Consumer Emotional Intelligence: Conceptualization, Measurement, and the Prediction of Consumer Decision Making*
*Accepted for publication to Journal of Consumer Research on 09/14/2007. 2
This research details the development of the “Consumer Emotional Intelligence Scale” (CEIS) designed to measure individual differences in consumers’ ability to use emotional information. Scale development procedures confirmed the theoretical structure of the 18-item scale. Results supported the scale’s reliability and its discriminant and nomological validity. Our consumer domain-specific measure predicted food choices better than a more domain-general alternative. Furthermore, consumer emotional intelligence predicted food choices beyond cognitive knowledge. Finally, consumer emotional intelligence was found to generalize to product-based decision making. Theoretical implications of consumer emotional intelligence are discussed along with areas of future research.
Despite the importance of emotion in decision making (Luce 1998; Pham 1998; Ruth 2001), research has yet to fully understand how consumers’ use emotional information to make effective decisions. A growing body of research continues to focus on the emotions present in consumption situations; however, a better understanding of emotional processing abilities may have important effects on consumer performance outcomes. The current research focuses on emotional intelligence in the consumer domain in light of past research focusing solely on general emotional intelligence. Consumer emotional intelligence (CEI) is defined here as a person’s ability to skillfully use emotional information to achieve a desired consumer outcome. CEI comprises a set of first-order emotional abilities that allow individuals to recognize the meanings of emotional patterns that underlie decision making and to reason and solve problems on the basis of these abilities (Mayer and Salovey 1997).
This ability-based conceptualization of emotional intelligence has been largely ignored in the marketing literature, although a few attempts have been made to identify how people use emotion to influence performance. Ruth (2001) suggested that the presence of emotional information (i.e., emotional benefits) facilitated access to categorical knowledge of an emotion and types of experience associated with this knowledge. This emotional information can then be used to evaluate a brand, favorably or unfavorably. Other research has applied the concept of emotional trade-off difficulties to choice behavior (Luce 1998; Luce, Payne and Bettman 1999). Luce et al. (1999) suggest that a consumer’s ability to resolve emotion-laden trade-offs can have an important impact on their choice strategy. Their model of trade-off difficulty proposed that consumers appraise choice situations in light of goals and emotional content. Appraisals of emotional information to cope were found to influence assessments of trade-off difficulty. These studies provide initial evidence of the importance of using emotional information to improve the 4
quality of consumer decision making. However, more research is needed to categorize levels of consumer emotional processing and to provide a scale to effectively and efficiently measure these abilities.
A better understanding of emotional ability can have considerable value in extending our knowledge of consumer behavior, providing answers to questions such as how emotional processing influences purchase decisions, which decisions high- versus Low-CEI consumers make more readily, and how CEI might influence relationships between key consumer variables such as impulsivity and purchase intention. Additionally, with this knowledge of emotional ability, we may be able to identify consumers who make the highest (and lowest) quality consumer decisions. For example, consumers with high levels of nutrition knowledge but who lack the emotional ability to understand which emotions are important and how to...