Head versus Heart: The Effect of Objective versus Feelings-Based Mental Imagery on New Product Creativity

Kelly B Herd, Ravi Mehta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Imagination visual mental imagery, a mental simulation process that involves imagining an end user interacting with an end product, has been proposed as an efficient strategy to incorporate end-user experiences during new product ideation. Consumer research finds that this strategy enhances overall product usefulness, but does not resolve whether and how this process may impact outcome originality. The present work delineates the imagination visual mental imagery construct and argues that such mental imagery can take two different routes—one that is more feelings-based (i.e., feelings-imagination), and one that is more objective (i.e., objective-imagination). Further, we propose that although these two approaches will equally benefit outcome usefulness, they will have differential impact on outcome originality. Across five studies, we demonstrate that adopting a feelings-imagination versus an objective-imagination approach induces higher empathic concern, enhancing cognitive flexibility, which leads to higher outcome originality. Theoretical and managerial implications are discussed.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-52
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number1
Early online dateJun 21 2018
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019


  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Creativity
  • Empathic design
  • Innovation
  • Mental imagery
  • New product ideation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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