Effects of brand information from advertising and a third-party source on attitudes of consumers under different motivation
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The purpose of this study was to assess the applicability of the Heuristic-Systematic Model (HSM) to a common advertising situation in which both a persuasive argument (advertising claim) and a persuasion cue (consensus information from a third-party source) were available to consumers under different motivation (accuracy and defense motivation). This study particularly aimed to test the model’s two major theoretical assumptions: two concurrent modes of and multiple motives for information processing. A large-scale (n=502) online experiment was conducted using a 2 (involvement: high vs. low) × 2 (cue valence: positive vs. negative) × 2 (argument valence: positive vs. negative) between-subjects, pre-post-test design with additional planned analyses of the subject variables (brand loyalty and need for cognition). Results indicate that concurrent processing took place in certain persuasion circumstances. Individuals’ attitudes were affected by both systematic (argument-based) and heuristic (cue-based) processing, particularly when they were accuracy motivated and highly involved with the task. However, concurrent processing varied, depending on information congruency. When receiving congruent information (e.g., positive consensus information in combination with a positive advertising claim), they tended to use both the persuasion cue and persuasive argument to ensure maximum confidence in their attitudinal judgment. On the other hand, when exposed to contradictory information (e.g., negative consensus information followed by a positive advertising claim), the effects of the cue on attitude were likely to be discounted by the effects of the argument. Results also show that accuracy- and defense-motivated individuals tended to use different information processing strategies. Accuracy-motivated (low-brand-loyal) individuals strived to make correct (objective) attitude judgments, using various combinations of the valence of the persuasion cue and the persuasive argument. Their information processing was dependent on involvement and information congruency. However, defense-motivated (high-brand-loyal) individuals were selective (biased) in processing the information. They sought out information that carries only a positive valence (i.e., supports their prior favorable dispositions toward the brand), regardless of the level of involvement and type of information. The data also revealed that compared to accuracy-motivated individuals, defense-motivated individuals were less likely to be affected by need for cognition in processing the information.