We argue that giving individuals a sense of choice over the product information they receive (i.e., message choice) can have important subsequent effects when individuals are prompted to make inferences about the company. Even when the product information that is received is exactly the same, being given a sense of choice can produce more favorable company evaluations and in turn, more favorable product judgments. The first two experiments support these hypotheses using different means of prompting company inferences: when prompted, those who had been given message choice judged the company more favorably and were more willing to purchase from that company. The third experiment illustrates when message choice effects can backfire. Specifically, when the company itself highlights the provision of message choice in the ad, and consumers are prompted to make inferences about the company, message choice can backfire because it may be perceived as a persuasion tactic rather than a sincere attempt to inform. The results support company evaluations as the mediator of message choice effects and rule out alternate accounts based on dissonance, elaboration, reactance and self-labeling explanations. These findings are important in interactive media environments where marketers have opportunities and imperatives to give consumers a sense of choice in message selection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Psychology