovation explains 17.0% of the variance accounted for by the correlation of the two variables (r = -.412, p <.001). However, in the gift buying situation the association between dogmatism and innovation explains only 1.1% of the variance, with a nonsignificant r of .107.




The results show rather dramatically that manipulation of the purchase situation does have a significant impact on the dogmatism-innovation relationship. The basic inverse dogmatism-innovation relationship was once again found in the purchase for self condition. However, in the gift giving situation a direct relationship was found to exist. High dogmatics were found to be significantly more innovative than low dogmatics. Furthermore, even though the low r between dogmatism and innovation given gift buying is not significant, it is positive. This complete change in direction provides strong evidence that thc task condition of self vs. gift purchasing does have considerable impact on the dogmatism-innovation relationship.

As stated earlier, the gift giver must make inferences about the recipient and the potential reaction to the gift. He must also be concerned about the information the particular type of gift chosen will convey about the giver-recipient relationship and, indeed, about the gift giver himself. It may be that higher dogmatic people wish to be seen by gift recipients as being more novel, more innovative than they in fact are. Hence, the purchase choice would be more likely to reflect the generally more valued characteristic (though more personally risky) of being a leader and innovator. On the other hand, it may be that they perceive others as being more novel than themselves and, therefore, buy more innovately for them.

Without more research on the specific aspects of the gift giver situation per se, it is difficult to explain fully why the dogmatism-innovation relationship normally found is reversed. It is highly significant, however, to note that the direction of the relationship did change, as the basic intent of this research effort was to indicate that the situation does play a powerful role in the buying environment. Research must include situational variables, such as those defined by Belk (1975b) if one is to accurately portray real consumer purchase decisions.


Roger G. Barker and Allan W. Wicker, "Commentaries on Belk, Situational Variables," Journal of Consumer Research, 2(December, 1975), 165-168.

Russel W. Belk, "An Exploratory Assessment of Situational Effects in Buyer Behavior," Journal of Marketing Research, (May, 1974), 156-163.

Russel W. Belk, "Situational Variables and Consumer Behavior," Journal of Consumer Research, 2(December, 1975a), 157-164.

Russel W. Belk, "Reply to Barker and Wicker," Journal of Consumer Research, 2(December, 1975b), 235-236.

Russel W. Belk, "It's the Thought That Counts: A Signed Digraph Analysis of Gift Giving," Journal of Consumer Research, 3(December, 1976), 155-162.

Andre Caron and Scott Ward, "Gift Decisions by Kids and Parents," Journal of Advertising Research, 15(August, 1975), 15-20.

Kenneth A. Coney, "Dogmatism and Innovation: A Replication,'' Journal of Marketing Research, (November, 1972), 453-455.

Martin Fishbein and Icek Ajzen, Belief, Attitude, Intention, and Behavior: An Introduction to Theory and Research, (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1975).

Jacob Jacoby, "Personality and Innovation Proneness," Journal of Marketing Research, (May, 1971), 244-247.

Harold H. Kassarjian, "Personality and Consumer Behavior: A Review," Journal of Marketing Research, (November, 1971), 409-418.

R. J. Lavidge, "The Cotton Candy Concept: Intro-Individual Variability," in Lee Adler and Irving Crespi, Attitude Research at Sea, (Chicago: American Marketing Association, 1966), 39-50.

S. Ward and T. S. Robertson, "Consumer Behavior Research: Promise and Prospects," in Scott Ward and Thomas S. Robertson, Consumer Behavior: Theoretical Sources, (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1973), 3-42.



Kenneth A. Coney, Arizona State University
Robert R. Harmon, Portland State University


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 06 | 1979

Share Proceeding

Featured papers

See More


Can Making Family Salient Improve Retirement Contributions? Evidence from Field Experiments in Mexico

Avni Shah, University of Toronto, Canada
Matthew Osborne, University of Toronto, Canada
Jaclyn Lefkowitz, IDEAS42
Andrew Fertig, IDEAS42
Dilip Soman, University of Toronto, Canada
Nina Mazar, Boston University, USA

Read More


N10. How Does It Make You Feel? Emotional Reasoning and Consumer Decisions

Andrea Rochelle Bennett, University of North Texas
Blair Kidwell, University of North Texas
Jonathan Hasford, University of Central Florida, USA
David Hardesty, University of Kentucky, USA
Molly Burchett, University of Kentucky, USA

Read More


Predicting Consumer Brand Recall and Choice Using Large-Scale Text Corpora

Zhihao Zhang, University of California Berkeley, USA
Aniruddha Nrusimha, University of California Berkeley, USA
Ming Hsu, University of California Berkeley, USA

Read More

Engage with Us

Becoming an Association for Consumer Research member is simple. Membership in ACR is relatively inexpensive, but brings significant benefits to its members.