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Emotion Research PDF Print E-mail
Written by Insights Now   
15 Jun 2010

A Primer of the Underlying Psychology

David Lundahl, Ph.D., President and CEO and Gregory Stucky, Vice President of InsightsNow, Inc.

Researchers fundamentally agree that emotions and rational thought are primary influencers of behavior. When it comes to emotion based research, there are many perspectives for what approach one might take. While marketing research has recognized the value of emotions for some time, every new research project tends to open more questions about appropriate methods, strategies and interpretation of results. To that end, it can be quite confusing for the “beginner” in carving their way through the plethora of research options.Likewise, listening to consultants discuss various approaches can be difficult without a basic understanding of the psychology underlying different approaches.

To assist the researcher in assessing different approaches, this document provides a short overview of the psychology underlying different approaches to apply emotive research to solve consumer product and marketing research problems.

Approaches to Emotive Research

Two distinct approaches exist to measure and gain insights into how experienced emotions affect behavior. These approaches stem from very fundamental differences (psychology theories and models) for how emotions are believed to drive behaviors.

Experienced Emotions

Dimensional States
Emotions are DIMENSIONAL states. The best example of this approach is the PAD Model (Mehrabian and Russell, 1974). This model views emotions as psychological states comprised of three dimensions: pleasure (positive, negative), arousal (intensity), and dominance (freedom to act). Pleasure is believed to be the most important dimension in motivating approach-avoidance behavior. The standard 9-point hedonic scale can be viewed as an integrated measurement of pleasure and arousal. However, it falls short as an accurate measure of emotion (and motivation to behave) when dominance contributes to behavior.

The strength of this approach is in its simplicity. However, this is also its weakness.
For example, research using this approach cannot distinguish between a person’s mood and emotion as a motivation for behavior – they will be confounded in any research design. In application, this approach leads to research design where many questions are asked to generate indices (e.g. averaging mean scores to several questions, each using the same agreement scale) that characterize each of these three emotive dimensions.

Discrete States

Emotions are DISCRETE states with specific emotions eliciting specific behaviors. Further, emotions are viewed as comprised of discrete emotions that may be experienced concurrently and/or in sequence. Researchers who subscribe to this philosophy will design research to find the cause and effect relationships between specific emotions, their underlying causes, and their resulting motivations for behaviors. Some selected publications of psychology theory and/or application examples of the discrete approach follow:

Attributional Theory (Weiner, 1985) characterizes specific discrete emotions to be elicited from the attainment or non-attainment of valued goals or expectations, whether the discrepancy is caused by the individual or someone else, the controllability of events, and the stability of situations to reoccur.

Cognitive-Motivational-Relational Theory (Lazarus 1991) associates specific discrete emotions to specific action tendencies. This theory is based upon work by Frijda (1986) that views emotions as a felt state of action readiness (i.e. approach, readiness, being with, protection, avoidance, attending, rejection, disinterest, antagonism, interruption, and inhibition) and that specific discrete emotions can be predicted from action readiness cues. Peter Desmet (2003) has extended this theory into a framework where the immediate concerns and expectations at a point of appraisal elicit specific discrete emotions. Various emotive topologies (lists and definitions of discrete emotions) are summarized by Desmet (2005).

Communicative Emotive Theory (Oatley and Johnson-Laird 1987) view discrete emotions to be elicited from conscious or unconscious appraisals that “alert” our cognitive system or others of a change in expectations or goal attainment, preparing us for action.

d. Higgins (1997) has developed a theory for the development of promotional or avoidance personality traits with motivation to respectively approach desired or avoid negative end states or situations.

Pleasure, for example, may be elicited by achieving or avoiding behaviors by those with promotional or avoidance personalities.

Recent work (Zeelenberg and Pieters, 1999) shows some discrete emotions such as regret (or rejoicing), disappointment (or elation) and dissatisfaction (or satisfaction) to be associated with the process of making choice decisions. These emotions have been shown to lead to switching behaviors and tendencies to complain.

The discrete approach allows the researcher to separate emotions from mood. Moods are diffuse feelings not associated with specific behavioral intentions.

However, they have been shown to “prime” consumers, making them more open to experience specific emotions, and to indirectly influence the formation of expectations, perceptions and judgments (Frijda, 1993; Raghunatham and Pham, 1999). For example, a state of sadness associated with loss or absence of reward may alter goals to acquire. A state of anxiety might prime avoidance tendencies. The affects of mood on goals may in turn affect the immediate concerns held by consumers during product appraisals which drive the elicitation of different discrete emotions.

The strength of the discrete approach is in the ability to gain insights into causes and effects of behavioral motivations by relating specific situations, mood, product attributes, expectations and goals to specific emotions. This allows researchers to gain insights that can impact how product developers and/or marketers develop and/or market consumer products. The weakness of the discrete approach is that it is often difficult to directly measure emotions through quantitative, self-reports at the point of a product experience. This forces reliance on indirect measures of emotions and/or the capture of responses associated with short and long term memories associated with experienced feelings.

In application, the discrete approach leads to the formation of rich themes that characterize the possible causes and effects leading to behavioral motivations through the formation of specific emotions selected from a topology of standard emotions with known causes and motivational effects.

Anticipated Emotions
The field of research into emotions has recently been extended to the study of how the anticipation of emotions is important in the elicitation of behavioral intentions. A couple of examples follow:

Bagozzi, Baumgartner and Pieters (1998) developed a behavioral intentions model where anticipated emotions are elicited during appraisal of a goal situation. This model is being extended to include specific emotions that yield specific behavioral intentions. Bagozzi et al. (2005) proposes that positive and negative anticipation emotions lead to the formation of desires to take action. Desire here is defined as a process to want something strongly. Belk et al (2005) characterized desire as driven by social trends (fads and fashions), lack of self control (indulgence), novelty, ambiguity, paradox affinity, deservingness and hedonism. Desire is associated it with the anticipated emotions of intrigue and excitement with the promise of a positive, unique experience. For example, desire can lead to
feelings of guilt when self-indulgence is perceived as negative. At the point of experience, guilt may turn to shame. Hope can be elicited when the anticipation is pleasurable. At a point of experience, anticipated emotions can lead to disappointment (from hope).

