The Affect Heuristic in Consumer Evaluations

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Title: The Affect Heuristic in Consumer Evaluations
Author: King, Jesse Stocker, 1982-
Abstract: This dissertation examines the role of affect in consumer judgments in two essays. The first essay explores the use of affect as a heuristic basis for judgments of the risks and benefits associated with new products. Current perspectives regarding the processes by which consumers make decisions about the adoption of innovations maintain that it is largely a cognitive process. However, the four studies that make up the first essay suggest that consumer assessments of the risks and benefits associated with product innovations are often inversely related and affectively congruent with evaluations of those innovations. The results support and extend previous research that has investigated the affect heuristic in the context of social hazards. The findings further indicate that more affectively extreme evaluations are associated with increasingly disparate assessments of risk and benefit. The results indicate that this relationship is consistent across a variety of products and product categories. Together, these findings challenge traditional conceptualizations of innovation adoption decision making and suggest that cognitive models alone are insufficient to explain innovation adoption decisions. The second essay investigates if processing fluency - the difficulty associated with processing information - may serve as an input to the affect heuristic and subsequent judgments of risk and benefit. Recently, Song and Schwarz investigated the relationship between differences in fluency and perceptions of risk. Their results suggested that fluency experiences influence risk perception through differences in familiarity and not as the result of fluency-elicited affect. The three studies included in the second essay re-examine those results in an effort to clarify the role of affect as a basis for perceptions of risk. The findings document a previously unreported reversal in preference for less fluent stimuli and suggest that fluency-elicited affect can explain the relationship between processing experiences and perceptions of risk. The results have important theoretical implications for our understanding of how people derive meaning from fluency experiences and for the role of fluency-elicited affect as a basis for judgments of risk and benefit.
Description: xv, 145 p. : ill. (some col.)
Date: 2011-06

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