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Title:Visuals, inferences, and consumers' biased information seeking
Author(s):Ryu, Sann Hee
Director of Research:Vargas, Patrick
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Vargas, Patrick
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Sar, Sela; Wirtz, John; Yao, Mike
Department / Program:Inst of Communications Rsch
Discipline:Communications and Media
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Visual biasing effects
Inferential beliefs
Brand attitudes
Confirmation bias
Selective exposure
Abstract:The purpose of this research is to investigate how varying product visuals affect consumers’ selective exposure, and whether inferences and attitudes toward a newly encountered brand can mediate such visual biasing effects. I examine an underexplored dimension of confirmation bias in which newly developed inferential beliefs and brand attitudes are induced only by visual cues. The levels of product visual appeals are manipulated in a 2 x 2 factorial design experiment, varying package design (good vs. plain design) and image quality (high vs. low resolution). In Study 1, I demonstrate the effects of product visuals on inferential beliefs, brand attitudes, and purchase intentions. I explore how consumers use product visual appeals to infer a product’s functional value and the credibility of a seller, and form attitudes toward the newly encountered brand, as well as purchase intentions. In Study 2, I examine how varying product visual appearance affects consumers’ inclination to select congenial information in customer reviews, and whether consumers’ inferential beliefs and brand attitudes mediate such effects. In Study 3, I test consumers’ cognitive responses as another mediator between product visuals and brand attitudes, and the moderating role of need for cognition between brand attitudes and selective exposure. In Study 4, I use a different set of visual stimuli and use different measures of the same critical constructs, and replicate the visual biasing effects. I found significant main effects of package design and image quality on consumer judgments (perceived product quality, seller credibility, brand attitudes, purchase intentions, and thought positivity) and information search (selective exposure). The results also confirm an increasing linear trend in belief positivity, attitude favorability, and selective exposure as the product visuals become richer. I present an explanatory framework for the visual biasing effects using structural equation modeling: consumers view the visual appearance of a product (varying in package design and image quality), generate inferential beliefs (about perceived product quality and seller credibility), form attitudes toward the brand, and choose to read customer reviews in favor of their newly developed preferences. This is the first demonstration of confirmation biases resulting from a one-time exposure to a never-before encountered brand in which consumer inferences and judgments are induced only by product visual appeals. Theoretical, methodological, and practical contributions to the field of consumer research are discussed for future research.
Issue Date:2017-04-21
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Sann Ryu
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-08-10
Date Deposited:2017-05

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