ITEM METADATA RECORD
Title: The role of self-regulatory focus in consumer satisfaction
Authors: Adams, Leen
Geuens, Maggie
Issue Date: 2006
Conference: European Marketing Academy (EMAC) Doctoral Colloquium location:Athens date:2006
Abstract: Goals play an essential role in directing consumer behavior (Bagozzi & Dholakia, 1999). The most common way to represent the relationship between values, goals and concrete consumer actions, is to organize them into a hierarchical structure with a certain number of higher and lower level goals (Bagozzi & Dholakia, 1999; Huffman, Ratneshwar & Mick, 2000). The higher level goals include the life themes and values representing our view on the ideal human being, and the more current concerns or the activities in which we want to engage (Huffman, Ratneshwar & Mick, 2000). The lower level goals refer to the benefits and objective features searched for in particular products (Huffman, Ratneshwar & Mick, 2000). Harmony is essential in a hierarchical goal system and to this end, there exist two different alignment processes in which higher and lower level goals influence each other (Huffman, Ratneshwar & Mick, 2000). First of all, goal alignment can occur through top-down or incorporation processes by which the higher level goals determine the content of lower level goals which then become the means to realize the higher level goals (Huffman, Ratneshwar & Mick, 2000). Secondly, goal alignment can also occur through bottom-up or abstraction processes. Lower-level goals can also determine what the higher level goals should be (Huffman, Ratneshwar & Mick, 2000). First research proposal: The role of regulatory focus in the choice and successive post-choice stage The main focus of our first research proposal are the top-down processes in which the lower level goals serve as means to realize the higher-level goals. More specifically, we would like to focus on the two categories of higher level goals described in regulatory focus theory, namely (1) goals related to advancement and accomplishment and (2) goals related to security and protection, because “the principles of self-regulatory focus are important to consider in consumer behavior, because these higher order goals of approach and avoidance provide insight in how certain lower order consumption goals are made and fulfilled” (Aaker & Lee, 2001, pg. 33). The regulatory focus theory of Higgins (1997) starts from the hedonic principle “people are motivated by the approach of pleasure and by the avoidance of pain”. But this theory goes a step further and proposes that for some people and in some situations, a greater focus will be put on approaching pleasure and attaining positive outcomes and that for other people and in other contexts, the focus will be put rather on avoiding pain and other negative outcomes. The first way to regulate behavior is referred to as promotion-focused self-regulation and the latter as prevention-focused self-regulation. Regulatory focus theory posits that in case of a promotion focus, goals related to advancement and accomplishment are more likely to be pursued, while in case of a prevention focus, goals related to security and protection are more likely to be pursued. Also the strategies used to achieve these goals will depend on the primary focus. A promotion-focus implies the use of eagerness strategies by which individuals will maximize the presence or minimize the absence of positive outcomes. A prevention focus implies the use of vigilance strategies by which people will minimize the presence or maximize the absence of negative outcomes. The two motivational states of promotion and prevention focus are states of an individual during goal pursuit. People can be chronically high in promotion focus, high in prevention focus, high in both or low in both, but a certain focus can also be activated by the context. In any case, based on the previous goal alignment principle, the salient motivational state in people will decide on the benefits and objective features searched for in different product categories. This compatibility principle or more specifically, this regulatory fit principle implies that certain attributes in a product category will receive greater weight when they are more compatible with someone’s regulatory focus than when they are incompatible and that as a result, alternatives attractive on the focus-consistent criteria will be evaluated more favorably (Higgins, 2002; Pham & Higgins, 2005). In this research project, we are looking specifically at hedonic and utilitarian attributes. As already shown by previous research (Aaker & Lee, 2001; Chernev, 2004; Safer, 1998), hedonic attributes will receive greater weight under a dominant promotion focus than under a dominant prevention focus, while the reverse is true for utilitarian attributes. As a result, choice alternatives scoring high on the hedonic dimension will be evaluated more favorably and will be more likely to be chosen under a promotion focus, whereas alternatives scoring high on the utilitarian dimension will be evaluated more favorably and will be more likely to be chosen under a prevention focus. As already mentioned, this proposition has been tested before. However, here, we would like to replicate previous findings and go some steps further. More specifically, we are also interested in the role of regulatory focus in the post-choice stage. Namely, to what extent will the different higher level goals influence someone’s post-choice assessments of a particular decision? Once people have made a choice, they will compare the outcomes of their choice with certain standards prompted by, among other things, their higher order goals and they will