Expectations vs. Reality: Can Sensory Incongruence Generate Positive Emotion and Behaviour in the Online Shopping Context? An Abstract

Brendan Emmerson*, Cathy Barnes, Prithwiraj Nath

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This research aims to bridge the gap between the sensory congruence literature and the wider congruity literature. The schema congruence literature supports Mandlers (1982) inverted U curve effect of congruence such that a moderate degree of incongruence is preferred. However, this is not the case in sensory marketing studies where congruity is preferred. This paper aims to determine whether there is a preference for incongruity and presents an expectation model for visual-haptic congruence. Past studies have neglected valence; a disconfirmation of expectations can indeed be positive. The paper finds significant differences in emotion and behaviour between positively versus negatively valenced (in)congruent products. This study presents two experiments to explore the research objectives. The First experiment (n = 322) employed a three (congruence: congruence vs moderate incongruence vs extreme incongruence) by two (valence: positive vs negative) between subjects design. Experiment one’s stimuli was a mock webpage selling a soft square pillow. This set an expectation which was then (dis)confirmed by a haptic product review which formed one of the six conditions. Experiment two (n = 206) employed the same three by two design using a mock webpage selling a smart phone. The two products represent high (mobile phone) and low (pillow) involvement. After viewing the stimuli participants then completed emotion and behaviour measures. The data was analysed using SEM techniques and MANOVA. The experiments revealed that there was a linear positive relationship between congruence and pleasure (p = <.001) but a negative relationship for arousal (p = <.001) ratings for the pillow (low involvement) The resultant behaviours reveal that congruence had a direct positive effect on quality ratings (p = <.001) and indirect positive effects on willingness to buy (p =.001) and willingness to pay (p =.001) through quality. In the positively valenced conditions quality, willingness to pay and willingness to buy were highest for congruent products. Interestingly, when the congruity was negatively valenced, moderate incongruence received the highest quality and willingness to pay ratings. For experiment two a similar pattern of results is witnessed. However, the effect of congruence on arousal did not reach significance (p =.304). Again, in experiment two positively valenced congruence received the highest willingness to buy and quality ratings but when valence was negative, the inverted U curve effect occurred. For willingness to pay, the inverted U curve effect was witnessed regardless of valence (all p <.001). This adds to the growing body of sensory marketing literature and provides a new contribution to knowledge by considering the valence of an incongruity revealed profound differences in behaviour as a result. Managerial and theoretical contributions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnlightened Marketing in Challenging Times
Subtitle of host publicationEnlightened Marketing in Challenging Times
EditorsFelipe Pantoja, Shuang Wu, Nina Krey
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
Number of pages2
ISBN (Electronic)9783030425456
ISBN (Print)9783030425470, 9783030425449
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sept 2020
Externally publishedYes
EventAcademy of Marketing Science World Marketing Congress 2019: Enlightened Marketing in Challenging Times - University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 9 Jul 201912 Jul 2019

Publication series

NameDevelopments in Marketing Science: Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science
ISSN (Print)2363-6165
ISSN (Electronic)2363-6173


ConferenceAcademy of Marketing Science World Marketing Congress 2019
Abbreviated titleAMSWMC22
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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