Post purchase behavior of the consumers

The main objective of this research is to assess the post-purchase behavior of the consumers who are encountered with cognitive dissonance because of un-chosen competitive products after they have purchased a product so that the organizations will be better able to make competitive strategies and outclass its competitors by retaining the customers. In order to verify hypotheses drawn from cognitive dissonance theory in the context of consumer satisfaction and post-purchase behavior, data is collected through a questionnaire from those consumers who faced cognitive dissonance. Logistic regression analysis is applied because the dependent variables are binary in nature. It has been found that consumers adopt dissonance reducing behavior whenever they are confronted with cognitive dissonance after they have purchased a product. Dissonance reducing behavior leads towards satisfaction but not always as it depends upon the intensity of dissonance. When the intensity of cognitive dissonance is high, consumer’s attitude towards its purchased product will change and when the intensity is low, consumer’s attitude will be stable. By knowing only the consumer satisfaction or sales growth, organization is unable to identify whether or not there exist a need to enhance the product’s features and quality because even the satisfied consumers may be no more loyal because of the fact that they have faced cognitive dissonance. Longitudinal study using the pre-post experimental design will be a better choice in a sense that it takes a direct measure of intensity of cognitive dissonance at right time in point but at the same it will be more time consuming and experiments can also produce artificial environmental effects particularly in this study.

1) Introduction:

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Although there is too much research on consumer satisfaction and also on consumer dissatisfaction but a very little research on how consumer reduce his or her anxiety after he or she has purchased a product. Research on consumer satisfaction or dissatisfaction describes that how different factors leads to satisfaction or dissatisfaction but the objective of this research is different from research on consumer satisfaction or dissatisfaction in the sense that it takes into account that how consumers reduce his or her anxiety or dissatisfaction after they have purchased a product.

Objectives of this study are as follows:

The main objective of this study is to find whether or not, an inverse relationship exist between amount or intensity of dissonance and the dissonance reducing behavior.

Feedback of dissatisfied customers is also important for the organizations in order to eliminate the defaults in the product.

Cognition may be thought of as a piece of knowledge. The knowledge may be about an attitude, an emotion, a behavior, a value, and so on. People hold a multitude of cognitions simultaneously, and these cognitions form irrelevant, consonant or dissonant relationships with one another. Cognitive Irrelevance probably describes the bulk of the relationships among person?s cognitions. Irrelevance simply means that the two cognitions have nothing to do with each other (O’Keefe, 1990).

Two cognitions are consonant if one cognition follows from, or fits with, the other. People like consonance among their cognitions. We do not know whether this stems from the nature of the human organism or whether it is learned during the process of socialization, but people appear to prefer cognitions that fit together to those that do not (O’Keefe, 1990).

Two cognitions are said to be dissonant if one cognition follows from the opposite of another (O’Keefe, 1990). What happens to people when they discover dissonant cognitions? The answer to this question forms the basic postulate of Festinger?s theory. A person who has dissonant or discrepant cognitions is said to be in a state of psychological dissonance, which is experienced as unpleasant psychological tension. This tension state has drive like properties that are much like those of hunger and thirst. When a person has been deprived of food for several hours, he/she experiences unpleasant tension and is driven to reduce the unpleasant tension state that results. Reducing the psychological sate of dissonance is not as simple as eating or drinking however (Festinger, 1957).

2) Literature review:

Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon which refers to the discomfort felt at a discrepancy between what you already know or believe, and new information or interpretation. It therefore occurs when there is a need to accommodate new ideas, and it may be necessary for it to develop so that we become “open” to them. if someone is called upon to learn something which contradicts what they already think they know – particularly if they are committed to that prior knowledge – they are likely to resist the new learning (Atherton, 2009).

A research is conducted in the context of decision taken by an investor and the cognitive dissonance theory is empirically tested and it is concluded that investors tend to bias their perceptions about past performance of their investment and due to inertial forces investors tend to justify their investment decisions (GoetzMann & Pelec, 1997). Investors tend to be optimistic about forecasted information and they don’t give attention and importance to the negative forecast information or they give more importance to the positive forecast information (Toshino & Suto, 2004).

