Affective and Cognitive Reactions to Advertising

W. Fred van Raaij, 1984, 84-111

Consumer response to advertising.

Type of Report
Concise review of theory and research.

To present evidence on the debate about whether cognitive activity always precedes affective reactions in response to advertising stimuli or whether affective reactions always precede cognitive activity.

Summarizes literature from two points of view.


  • Van Raaij concludes that recent research indicates that a primary affective reaction precedes the cognitive elaboration and a secondary affective reaction. Because the primary affective reaction is largely subconscious, and people are unable to verbalize it, little is known about it.
  • However, the primary affective reaction appears to be quick, holistic, intuitive, and located in the right hemisphere of the brain. It determines the succeeding process of cognitive elaboration, and in a situation of low involvement, will dominate the limited cognitive elaboration which takes place.
  • Traditional measures of active and passive recall cannot assess the primary affective reaction; better measures are probably subjective evaluation scales or psychophysiological measures.
  • Media can be classified into four groups on the basis of content (image vs. text) and pacing (internal vs. external); the relative importance of affective reactions and cognitive elaboration will differ over these groups.
  • Sternthal in his comment takes an opposing point of view, namely, he believes that there is much research evidence supporting the theory that affective reactions do not occur independent of cognition.

Target Audience/Applicability
Researchers in the field of advertising and consumer information processing.

Related MSI Research
Olson and Ray, "Using Brain-Wave Measures to Assess Advertising Effects"; Park and Young, "The Effects of Involvement and Executional Factors of a Television Commercial on Brand Attitude Formation"; Batra and Ray, "Identifying Opportunities for Repetition Minimization."

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