Authenticity and persuasion: how much is the ‘self’ worth? An exploration of producer authenticity and its impact on product evaluations

Doonan, Kellie Renee (2007) Authenticity and persuasion: how much is the ‘self’ worth? An exploration of producer authenticity and its impact on product evaluations. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Abstract

This dissertation examines the persuasiveness of producer authenticity and its influence on product evaluations. Though there has been a substantial amount of research within the social and consumer psychology literature examining the persuasiveness of other source characteristics (e.g. attractiveness, expertise, trustworthiness, honesty, similarity, etc.), producer authenticity has not been empirically examined as a persuasive cue. ‘Authenticity’ is defined as the quality of being true to one’s self. For the purpose of operationalising this construct, producer enjoyment and producer culture/ethnicity were used as authenticity cues. Three broad objectives were established for this research: 1) to establish the persuasiveness of producer authenticity; 2) to explore some of the potential boundary conditions of this phenomenon; 3) to identify the psychological processes underlying the persuasiveness of producer authenticity. Ten studies were conducted to address the three research objectives. The first three studies aimed to establish the persuasive impact of producer authenticity on product evaluations. It was hypothesised that producer authenticity would have a favourable impact on evaluations of product quality, but also on the amount individuals were willing to pay for a product. Across the three studies, results provided support for both hypotheses. Studies four and five were designed to test the hypothesis that producer authenticity would influence participant preferences when forced to choose between several service providers. In support of this hypothesis, results of these studies show this producer characteristic to be a clear service differentiator with the majority of individuals exhibiting a preference for the authentic provider. Aligned with the second research objective, Studies six to nine aimed to address the boundary conditions of authenticity as a persuasive cue. More specifically, these studies aimed to explore the potential conditions under which effects of producer authenticity would be moderated or attenuated. Study six examined the impact of producer authenticity when a producer’s formal expertise was manipulated. Results indicate that producer authenticity remained persuasive both when the producer was tertiary-trained in the appropriate field, but more interestingly, also when the producer failed to possess the appropriate degree. Furthermore, the results of this study illustrate that participants relied more on producer authenticity than formal learning when assessing the expertise of that producer/service provider. Studies seven and eight explored the interaction between multiple authenticity cues (e.g. high enjoyment, culturally appropriate). Results of these studies are conflicting, with authenticity cues having an interactional effect for evaluations of product value, but not product quality. Study nine re-examined the interaction between multiple producer authenticity cues whilst also incorporating a product authenticity manipulation. The results failed to provide any evidence that the authenticity of the product itself detracts or adds to the persuasiveness of producer authenticity cues. Interestingly, in this study producer authenticity cues were found to be independently persuasive. Finally, Study ten examined the psychological processes rendering some individuals to be more susceptible to this persuasive cue than others. Results show that individuals exhibiting authentic preferences are more likely to engage in magical thinking (specifically the law of similarity), have more essentialist conceptions of self, have a lower need for cognition, and possess a more idiocentric ideology than individuals not susceptible to this cue. Other results revealed that producer authenticity failed to be discounted when the producer was paid for completing the task. Participants’ racist beliefs (about the authentic producer’s ethnic group) also failed to influence the persuasiveness of producer authenticity when it came to evaluating a cultural product. Though the results of this dissertation contribute to the psychological literature by establishing another persuasive source characteristic, the findings also have implications for both marketers and consumers, which are also discussed.

Item ID: 2002
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: producer authenticity, persuasiveness, influence, product evaluations, marketeers, consumers
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2008 23:52
FoR Codes: 15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1505 Marketing @ 0%
17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1701 Psychology > 170113 Social and Community Psychology @ 0%
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