form summary satisfaction judgments (Fournier & Mick, 1999; Holbrook & Hirschman, 1982; Khan, Dhar & Wertenbroch, 2005), which are made apart from and serve as an input to the satisfaction feelings experienced after the use of a product (Oliver, 1980; Mano & Oliver, 1993). These rational and emotional satisfaction judgments will lead to a certain degree of overall satisfaction about the outcome and the self-view (Mano & Oliver, 1993). Assuming that a product fulfills its promises, one could expect that consumers will infer positive thoughts and feelings concerning the product and their self-image when they have chosen an alternative in line with their current goals (Khan, Dhar & Wertenbroch, 2005). But to what extent will the goals that guided the initial choice persist and influence the satisfaction level over time? (Aaker & Lee, 2001) When people are led by a certain focus in a specific choice situation, how does their satisfaction level evolve given the chance that another focus and other goals could become dominant in the future? Again, assuming that a product fulfills its promises, one could expect that consumers will infer less positive thoughts and feelings about the product and their self-image when they have chosen an alternative in line with their previous goals, but incompatible with their currently activated goals (Khan, Dhar & Wertenbroch, 2005). We would like to investigate whether the activation of a certain focus after making a choice will influence the degree of post-choice satisfaction. Sengupta and Zhou (2005) have already performed research in this area. They found that exposure to a real-life hedonically appealing snack induces a promotion focus in impulsive consumers. This promotion focus also made them choose the hedonic snack over the utilitarian one. But when they induced a prevention focus in impulsive consumers at the time of choice, less subjects chose the hedonic snack over the utilitarian one. Also, when they induced a prevention focus in the impulsive consumers after their hedonic choice was made, these subjects were less satisfied with that choice. Now, we would like to test whether also the reversed situation is true. More specifically, we would like to test following hypotheses: H1a: Pre- and post-choice promotion-focused subjects are more satisfied afterwards with the hedonic choice than the pre-choice promotion post-choice prevention-focused subjects H1b: Pre- and post-choice prevention-focused subjects are more satisfied afterwards with the utilitarian choice than the pre-choice prevention post-choice promotion -focused subjects For this, we would like to set up a two (pre-choice regulatory focus) by two (post-choice regulatory focus) between-subjects design in which we will first induce a particular regulatory focus and let people make a choice between a hedonically positioned lemonade (‘sweet taste’) and a utilitarian positioned lemonade (‘healthy with extra vitamins and less sugar’). After a certain time interval filled up with an unrelated task, we will again induce people in a certain regulatory focus and measure satisfaction levels. More specifically, we would like to assess post-choice evaluations and overall satisfaction levels, but also the type of emotions experienced in the post-choice stage. It has been said that the post-choice emotions capture the ‘tone’ of the overall satisfaction (Fournier & Mick, 1999) and it has also been shown that these post-choice emotions exert an important influence on overall satisfaction ratings (Mano & Oliver, 1993). Oliver (1989) suggests five different modes of satisfaction feelings, namely contentment, pleasure, relief, novelty and surprise. This proposed structure has some ground in common with the emotions studied within the regulatory focus theory. Higgins et al. (1997) showed that people with a particular dominant focus experience different emotions in goal attainment and non goal attainment situations. People with a dominant promotion focus who can obtain positive outcomes, will experience cheerfulness-related emotions, such as happiness and joy, but people with a dominant prevention focus who can avoid negative outcomes, will experience more quiescence-related emotions, such as calmness and relief (Higgins, Shah & Friedman, 1997). In case of failing to attain their goals, promotion focused individuals will experience dejection-related emotions, such as disappointment and regret, and prevention focused individuals will experience rather agitation-related emotions, such as tension and uneasiness (Higgins, Shah & Friedman, 1997). Therefore, we would like to investigate following hypotheses (Aaker & Lee, 2001; Pham and Higgins, 2005): H2a: People with a persistent promotion focus will experience cheerfulness-related post-choice emotions, such as happiness and joy, after a goal-compatible choice H2b: People with a persistent prevention focus will experience quiescence -related post-choice emotions, such as calmness and relief, after a goal-compatible choice H2c: People who went from a pre-choice prevention to a post-choice promotion focus will experience dejection-related post-choice emotions, such as disappointment and regret H2d: People who went from a pre-choice promotion to a post-choice prevention focus will experience agitation-related post-choice emotions, such as tension and uneasiness Finally, next to the previously discussed outcome value, we also would like to study the value derived from the means for choosing the alternative since this has also an influence on people’s satisfaction ratings (Higgins, 2000, 2002). Satisfaction does not only stem from outcome value, but also from the value in how a decision has been taken (Higgins, 2000, 2002). As already mentioned, promotion-focused individuals will typically use eagerness strategies to attain their goals, while prevention-focused individuals rather use vigilance strategies to attain their goals (Higgins, 1997). The regulatory fit principle then also implies that promotion-focused individuals are more concerned with maximizing the presence and minimizing the absence of positive outcomes and therefore more concerned with choosing the alternative with the most positive attributes, whereas prevention-focused individuals are more concerned with minimizing the presence or maximizing the absence of negative outcomes therefore more concerned with choosing the alternative with the least negative attributes. Therefore, we propose following hypotheses (Higgins, 2000, 2002; Pham & Higgins, 2005): H3a: Promotion-focused individuals will be more likely to be satisfied with the presence of the positive consequences associated with choosing the hedonic option, whereas prevention-focused individuals will be more likely to be satisfied with the absence of the negative consequences associated with not choosing the hedonic option H3b: Promotion-focused individuals will be more likely to be dissatisfied with the absence of the positive consequences associated with not choosing the hedonic option, whereas prevention-focused individuals will be more likely to be dissatisfied with the presence of the negative consequences associated with choosing the hedonic option Looking at future research options: current versus anticipated emotions As stated by Bagozzi and Dholakia, 1999, pg. 25-26: “[…], superordinate goals and their organization provide a basis for decision making, but something more is needed to activate intentions. Emotional or affective processes can perform this role when coupled with decision making with regard to anticipated outcomes that are contingent on alternative courses of action.” In the future, we would like to look further into the role of anticipated outcomes, emotions and satisfaction in decision-making. Specifically, in the context of regulatory focus theory, it could be interesting to study the influence of the anticipation of the specific ‘regulatory focus’ emotions (joy and relief vs. disappointment and anxiousness) on future choices of differently focused consumers, and to investigate whether expected emotions function differently for promotion and prevention regulatory focuses (Bagozzi et al., 2000). References Aaker, J.L., & Lee, A.Y. (2001). I seek pleasures and we avoid pains: the role of self-regulatory goals in information processing and persuasion. Journal of Consumer Research, 28(1), 33-49 Bagozzi, R.P., & Dholakia, U. (1999). Goal setting and goal striving in consumer behavior. Journal of Marketing, 63(Special Issue), 19-32 Bagozzi, R.P., Baumgartner, H., Pieters, R. & Zeelenberg, M. (2000). The role of emotions in goal-directed behavior. In S. Ratneshwar, D.G. Mick & C. Huffman (Eds.). The Why of Consumption. New York: Routledge Chernev, A. (2004). Goal-attribute compatibility in consumer choice. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 14(1-2), 141-150 Fournier, S., & Mick, D.G. (1999). Rediscovering satisfaction. Journal of Marketing, 62(October), 5-23 Holbrook, M.B., & Hirschman, E.C. (1982). The experiential aspects of consumption: consumer fantasies, feelings, and fun. Journal of Consumer Research, 9(September), 132-140 Higgins, E.T. (1997). Beyond pleasure and pain. American Psychologist, 52(12), 1280-1300 Higgins, E.T. (2000). Making a good decision: Value from fit. American Psychologist, 55(11), 1217-1230 Higgins, E.T. (2002).How self-regulation creates distinct values: The case of promotion and prevention decision-making. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 12(3), 177-191 Higgins, E.T., Shah, J., & Friedman, R. (1997). Emotional responses to goal attainment: Strength of regulatory focus as moderator. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 515-525 Huffman, C., Ratneshwar, S., & Mick, D.G. (2000). Consumer goal structures and goal-determination processes. In S. Ratneshwar, D.G. Mick & C. Huffman (Eds.). The Why of Consumption. New York: Routledge Khan, U., Dhar, R., & Wertenbroch, K. (2005). A behavioral decision theory perspective on hedonic and utilitarian choice. In S. Ratneshwar & D.G. Mick (Eds.). Inside Consumption. New York: Routledge Mano, H., & Oliver, R. (1993). Assessing the dimensionality and structure of the consumption experience: evaluation, feeling and satisfaction, Journal of Consumer Research, 20(December), 451-466 Oliver, R. (1980). A cognitive model of the antecedents and consequences of satisfaction decisions. Journal of Marketing Research, 17(November), 460-469 Oliver, R. (1989). Processing of the satisfaction response in consumption: a suggested framework and research propositions. Journal of Consumer Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior, 2, 1-16 Pham, M., & Higgins, E.T. (2005). Promotion and prevention in consumer decision-making. In S. Ratneshwar & D.G. Mick (Eds.). Inside Consumption. New York: Routledge Safer, D.A. (1998). Preference for luxurious or reliable products: promotion and prevention focus as moderators. Unpublished dissertation, Columbia University, New York Sengupta, J. & Zhou, R. (2005). Understanding impulsives’unwise eating behavior: the role of regulatory focus. Presented at the ACR conference, 2005, San Antonio
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Research Centre for Work and Organisation Studies (WOS Bxl), Campus Brussels
Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB) - miscellaneous

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