San Diego State University - Minds That Move the World
Claudiu Dimofte, PhD 
5500 Campanile Drive   
San Diego, CA 92182-8239   
   cdimofte at mail dot sdsu dot edu   

Cognitive Psychology: Implicit Processes

Implicit Cognition. Research on implicit attitude formation and memory is one of the more active areas of inquiry in cognitive and social psychology. Not surprisingly, numerous applications have emerged in marketing, since consumer behavior is clearly the subject of potential influence attempts (advertising, point-of-sale displays, etc.) that are often beyond conscious control. New methods of measuring the strength of implicit mental associations between constructs have recently emerged, led by the Implicit Association Test. The Go-No-Go-Task is another such measure.

Memory Intrusions and Reconstruction of Knowledge.  Psychological research into cognitive processes has shown that memory is constructive and its retrieval mechanisms are often times imperfect, commonly suffering from biases, distortions, and intrusions. The associative view of memory as a network of connected nodes includes the concept of retrieval paths, the routes allowing for the recovery of previously acquired knowledge from long-term storage. However, the very same connections can also serve as sources of memory errors, as the interweaving of new information and prior knowledge has the apparent potential to create confusion and recall mistakes.

Social Psychology: Attitudes & Persuasion

Social Identification Salience and In-Group Bias. The fundamental basis of group-based processing of advertising content is self-other categorization. People tend to classify others on the basis of their similarities or dissimilarities with the evaluator and this processing creates an in-group (individuals perceived as members of the same category as self) and an out-group (members of a different category).  The practice of target marketing (addressing distinct segments of consumers) is one instance where issues of group bias become very important.

Believability and Persuasion. Research on consumer decision making looks at how consumers make their choices by presenting them with product information and observing how they use it to evaluate one or more products. However, in everyday decision making, consumers may have been exposed to and possess product information that is not true.Truthful sources of unfavorable product information would be product reviews presented in the media and word of mouth from dissatisfied customers. False or untruthful product information often serves as the basis for disparaging rumors.

Self-Reference and Persuasion. Most of the literature on persuasion has embraced the intuitive assumption that self-referencing works via the direct activation of memory chunks relevant to the topic at hand. The subsequent formation of affective linkages between the message object (e.g. advertised brand) and the self translates into a powerful illusion of cognitive response ownership that is actually message-originated and induced. A recent meta-analysis of self-referencing research confirms this mnemonic superiority, but is less definitive in terms of explaining why the self-referencing effect occurs.

Scale Development & Measurement Issues

Meaning Access in Polysemy. Linguistics and cognition research have established that the study of expressions with multiple meanings must adequately account for two critical elements that directly affect both comprehensions and recall. The first one is the base frequency of each meaning, and the other aspect refers to the contextual information present at the time of exposure. Most research on literal polysemy resides within the perception and cognition literature, with few consumer applications on record.

Measurement Issues: Judgment Biases in Brand Attitudes. The schematic model of a "shifting standards" effect in judgments argues that commonly used stereotypes are in some cases likely to bias evaluations by changing the meaning of the scale across stimuli. When stable, externally anchored units of measurement are used, objective rating reflect subjects' true mental representations and are likely to confirm prevalent stereotypes. However, when subjective scales are employed, judges differentially adjust the meanings of the anchors, thus hiding prevalent stereotypes. 

Measuring Brand Globality. Data suggest that American consumers have little explicit notion of what characterizes a global brand beyond its wide recognition and availability across markets. In particular, the association with higher quality is not as strong as previous research has suggested, and previous research on globality effects appears to have confounded globality and brand strength. However, American consumers are generally unable to suppress their largely favorable attitudes towards global brands in automatic response tests, even if their explicit attitude towards global brands is largely negative.

Marketing Interface with Other Business Functions

Consumer Response to Modular Products. Studies show that consumers tend to discount the cost savings associated with modular upgrades excessively (insufficiently) when the time between the initial purchase and the upgrade is short (long). Thus modular upgradability as a product feature has higher profit potential for slowly rather than rapidly improving ones. There is also a preference reversal between the initial purchase (when people foresee making a full product replacement in the future and the eventual point of upgrade (when they are more likely to revert to modular upgrades).

Brand Equity Effects on Stock Performance. The EquiTrend brand equity measure assesses consumer allegiance to a brand, and is thus largely exogenous to the stock market.  The Interbrand brand values, by contrast, rely partly on financial projections which are necessarily predicated on specific assumptions about future growth.  If the assumptions used to generate Interbrand’s projected brand values no longer hold (as is the case in times of economic crises), the calculated brand values will be misleading.  By contrast, the EquiTrend measure is largely unaffected and a significant predictor of stock performance during crises (beyond the Fama-French factors).