Nature and Structure of Affect: Consumer Psychology Approach

In recent years, there has been much interest in the influence of affect on thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making in many primary and applied fields. Much of the research on the impact of affect on thinking and decision-making has been fundamental or theoretical. However, it has found ready application in various fields, ranging from consumer behavior and management to medical decision-making and diagnosis, clinical work and coping research to applied economics and health policy.

The focus of affect-based research frequently shifts from people's emotions to their moods. Studying how consumers' emotions and moods affect them might be challenging. However, it has been demonstrated that emotion can direct attention and boost remember if the information received is consistent with how people are feeling.

Additionally, it has been discovered that affect influences customer decision-making. Even when it may not be relevant to the decision-making process, consumers' current moods frequently unconsciously impact their choices. The Appraisal Tendency Framework clarifies that one should not presume that both good and negative emotions would impact the decision-making process equally.

Emotions, Mood and Affect

With the advent of positive psychology, research has also begun to emphasize the importance of happy emotions. Emotion is always related to an object and relates to a particular sensation. Plutchik (2001) defines emotion as feelings, psychological changes, impulses to act, and specific goal-directed conduct. Hence, it is distinguished by three elements: physical arousal, conduct that discloses the feeling to the outside world, and inner awareness of the sensation.

We are usually aware of a few dominant emotions that are commonly perceived, such as anger, joy, fear, sadness, happiness, greed, and so on. Nonetheless, other feelings and combinations of emotions complicate our lives unless we gain basic knowledge.

Affect is generally used to describe emotion; nevertheless, these two are different. Affect is an individual's immediate, physiological response to a stimulus, often based on an underlying arousal sensation. This autonomic arousal causes affect valence or labeling a stimulus or event as pleasurable or painful. Plutchik (2003) depicted all of these emotions in an emotional wheel. Primary emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, surprise, disgust, joy, anticipation, and trust, and secondary emotions emerge from the combination of type and intensity. Emotion and mood sometimes need to be clarified.

The mood is broader than emotion; it refers to a general feeling unrelated to any object or incident. It is regarded as free-floating and lasts longer. Hence, mood relates to our overall emotional state, whereas emotions are momentary emotional states associated with specific objects/situations/events. Throughout the day, we may experience various linked specific emotions such as pleasure, happiness, love, satisfaction, and so on, but our mood may only be of one type: a good mood.

Nature and Meaning of Affect

We only refer to evoked feelings when we use "affect" to characterize stimuli and internal and overt responses. This definition also begs the philosophical and empirical concerns of whether we can experience affect without awareness or if such an emotional state must be experienced consciously. An example is research wherein subtly presented happy or unhappy faces were utilized to prime effect (outside of consciousness) and induce evaluative responses afterward. With Zajonc's early work on "mere exposure" in 1980, affective experience without a known basis has been a mainstay of psychological research.

In that line of research, it has been demonstrated that repeated subliminal exposure to unfamiliar, neutral-valenced stimuli, such as Chinese ideographs, can lead to some degree of liking for the stimuli. This may be due to a primitive reward mechanism linked to increasing familiarity or decreasing uncertainty.

Affect and Mood

Although interest has increased in studying specific emotions, most consumer research on affect deals with moods. Moods are typically seen as diffuse, low-intensity affective experiences that are difficult to attribute a specific source to. On the other hand, the information provided by emotions is far more attitude and behavior-specific since they are much more differentiable. The distinction between emotions and moods is sometimes blurred when low-intensity emotions create excellent or negative mood states, especially when the cause is apparent.

It has been demonstrated that affective stimuli, including music, films, and images, can quickly alter moods and the memory of emotionally intense experiences. It should be noted that the distinction between emotions and moods is frequently blurred when low-intensity emotion manipulations, such as melancholy, displeasing, or happiness, are used to create positive or negative mood states.

