Insights into the Form and Function of Awe and Related States, and their Impact on Consumer Decisions and Well-Being

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Copyright: Chaudhury, Srinwanti H.
Abstract
Marketers increasingly recognize that consumer decisions may be ascribed to emotional motivations. While several scholars have examined the influence of discrete negative and positive emotions in consumption contexts, one emotion that has been understudied in marketing is the influence of the emotion of awe. Awe is a positive emotion elicited by extensive or vast stimuli, either perceptually or conceptually, which leads to the revision of mental schemas. Further, as a self-transcendent, other-focused emotion, awe has properties that suggest its potential in driving consumer well-being. The central insight of this thesis is that awe and related states like threat-awe can have unique influences on consumer behaviour. For instance, prior research has argued threat-awe as a negative-valenced variant of awe that would prime similar downstream consequences as awe. Contrastingly, the first essay, “The Curious Case of Threat-Awe”, conceptualizes threat-awe as a mixed emotion of awe and fear, rather than a negative-valenced state. Over five studies, we draw on two methodologies - cognitive appraisals and an index of bivalence - and elucidate how threat-awe’s appraisal profile, valence, and behaviour (risk-taking) are distinct from univalenced emotions like awe and fear. The second essay, “Feeling Small but Thinking Big”, conceptualizes awe's positive self-diminishment effect and develops a framework of how awe facilitates engagement in sustainable consumption. Across four studies, this essay demonstrate how awe positively impacts consumers’ willingness to pay for sustainable products. The essay further shows the underlying sequential mechanism of positive self-diminishment and examines boundary conditions of product packaging and product type. In the final essay, “Betting on Myself”, we show that the positive self-diminishment effect of awe reduces financial risk-taking in the domain of gambling. Using multiple methodologies to prime awe (writing/reading task, virtual reality), we compare awe against other positive emotions such as pride, happiness, amusement, and neutral, and demonstrate that awe-induced self-diminishment reduces gambling tendency. The studies also rule out several alternative explanations and examine the boundary condition of feedback on performance. Overall, across the three essays, this thesis highlights socio-cognitive engagement of awe and its behavioural consequences relevant to consumer decisions and well-being.
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Publication Year
2021
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Thesis
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PhD Doctorate
UNSW Faculty