Emotional Calibration Effects on Consumer Choice

Summary
Emotional calibration and cognitive calibration are two terms used for feelings and thoughts of a consumer. This study investigated the correlation between calibrations and decision making. The results revealed that not only is emotional calibration important, it is more influential than cognitive calibration in making food choices. Miscalibrated people are likely to make low quality, incorrect decisions. Obese individuals with better emotional calibration are likely to eat food best suited to their health and are less likely to eat in an impulsive way.

Introduction
Researchers have said that people are “wrong too often when they are certain that they are right” and that consumer decisions are usually prejudiced. Understanding consumer behavior and decision making about a product is important for people involved in marketing it as well as for the consumer who will be using it. Decisions harmful to the consumer in the long run are called low quality decisions. Research indicates that confidence plays an important role in how consumers think and behave. Cognitive confidence, based on past self knowledge, is a tool that aids the individual with information about future behavior. But several unknown aspects unrelated to cognitive knowledge also influence behavior. Consumer emotional intelligence (CEI), emotional confidence and emotional calibration are some of these unknown aspects studied in this research.

Methodology
•    In the first study, 231 undergraduate business students completed an online objective questionnaire that tested their knowledge about nutrition, their emotional ability and their subjective confidence ratings. Then the participants were asked to choose the food they would eat for an entire day, from a menu that matched their dietary goals, from a local restaurant.
•    In second study, 105 obese adult consumers were recruited in an online experiment. The software arbitrarily assigned participants a variety of vividly designed menu options, from a hypothetical restaurant. Then participants chose foods from a restaurant that may open in their area, based on what they would eat in a typical day.
•    The responses were analyzed statistically.

Key findings
•    Study 1 showed that emotional confidence and emotional ability influence food selection.
•    Emotional calibration affects caloric ingestion more than cognitive ability and cognitive calibration.
•    Study 2 showed that food choices and impulsive eating are related to emotional calibration in obese individuals.
•    Obese miscalibrated individuals are likely to choose a high calorie food based upon the visual presentation of a menu. Thus, obese consumers with decreased motivation make lower-quality food choices affecting their health.

Next steps
Teaching individuals to understand emotions and how they influence important decisions regarding their well-being is an important area of further research. It can be used in developing consumer education and preventive programs. Positive feedback will help people with a high level of emotional ability but a low level of emotional confidence.

Conclusion
Vulnerable consumers make poor quality decisions if their emotional calibration is poor. For example, obese individuals with poor emotional confidence and poor emotional ability are likely to eat impulsively. Such people may consume high calorie food influenced by attractiveness of food menu. This food choice may be bad for their health.
Shoppers who are illiterate, mentally ill, physically disabled or addicted to drugs or alcohol are other vulnerable consumers. Many of them depend on friends, family, salespeople and professional assistants to make their consumer choices. Such consumers need an ability to make right choices. This can be achieved by educating these individuals about the emotional aspects involved in consumer decisions.

For More Information:
Emotional Calibration Effects on Consumer Choice
Publication Journal: Journal of Consumer Research, December 2008
By Blair Kidwell; David M. Hardesty; University of Kentucky, Lexington

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.
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