Effects of Affect on Consumer Behavior: A Meta-Analytic Integration

Nancy M. Puccinelli , Dhruv Grewal, Scott Motyka, Susan A. Andrzejewski, and Tamar Avnet, 2016, 16-114

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Imagine a customer walking into a car dealership. The dealership is playing his favorite song and offering free cookies, both of which put him in a good mood. However, when a salesperson approaches and offers to show him a car, he is more rather than less critical of the automobile. He wants to assess the car accurately and not to be influenced by the positive feelings created by the dealership environment.

This scenario highlights the complex and consequential nature of consumer affect. While there is a vast amount of research on affective feelings, the direct effect of positive or negative affect on consumer behavior is still unclear. Some research points to an affect-congruence effect—where positive affect leads to a favorable consumer response and negative affect leads to an unfavorable response. Other research points to an affect-incongruence effect, where positive affect leads to a less-favorable response, as in the example above.

This report by Nancy Puccinelli, Dhruv Grewal, Scott Motyka, Susan Andrzejewski, and Tamar Avnet is the first to quantitatively synthesize the body of work examining the effects of affect on consumer behavior. They integrate 240 studies with a total of 33,057 participants conducted over 28 years (1987-2015) to provide insight into how consumer affect impacts two outcomes: evaluation and behavior.

The authors examine whether affect congruence and affect incongruence are influenced by: (1) the level of arousal inherent in the affective state, (2) the information-processing intensity of a task or the processing ability of the individual, (3) the accessibility or representativeness of the feelings evoked, and (4) social norms related to the expression of feelings.

Their findings support an overall main effect of affect congruence in which positive (negative) affect leads to a more (less) favorable consumer response. Importantly, their findings demonstrate several moderating conditions. For example, they see the strongest affect-congruent influence when the affective state is low in arousal level, low in processing intensity or ability, high in representativeness, and when social norms support affective expression.

Other conditions diminish the affect-congruent effect or even reverse it (affect incongruence). If the product category is highly involving or cognitively complex, managers may see diminishing returns on investment in a feel-good strategy. Further, if the feel-good strategy aims to “cheer people up” and thus engenders a high arousal affective state, managers might also face disappointing results.

Finally, special attention needs to be paid to the social context (i.e., cultural or group) as these factors can also interact with consumer affect to reduce likelihood of purchase.

Nancy M. Puccinelli is Associate Professor of Marketing, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. Dhruv Grewal is the Toyota Chair in E-Commerce and Electronic Business, Department of Marketing, Babson College. Scott Motyka is Assistant Professor of Marketing, Keck Graduate Institute, Claremont Colleges. Susan A. Andrzejewski is Assistant Professor of Marketing, California State University Channel Islands, Martin V. Smith School of Business and Economics. Tamar Avnet is Associate Professor of Marketing, Sy Syms School of Business, Yeshiva University. Analysis was conducted by SM and SA.

The authors are grateful for the insightful comments of Andrew Stephen, Michel Pham, Tom Lawrence and Anne Roggeveen. The authors also thank Harvard Business School’s Norton Lab, Columbia University’s RED Lab, and Harvard University’s Gilbert Lab as well as seminar participants at the University of Miami and Wharton.



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