The behavioral intentions model is based in part on the Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen; 1985, 1988, 1991). The behavioral beliefs include expectations that one will feel a certain way as a result of product use. This theory specifies that human action is guided by three kinds of consideration: behavioral beliefs (expected consequences of behavior), normative beliefs (expectations of others), and control beliefs (environmental factors outside one’s control that may hinder of alter experiences).

Gleicher et al. (1995) developed theory for how “prefactuals”
lead to anticipation emotions. Prefactuals are imaginations of what an experience might yield (i.e. regret
if an alternative choice is made) and are shown to be important at the point of choice decisions. Regret may be associated with a decision that does not avoid a negative or fails to achieve a positive experience.

A review of the psychology literature shows that a wide range of emotions can be formed during consumer product experiences. The marketing and consumer product researcher is challenged to select an approach to emotive research that is both simple in design, yet sufficient to capture meaningful insights. Empirical evidence is growing that distinctly different processes are involved in the formation of specific, discrete emotions. These processes are complex, depending on expectations, concerns, and perceptions that are often mitigated by mood, personality, self-social identity, time-style and/or the anticipation of emotions. In application, a dimensional approach is proving itself insufficient to capture this complexity for meaningful insights. For this reason, the psychology field has reached a tipping point in favor of a discrete approach to gain insights into consumer behavior (see Lazarus, 1991; Frijda, 1993; Bagozzi et al., 2000).

A discrete approach requires direct or indirect measurement of discrete emotions and a framework to convert results into meaningful insights. Techniques that attempt to read facial expressions, track changes to the eye, and monitor physiological change have yet to advance to the point where discrete emotions can be differentiated, e.g. enjoyment or pride. Rational- based questionnaires are poor at assessing what discrete emotions are elicited at the point of a product experience. This limits emotive research to quantitative and/or qualitative techniques that assess recalled feelings about past experiences and/or anticipated feelings. Relating this information to behavioral, attitudinal and other underlying factors driving discrete emotions is proving itself as a valuable approach to achieve the level of meaningful insights required by brand owners and product developers.

A discrete approach to emotive research is enabling a more strategic product development process. Emotive research changes the product development paradigm for how decisions are made by gaining insights into the “whys” of consumer behavior. A discrete approach allows for the formation of “emotive themes” that are built from expressed cause and effect relationships among discrete feelings and underlying factors such as concerns, expectations and perceptions of product qualities. By gaining insights into the whys of behavior, strategy can be developed leading to more accurate decisions in the design, development and marketing of consumer products.

References Cited
Ajzen, I. 1985. From intentions to actions: A theory of planned behavior. In J. Kuhi and J. Beckmann (Eds.) Action Control: From Cognition to Behavior. Springer. Heidelberg.#

Ajzen, I. 1988. Attitudes, Personality and Behavior. Dorsey Press. Chicago, IL.

Ajzen, I. 1991. The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 50: 179-211.

Bagozzi, R.P. Baumgartner, H., Pieters, R. and Zeelenberg, M. 2000. The role of emotions in goal-directed behavior. In S. Ratneshwar, D. G. Mick and C. Huffman (Eds) The Why of Consumption: Contemporary Perspectives on Consumer Motives, Goals and Desires. Routledge. New York, NY.

Bagozzi, R.P. Baumgartner, H. and Pieters, R. 1998. Goal-directed emotions. Cognition and Emotion 12: 1-26.

Desmet, P.M.A. 2003. A multilayered model of product emotions. Design J. 6(2), 4-13.

Desmet, P.M.A. 2005. Basic set of emotions. A typology of fragrance emotions. In Fragrance Research 2005; Unlocking the Sensory Experience. Pg 134-145. Amsterdam: ESOMAR (ISBN 9283113780)

Frijda, N.H. 1986. The Emotions. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, MA.

Frijda, N.H. 1993. Moods, emotion episodes, and emotions. In M. Lewis and J.M. Haviland (Eds.) Handbook of Emotions. Guilford Press. New York, NY.

Gleicher, F., Boninger, D.S., Strathman, A., Armor, D., and Ahn, M. 1995. With an eye toward the future: the impact of counterfactual thinking on affect, attitudes, and behavior. In. N.J. Roese and J.M. Olson (Eds.) Emotion: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Erlbaum. Mahwah, NJ.

Higgins, E.T. 1997. Beyond pleasure and pain. American Psychologist 52: 1280-1300.

Lazarus, R.S. 1991. Emotion and Adaptation. Oxford University Press. New York, NY.

Mehrabian, A. and Russell, J.A. 1974. An Approach to Environmental Psychology. MIT Press. Cambridge, MA.

Oatley, K. and Johnson-Laird, P.N. 1987. Towards a cognitive theory of emotions. Cognition and Emotion 1: 29-50.

Raghunatham, R. and Pham, M.T. 1999. All negative moods are not equal: motivational influences of anxiety and sadness on decision making. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Process 71: 56-77.

Weiner, B. 1985. An attributional theory of achievement motivation and emotion. Psychology review 92: 548-573

Zeelenberg, M. and Pieters, R. 1999. Comparing service delivery
to what might have been: behavioral responses to regret and disappointment. J. Service Research 2: 86-97.

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