Emotion and Reason in Consumer Behavior: Chapter 3: Attitude Formation

In Chapter 3, Attitude Formation, Chaudhuri sets out to answer the following questions (p 39):

  • What is the role of emotion and reason in developing and forming attitudes about products, brands, and advertisements?
  • What are the implications for positioning brands in different types of product categories?

First, Chaudhuri cites Fishbein and Ajzen (1975) as holding that “attitudes consist of [a person’s] salient beliefs” (p 40). He then supports this with a hierarchy of effects attributed to Lavidge and Steiner (1961). That view shows a causal relationship between beliefs, attitude, and behavior such that beliefs play a causal role in the formation of an attitude and the attitude plays a causal role in the person’s actions or behavior. Moreover, the view suggests that the beliefs are a necessary condition of forming attitudes toward a product or campaign.

He then discusses much more plausible views by M.L. Ray (1973), Gorn (1982), and Mitchell and Olson (1981) that hold that beliefs aren’t necessary conditions for forming attitudes. Their research shows that a simple association of music or imagery with a brand is sufficient to cause a person to form an attitude toward that brand. But Chaudhuri doesn’t take that as the upshot of these views. Instead, Chaudhuri thinks that[3]

the advertisement produces a favorable emotional response in the consumer (“I like Brand X”), which brings about beliefs about the brand (“Brand X is healthy”), leading to a purchase intention (“I intend to buy Brand X”). (p 41)

Chaudhuri then finishes up the first section by asserting that emotional messages are likely more important for what he calls “low involvement” products that don’t have many attributes or “parity” products that don’t have many differing attributes from their competitors. Consider bottled water. It doesn’t have many attributes. It has some hydrogen molecules, some oxygen molecules, and a plastic bottle. Moreover Dasani doesn’t differ much from Aquafina. So bottled water would be both a low involvement and parity product. Chaudhuri says that this type of product would benefit the most from emotional ads. He doesn’t offer any evidence for that; though it seems likely that those types of products would need to rely more on emotional advertising than rational advertising even if it doesn’t benefit those products more than others.

Next, Chaudhuri discusses an expanded model that he attributes to Perugini and Bagozzi (2001). This model looks something like this (p 43):

attitude formation model

So where the previous model had a simpler beliefs to attitude to behavior causal chain, this one is a bit more detailed. The major distinction drawn here is between hedonic, or pleasurable, and utilitarian, or merely functional, products. Chaudhuri contends that only an affective brand attitude can result in a willingness to pay. However, he says that this could com from tangible brand beliefs. Notice the link between tangible brand beliefs and emotional brand evaluation. So, suppose a broom sweeps better than any other broom. Chaudhuri says this could lead to the following evaluation: this brand is unlike any other brand. Moreover, he says that evaluation is an emotional brand evaluation. Adding the evaluation step “allows us to better understand how beliefs become attitudes” (p 44).

To bolster his position, Chaudhuri relies on a Mandler’s (1975, 1982) theory on the structure of evaluation. According to Mandler, congruity between the evidence and a person’s schema of the world is what gives rise to evaluations, where a rational evaluation is one in which the evidence and a person’s schema are congruous. An emotional evaluation, on the other hand, is one in which the evidence and schema are incongruous and depending on the incongruity the evaluation could cause either negative or positive arousal. Chaudhuri says that this theory appears to be different than that of mere exposure (Moreland and Zajonc 1977, Zajonc 1980). To accommodate the latter in his model, Chaudhuri added familiarity as a possible causal precursor to affective brand attitude[4].

Bringing it all together, the incongruity of the schema “is sufficient to cause autonomic nervous system activity and, in turn, results arousal” (p 47). Willingness to pay is just the willingness of a consumer to pay more for a product than he would for a competing product because of his affective attitude. That affective attitude is caused by the type of incongruity in the consumer’s schema and the evidence for the brand that results in a positive arousal.

Finally, Chaudhuri uses a study by Amaldoss and Jain (2005) to illustrate how different consumer schemas can result in different attitudes for the same evidence. Amaldoss and Jain showed that consumers who desired uniqueness were more likely to desire a product as the price increased. On the other hand, consumers who didn’t have a strong desire for uniqueness were more likely to desire a product less as the price increased. This is consistent with the schema theory of attitude formation. Given the same evidence, a price increase, consumers with a schema which included the desire to be unique formed a different attitude than those with a schema which didn’t include the desire to be unique.

  1. [3] It’s not clear why Chaudhuri thinks that emotional responses have to be converted into beliefs before an attitude can be formed. Of course one reason might be to make the association views by Ray, et. al. consistent with the belief views from Fishbein, et. al. But why do that?
  2. [4] There’s an obvious concern with this ad hoc move that Chaudhuri never addresses. Namely, that beliefs are no longer a necessary condition for attitudes. Right after describing the ad hoc move Chaudhuri says “I submit that rational and emotional brand evaluation conform to the two types of evaluation…proposed by Mandler (1982)” leaving the reader confused about his position (p 45).
  • Chaudhuri, Arjun. (2006). Emotion and Reason in Consumer Behavior. Burlington, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.
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