ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2022, Vol. 54 ›› Issue (6): 684-702.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2022.00684

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Emotional or rational? The impact of culturally-derived power on the preference for advertising appeals

JIANG Hongyan1, ZHANG Jing1, SUN Peizhen2, JIANG Xianjin1   

  1. 1School of Economics and Management, China University of Mining and Technology, Xu Zhou 221116, China
    2School of Education Science, Jiangsu Normal University, Xuzhou 221116, China
  • Published:2022-06-25 Online:2022-04-26


The effectiveness of advertising depends to a large extent on the consistency between the consumers’ characteristics and the advertising appeals. Previous studies have neglected the match-up effect between advertising appeals and culturally-derived power, which is considered as one of the key psychological traits. This paper examined the impact of culturally-derived power (i.e., personalized vs. socialized power) on the preference for advertising appeals and its inner mechanism. The current research proposed that consumers with personalized power (vs. socialized power) perceived high (vs. low) arousal, which led to the preference for emotional (vs. rational) advertising appeal. Furthermore, the indirect effect of culturally-derived power on the preference for advertising appeals through elevating consumers’ arousal was significant when consumers needed to justify their choices and not significant when consumers had no need to justify their choices. Our research provided empirical support for these predictions and ruled out action orientation and empathy as alternative mediators.
In the pre-study, a total of 36 consumers were recruited to report their perceptions of culturally-derived power and their preferences for 300 random advertisement images. The results showed that culturally-derived power (personalized vs. socialized) significantly predicted consumers’ preferences for advertising appeals (emotional vs. rational), which initially verified H1.
Experiment 1 included a pretest and a formal experiment. In the pretest, two advertisement pictures were selected and were verified as stimuli for different advertising appeals (emotional vs. rational). Meanwhile, we adopted the same layout and text length in the emotional ad and the rational ad to minimize the confounding of experimental results. In the formal experiment, a group of 101 undergraduates were randomly assigned to a condition in a one-factor (culturally-derived power: personalized vs. socialized) between-subjects design. Culturally-derived power was manipulated through reading the stimuli containing personalized vs. socialized power themes. Then, Experiment 1 investigated the mediating role of arousal in the impact of culturally-derived power on the preference for advertising appeals.
Before Experiment 2, we conducted a pretest to verify that the two cup advertisements could be used as different advertising appeals stimuli. Then, 143 undergraduates were recruited from a large university in China. Participants were first randomly assigned to either the personalized power or socialized power condition, in which they completed a task identical to Experiment 1. Then, participants were asked to complete the measurement of empathy and covariates (i.e., rational-experiential thinking style and hedonic/utilitarian motivation). In Experiment 2, we verified H1 to H4 and ruled out empathy as a possible rival explanation by controlling the above-mentioned covariates.
In Experiment 3, we conducted two independent pretests to select the appropriate stimuli for the main study. Specifically, the first pretest was to ensure that the two earphone advertisements with a fictitious brand could be adopted as the advertising appeals stimuli; the second pretest was to verify that the manipulation of need for justification was effective. Then, 595 undergraduates were recruited to participate in a 2 (culturally-derived power: personalized vs. socialized) × 2 (need for justification: no need to justify vs. need to justify) between-subjects design experiment. Culturally-derived power was primed via a recall-and-writing task. Consistent with our hypothesis, the results confirmed that the need for justification could moderate the mediating effect of arousal in the relationship between culturally-derived power and the preference for advertising appeals by controlling the hedonic/utilitarian value and the promotion/prevention focused. In Experiment 3, we also excluded action orientation as a possible rival explanation.
In Experiment 4, we recruited 618 adult consumers with different cultural backgrounds to participate in a 2 (power: high vs. low) × 2 (advertising appeal: emotional vs. rational) × 4 (individual-level cultural orientation: VI vs. VC vs. HI vs. HC) mixed experimental design. The results confirmed a significant interaction between power and cultural orientation on the preferences for different advertising appeals.
This research provides some theoretical contributions. First, the study investigated the important role of power in the effectiveness of advertising information on the basis of the two-dimensional perspective of cultural orientation, which provided a new research perspective. Second, the current research explored the construct of arousal as the mediating role to explain the influence of culturally-derived power on the preference for advertising appeals. Finally, our study further expanded the application scope of Decision Justification Theory by introducing the need for justification as the boundary condition. In addition, this research provides important practical enlightenment for managers to design appropriate advertising information and formulate advertising marketing strategies according to the variance of consumers’ culturally-derived power.

Key words: culturally-derived power, advertising appeals, arousal, need to justify