Academic journal article Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior

An Empirical Test of Contingency Theory

Academic journal article Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior

An Empirical Test of Contingency Theory

Article excerpt


In a test of Fournier and Mick's (1999) contingency theory of consumer satisfaction, this work identifies two predictors of a relatively more emotional (as contrasted with rational) satisfaction experience. Two stages of work were undertaken. First, an exploratory investigation suggested that consumers do find a rational-emotional continuum meaningful for describing the nature of their satisfaction with a self-identified product. This early stage also suggested two context-specific predictors of differences in the rational-emotional nature of satisfaction. A subsequent large-scale survey focusing on packaged goods provided empirical support for a relatively more emotional experience with relatively more hedonic (as contrasted with utilitarian) product categories and with brands that permit a greater degree of self-expression.


While satisfaction is one of the most fundamental notions in marketing, currently there is little agreement regarding its underlying nature. The traditional paradigm considers satisfaction a cognitive evaluation, the consumer as "rational man," comparing pre-consumption expectations with post-consumption performance, i.e., cognition = satisfaction (Oliver 1980). This model suggests that consumers are satisfied when their expectations about the product are met or exceeded. This paradigm has found considerable empirical support (see Anderson and Fornell 1994 and Iacobucci, Grayson, and Ostrom 1994 for reviews).

In recent years there has been increased interest in the role of affect in satisfaction. Some authors have investigated consumer emotions such as surprise, joy, and agitation as independent variables affecting cognitive satisfaction judgments, i.e., affect -> satisfaction (e.g., Evrard and Aurier 1994; Jayanti 1998; Jun et al. 2001; VanHamme and Snelders 2001). Another group of researchers has treated such emotions as dependent variables affected by the consumer's more objective cognitive assessment of satisfaction, i.e., satisfaction - affect (e.g., Carley, Forrester and Maute 1994; Oliver and Westbrook 1993). Of late, there has been emphasis on one seemingly important consumer emotion, delight, investigated primarily as a criterion variable (e.g., Kumar, Olshavsky and King 2001; Oliver and Rust 1997; Swan and Trawick 1999; Williams and Anderson 1999). The key practical implication from this work is that both cognition and affect may play a role in satisfaction.

A few researchers have also considered that (at least in specific instances), emotional response is satisfaction, i.e., affect = satisfaction. Hausknecht's (1988) early experiment suggests that satisfied consumers experience the emotions: interest, joy, and surprise. Oliver (1989) subsequently proposed five emotional satisfaction modes: contentment, pleasure, relief, novelty, and surprise. The practical implication suggested by this modal definition of affective satisfaction is that enhancing a particular emotional response(s), by definition, increases consumer satisfaction.

Recently, in a thought provoking study involving case studies of consumers' experiences with technology products, Foumier and Mick (1999) offered a cogent resolution to these different conceptualizations of the nature of satisfaction. After extensive analyses of rich, qualitative data, these authors concluded with the simple, but profound, suggestion that the satisfaction experience is best thought of as a blend of cognition and emotion, dependent upon the consumption context. Fournier and Mick called for a contingency paradigm to guide future thinking and research on satisfaction. The key implication of this contingency theory is that marketers must first understand the consumption context and then attempt to enhance satisfaction as it actually is experienced in that context.

The research presented here is an empirical test of the fundamental tenets of Foumier and Mick's (1999) contingency theory. …

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