This is especially true when the cause is made apparent. The misattribution of incidental affect may significantly impact daily life because affect is frequently used as information. Even experimentally created head nodding or shaking proprioceptive signals can cause someone to conclude that message-related thoughts are either excellent or negative.

Consumer Affect and Emotions

A higher level of affect intensity affects consumers perceived to be more emotional than others. This refers to having stronger emotions that encourage a consumer to respond to a commercial pitch. Emotions induced by the environment, psychological changes such as pupil dilation, and cognitive cognition (the ability to reason) are all common factors in emotional experiences. Behavior is another component that is linked to emotion. Individuals' behaviors vary greatly. However, certain behaviors are associated with various emotions. "Avoidance responses, fear triggers, rage triggers, grief triggers, and so on" are examples.

The last component of emotion is "subjective feelings," which are the labels we give to general emotions like happiness, sadness, rage, and so on. A distinctive "emotion" is defined as a distinct feeling, whereas "affect" is defined as the feature of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. In terms of product advertising and selling, emotions are crucial in marketing. Consumer arousal and retail benefit are thought to be driven by emotions. Many consumers want things that provide beneficial emotional arousals, such as books, films, and music. Many firms on the market use advertising campaigns and appealing slogans to elicit emotional arousal in their customers.

In contrast, there are items on the market that cause uncomfortable arousal, which leads to negative feelings, such as over-the-counter drugs for depression and anxiety. "When consumers feel unpleasant emotions, they may become motivated to engage in consumption behaviors that lift their spirits." Because few people seek out unpleasant arousal when purchasing things, firms producing products with the opposite impact are excellent mood enhancers.

They could include stress-relieving personal grooming items or workout programs that promote a positive body image and self-esteem. Hence, from a marketer's standpoint, associating some products with mood-lifting properties increases the possibility that consumers in a low mood will purchase them. Advertising can frequently cause intense emotional arousal; marketers can use this strategy to engage with consumers regardless of the promoted product. Emotional branding strategy is a famous advertising method many well-known companies use to engage with customers on a more personal level.

Structure/Assessment of Affect

Those whose work evaluates effects adhere to two distinct research traditions. The first step is to pinpoint the underlying aspects of an effect by comparing the semantic differences and evaluating similarity ratings of mood phrases and visual and vocal emotional expressions. The second uses data from research on neurophysiological and hormonal processes and a more functional/motivational approach.

The first body of research supports the existence of two general dimensions—pleasantness versus unpleasantness and activation/arousal/engagement. Research in this area is mainly measurement-based to classify affective reactions to relevant stimuli, such as images and ads, and to give a more comprehensive basis for defining emotional response categories. It has been extended into various practical sectors.

Affect Taxonomies in Consumer Research

Researchers primarily interested in the affective components of stimuli, such as advertisements and how people describe their affective reactions to them, have shown less interest in the underlying dimensionality of affect and frequently prefer to think about affect taxonomies that correspond to larger-scale constellations or prototypes. They rely on scales created for various reasons and inventories of mood and emotion phrases that have been specially created.

For instance, Holbrook and Batra (1987) started their research on advertising with over 90 questions that included emotional and evaluative responses to the advertisement content. Researchers often seek to group the individual elements into discrete clusters in this study using methods like component analysis and hierarchical cluster analysis. Sometimes assertions are made on the underlying structure.

However, the applicability of such assertions is called into doubt due to the arbitrary choice of the objects and stimuli and the ambiguity of the hierarchical arrangements of the emotion terms. The investigator using this research can distinguish affective responses to information and conditions (such as store settings) of specific relevance.


In the last 15 years, the discipline of consumer research has significantly advanced in its comprehension of the crucial role that affects plays in consumer behavior. The field has moved away from its initial emphasis on mood states as "just another" contextual factor influencing consumer behavior and ad-induced emotions as "just another" factor influencing brand views. The field has progressed towards a richer examination of the integral, incidental, task-related, and integral roles that affect plays in consumers' experiences, decisions, motives, and behaviors.

Updated on: 03-Mar-2023


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