The authenticity heuristic: are consumer preferences toward culturally authentic producers rational?

Casey, Adrian John (2014) The authenticity heuristic: are consumer preferences toward culturally authentic producers rational? PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Abstract

This dissertation examines consumer preferences toward authentic producers. It follows on from the work of Doonan (2007) which demonstrated producer authenticity to be extremely persuasive across a number of consumer based contexts. Authenticity is defined as the quality of being true to one's cultural or emotional self. While some attention in this research is initially given to producer emotional authenticity, the scope is reduced to an investigation of producer cultural authenticity. Three broad objectives were established for this research: 1) to identify some of the underlying mechanisms involved in authenticity preferences; 2) to explore the notion that producer authenticity is processed as a heuristic cue; and 3) to demonstrate the irrational nature of preferences toward authentic producers. Five studies were conducted to address the three research objectives. The first study attempted to identify some of the underlying psychological mechanisms involved in preferences towards a Chinese (culturally authentic) acupuncturist, a happy (emotionally authentic) sandwich shop employee, and a blues musician with a history of depression (emotionally authentic). Based on the findings of Doonan (2007), it was expected that preferences would be influenced by individual differences in need for cognition, essentialist beliefs, idiocentrism, magical thinking, and susceptibility to the representativeness heuristic. Furthermore, it was hypothesised that emotional and cultural authenticity preferences would load onto a single factor. Results provided only marginal support for the hypotheses. Specifically, cultural authenticity preferences were influenced by magical beliefs and the gambler's fallacy (a measure of susceptibility to the representativeness heuristic), whereas emotional authenticity preferences were related to low need for cognition. Study 2 was designed to demonstrate that producer cultural authenticity information was processed as a heuristic cue. It was hypothesised that participants would rate a Thai restaurant more favourably when the head chef was Thai (culturally authentic) rather than Hungarian (non-authentic), but only under conditions of low elaboration i.e. when participants were distracted from issue relevant information. The results provided support for this hypothesis with only distracted participants demonstrating a willingness to pay more for a meal made by the Thai head chef. Study 3 aimed to identify some of the underlying psychological mechanisms involved in preferences toward espresso coffee produced by an Italian (culturally authentic) producer. The results indicated that cultural authenticity preferences were predicted by positive contagion beliefs, personal relevance, desire to experience Italian culture and associations of espresso coffee as an Italian product. Furthermore, the results demonstrated a cultural authenticity bias, with participants rating low quality Italian espresso coffee more favourably than high quality Chinese (non-authentic) espresso coffee. Individual cultural authenticity bias scores were predicted by low scores of need for cognition, providing further validation for the existence of an authenticity heuristic. Study 4 attempted to provide additional evidence that participants exhibiting the cultural authenticity bias were engaging in heuristic processing. It was hypothesised that participants in a positive mood (low elaboration likelihood) would be more biased than participants in a negative mood (high elaboration likelihood). While the results failed to provide direct support for this hypothesis, ancillary analyses offered some support for a heuristic account of the cultural authenticity bias. Study 5 investigated the effect of producer cultural authenticity in a product evaluation task. Participants tasted identical chocolate samples with bogus producer authenticity information provided. The results indicated a systematic preference towards chocolate produced by a Swiss (culturally authentic) producer over chocolate produced by an Irish (non-authentic) producer, even though the actual chocolates were identical. Interestingly, product quality acted as a boundary condition, with a cultural authenticity bias only observable for high quality chocolate. Results also indicated that the bias was weaker (but not removed) for participants encouraged to concentrate on intrinsic cues, i.e. high elaboration. Whilst the dissertation focuses on a dual process account of authenticity preferences, alternative interpretations are offered. Furthermore, the results are discussed in relation to the great rationality debate, and consequently, the (ir)rationality interpretations made throughout the dissertation are scrutinised.

Item ID: 36290
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: buyers; clients; consumers; cultural authenticity; culturally authentic; emotional authenticity; emotionally authentic; Great Rationality Debate; heuristic; preferences; producers; products; services; users
Date Deposited: 05 Aug 2015 06:03
FoR Codes: 17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1702 Cognitive Science > 170202 Decision Making @ 50%
17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1701 Psychology > 170113 Social and Community Psychology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970117 Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences @ 50%
91 ECONOMIC FRAMEWORK > 9104 Management and Productivity > 910403 Marketing @ 50%
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