Role of Affect in Consumer Judgment

Why consumers are not always logical can partially explain how our emotions influence our choices. According to research, experimental and phenomenal inputs impact decisions and judgments. For example, "I feel glad about it. Thus I must like it"; and "I find it difficult to retrieve examples: therefore I know little about a subject." It has also been proposed that emotions can be exploited as sources of information. While trying to decide, relying solely on feelings as information can be dangerous.

Role of Affect in Consumer Judgement

In general, pleasant feelings are seen as proof of liking something, and bad ones are seen as proof of disliking. Such interpretations would be accurate only if a customer were confident that a specific stimulus was the sole cause of the mood. Nonetheless, the trustworthy source of our emotions might not be related to the good or service we are currently considering. Using our feelings as information can result in poor decisions because unrelated, pleasant circumstances, such as a sunny day or hearing our favorite song, may impact our feelings.

Types of Affect in Consumer Judgment

In consumer judgment and decision-making, it is helpful to differentiate between three forms of affect. The three forms of affect are −

Integral Affect

Integral affect describes emotional reactions that are felt and closely related to judgment or choice. Integral affective responses include fleeting emotions brought on by brief contact with the object (like the pleasant sensation of tasting fine wine) as well as those brought on by some representation of the object, which may have been provided externally (like a TV commercial for a product) or internally (like thinking about a product). These emotive reactions are essential to the extent that characteristics of the object bring them on, regardless of whether such characteristics are actual, perceived, or simply in mind.

Many types of research from various fields demonstrate that integrated emotive responses to a target object—whether a product, a person or a company—are frequently incorporated into a summary appraisal of the thing. In general, but not consistently, objects that elicit pleasant feelings, such as a beautiful symphony, a delicious dessert, or an attractive singer, are rated higher. In contrast, objects that elicit negative feelings, such as a noisy apartment, a sour-tasting meal, or a rude salesperson, are rated lower. The relationship between integral affective responses and object evaluation is so strong that affect and evaluation (or attitudes) were considered synonymous for a long time.

Nonetheless, despite the generally strong positive correlation between measures of critical affective responses and measures of the overall evaluation, there is growing agreement that the two constructs are theoretically and empirically distinct, with integral affective responses viewed as one of several potential antecedents or determinants of overall evaluation or attitude.

Incidental Affect

The term "incidental affect" describes emotional feelings whose origin is unrelated to the thing being judged. Since the source of the mood is frequently unrelated to the judgment or decision being made, incidental affect is the focus of most of the study on how mood affects consumer behavior. Incidental affect can also result from a person's emotional tendencies (like persistent anxiety or depression) and temperament (like general optimism or pessimism), as well as from any contextual stimuli linked to integral affect (such as background music, pleasant scent, etc.).

It is often assumed that judgments and decisions based on integral feelings are reached faster than comparable judgments and decisions based on descriptive inputs. Three elements explain the increased speed of judgments and decisions based on integral affect. First, the integral effect frequently manifests itself quite quickly. Second, integral emotive responses are frequently introduced into evaluations via simple linkages. Finally, their meaning is usually quite apparent even when integral emotive responses must be interpreted, as in the "how-do-I-feel-about-it?" heuristic. It is also widely believed that decisions and judgments based on integral affect demand fewer cognitive resources. As a result, any constraint on processing resources (time pressure, distraction, cognitive load, etc.) increases dependence on integral affective reactions in both evaluative judgments and decision-making.

In addition to impacting the substance of consumers' judgments and decisions, incidental affective states can also influence the decision-making process. The nature of these influences is determined by (a) the intensity of the affective state, (b) the valence of the affective state, and (c) the emotional state's appraisal content.

Task-Related Affect

Task-related affect falls in the middle of incidental and integral affect. Unlike direct, integral reactions to the qualities of the target objects or purely incidental sensations, it refers to affective responses evoked by the task or process of making judgments and decisions. For instance, the emotional strain of selecting between two incredibly attractive offers would be considered task-induced because making this decision, not the offers, is stressful. Even when the options are linked to pleasurable integral affect, such as choosing between two-holiday places, decisions can result in unpleasant task-related affect.

Task-related affect, in the form of stress, can also be produced by putting decision-makers under time constraints and giving them the sensation of being watched while making the decision. The unpleasant sensation of having to forego appealing possibilities is another prevalent sort of task-related emotion in decision-making. The transfer of task-related affect onto the valuation of the chosen option is a significant outcome.

Task-related affective responses, like incidental affective states, can be misinterpreted as genuine integral affective responses to one of the options. This phenomenon is broadly consistent with the affect-as-information concept. According to this hypothesis, a mismatch between how a decision is made and the decision maker's current orientation might elicit pleasurable task-related sentiments of "being right," which can then be (mis)attributed to a chosen object, increasing its perceived worth.

Effects of Mood States on Risk-Taking

According to several research, happy moods increase risk-taking when the stakes and risks of loss are low but risk-aversion when the stakes and chances of loss are high. Arkes, Herren, and Isen, for example, discovered that, when compared to control participants, those who received a small gift were willing to pay more for lottery tickets, especially when the prize level and probability of winning were high—indicating greater risk-seeking under positive mood in situations with only upsides. On the other hand, participants who received a small present were more prepared to spend more to insure against a variety of losses, especially when prospective losses were high—indicating increased risk aversion in scenarios defined by downsides when in a pleasant mood.

On the effects of positive mood on variety-seeking, Kahn and Isen (1993) discovered a similar pattern. They discovered that, when compared to control participants, persons in a high mood sampled a more comprehensive range of products, such as crackers, soups, and chips, unless the choice set included things that were thought to taste bad. Likewise, high mood increased risk-seeking in benign contexts and risk-aversion in potentially risky settings. According to Isen and her colleagues, when decisions include low risks and stakes, positive-mood people have more optimistic (mood-congruent) expectations about the outcomes and, as a result, take more risks than neutral-mood people.

However, when the stakes are high, and the chance of loss is excellent, positive-mood persons become risk-averse because they want to maintain their pleasant affective state, which a loss would disturb, as detailed more in the section on affect regulation. The effects of negative emotional states on risk-taking are less evident. Numerous studies have found that negative emotional states and high arousal promote risk-taking.

Some researchers discovered that angry participants and those fearful of embarrassment were more likely to choose an economically inferior "long-shot" gamble with a low probability of obtaining a more significant amount of money and a high complementary probability of enduring some stressful noise over a superior "safe-bet" gamble with a higher probability of obtaining a smaller amount of money and a low probability of enduring the stressful noise. Sad participants, on the other hand, did not display this bias.

They also discovered that anger increased risk-taking in gambling, particularly among men. Similarly, Mano (1994) discovered that acute emotional arousal increased people's willingness to pay for lotteries while decreasing their willingness to pay for insurance, implying enhanced risk-taking for possible benefits and potential losses.


Consumer decision-making is critical to many industries. Sales and marketing professionals frequently believe that researching this process is critical to comprehending purchasing behavior. If you work in either of these fields, gaining a better understanding of the process might increase your chances of successfully marketing a product or service.

Updated on: 03-Mar-2023


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