Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Marketing of Global Warming: A Repeated Measures Examination of the Effects of Cognitive Dissonance, Endorsement, and Information on Beliefs in a Social Cause
by Wagner, David Arnold, Ph.D., Trident University International, 2014, 300; 10234453
Abstract (Summary)

Consumers often must choose between mutually exclusive products or beliefs related to products, such as to believe or ignore social and environmental causes. Cognitive dissonance (CD) (Festinger, 1957) is a common psychological discomfort that must be resolved, when experienced between inconsistent beliefs, attitudes, or choices. Advertising and marketing promotion to influence consumer decision making often uses celebrity / expert endorsers (Hollensen & Schimmelpfennig, 2013) to improve brand effectiveness and increase sales, yet how endorsements affect consumer attitudes and CD has not been explored.

During an attempt to revise models of predicting consumer behavior to include CD measurement (e.g., theory of reasoned action in Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; theory of planned behavior in Ajzen, 1991) it was noted that attempts to add scales to measure social norms improved model effectiveness. Moreover, attempts to measure CD (e.g., Cassel & Chow, 2002; Elliot & Devine, 1994; Hausknecht, Sweeney, Soutar, & Johnson, 1998; Sakai, 1999; Shultz & Lepper, 1996; and Sweeney, Hausknecht, & Soutar, 2000) did not measure the social context of CD as originally conceived by Festinger to explain illogical behaviors given observable facts such as cigarette smoking and cult activities, etc. After review of the CD phenomenon and its common origins in Lewin (1936, 1951), Osgood and Tannenbaum (1955), Heider (1946, 1958), and Festinger (1954, 1957), it was discovered that CD is a multivariate phenomenon and more complex than existing models of decision making or measurement instruments could accommodate.

This dissertation derived a CD instrument with semantic differential scales from congruity theory (Osgood & Tannenbaum, 1955) and balance theory (Heider, 1946, 1958) to measure multivariate CD during attitude change using endorsement by former U.S. Vice President Albert Gore, Jr. of an important social cause: global warming. With a repeated measures procedure, CD was induced using a social comparison referent (SCR) of Mr. Gore for a snowball sample of 567 respondents recruited from online political groups and social media websites. Information about global warming was presented within simulated news headlines to 16 randomly assigned groups of 567 respondents with alternating combinations of positively / negatively toned messages, high credibility / low credibility publications, and domestic-attributed research / foreign-attributed research. The instrument was tested for sensitivity, validity, and reliability.

The results indicated that when presented with information in opposition to their original opinion, regardless of their view of the endorser SCR’s opinion, respondents, in this order: 1. Changed their perception of the endorser’s attitude toward global warming (termed social meaning in this dissertation); 2. Changed their view of the value of the endorser’s opinion (i.e., referent meaning); and, lastly, 3. Changed their own opinion on global warming (i.e., object meaning).

This dissertation demonstrated that due to the effect of CD, attitude measurement of an endorsement can be improved by adding additional scales to measure the perceived social context (i.e., a social comparison referent [SCR]) of the endorsement. Evidence has shown that to change a consumer attitude toward a belief or product, the mediating effect of the endorser SCR on the attitude should be considered. The presence of the endorser SCR shows the relationship between congruity theory and balance theory, and is evidence that Lewin’s (1936) topological psychology suggested examination of the social context of attitude measurement will increase accuracy in estimating behavior. Measurement of the SCR is an important step in attitude measurement to minimize the effect of unintended or unknown social comparison threats to internal validity on measurement scales.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Shackman, Joshua D.
Commitee: Hausknecht, Douglas R., Klein, Thomas A.
School: Trident University International
Department: College of Business Administration
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 78/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Marketing, Climate Change, Social psychology
Keywords: Climate change, Cognitive dissonance, Endorsement, Environmental marketing, Global warming, Social research
Publication Number: 10234453
ISBN: 9781369788488
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