If dissonance is experienced as an unpleasant drive state, the individual is motivated to reduce it (Festinger, 1957). Now that the factors that affect the magnitude of this unpleasantness have been identified, it should be possible to predict what we can do to reduce it:

Changing Cognitions: If two cognitions are discrepant, we can simply change one to make it consistent with the other. Or we can change each cognition in the direction of the other (O’Keefe, 1990). This is exactly in agreement with the Freud psychoanalytical theory. Sigmund Freud (1991) told that people tend to refuse and deny the information that might make contradiction. Freud named this defense mechanism as “Denial”.

Adding Cognitions: If two cognitions cause a certain magnitude of dissonance, that magnitude can be reduced by adding one or more consonant cognitions (Barker, 2003).

Altering importance: Since the discrepant and consonant cognitions must be weighed by importance, it may be advantageous to alter the importance of the various cognitions (O’Keefe, 1990).

Selective exposure: People tend to avoid information which is inconsistent with their beliefs and may cause dissonance. People will select only that information which is consistent with their beliefs. In this way dissonance will be reduced (Griffin, 1997). This is exactly in accordance with Freud’s psychoanalytical theory. Sigmund Freud has explained in his theory that people tend prevent unacceptable thoughts and information from reaching into conscious surface of awareness. Freud called this defense mechanism as “Repression”.

Selective distortion: People tend to interpret the information in such a way that will support their beliefs and hence avoiding dissonance. It is empirically proved in the research that people distort the information in the favor of their chosen alternative (Russo et al, 1996). Selective distortion is exactly in agreement with defense mechanism of “Rationalization” which is explained in the Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. Freud (1991) said that people explained the unacceptable behavior by giving false reasons.

Selective retention: People tend to recall the information that will support their beliefs and hence avoiding dissonance (Lauden & Albert 2002).

Changing Behavior: It is not always easy to justify one’s own action. When the amount of cognitive dissonance is high than it will be difficult to justify the behavior and in such context individuals have the tendency to reduce the cognitive dissonance by making a determination of not repeating the action again in future (Festinger 1957).

To understand the alternatives open to an individual in a state of dissonance, we must first understand the factors that affect the magnitude of dissonance arousal. First, in its simplest form, dissonance increases as the degree of discrepancy among cognitions increases. Second, dissonance increases as the number of discrepant cognitions increases. Third, dissonance is inversely proportional to the number of consonant cognitions held by an individual (Rudolph, 2006).

Post decision dissonance creates a need for reassurance. If a dissonance occurred in the mind of a customer after his decision then he certainly want to reevaluate his decision. Decision can generate huge amount of internal tension after the decision has been made. Three conditions heighten the post decision dissonance (Griffin, 1997):

The more important the issue (Griffin, 1997).

The larger an individual delays in choosing between two equally attractive options (Griffin, 1997).

The greater the difficulty involved in reversing the decision once it has been made (Griffin, 1997).

An attitude is a learned predisposition to respond to an object or to class of object in a consistently favorable or unfavorable way. Attitude itself is cognition. In consumer buying decision process modal, attitude plays a major role in the evaluation of alternatives (Kotler & Armstrong 2005).

All attitudes have the following characteristics.

Attitudes are learned. They are formed as a result of direct experiences with a product or an idea, indirect experiences or interaction with society. For example opinion expressed by a friend about diet food plus consumer favorable or unfavorable as result of using diet food will contribute to an attitude towards diet in general (Kotler & Armstrong 2005).

Attitude has an object. By definition we can hold attitude only towards an object. Object can be general or specific. It can be abstract or concrete (Kotler & Armstrong 2005).

Attitudes have direction and intensity. They are either favorable or unfavorable. They can never be neutral. In addition they have strength (Kotler & Armstrong 2005).

Attitudes tend to be stable. Once they are formed they will resist if a person feel dissonance (Kotler & Armstrong 2005).

Some times marketers are required to change the attitude of the consumers. Because purchasing behavior of the consumer depend upon the attitude of the consumer towards specific product. But changing consumer behavior is much difficult or perhaps impossible. Therefore marketer changes the product instead of attitude of the consumer (Kotler & Armstrong 2005).

Kotler & Armstrong (2005) explained 6 stages in consumer buying behavior.

Problem Recognition (awareness of need)–difference between the desired state and the actual condition. Deficit in assortment of products. Hunger–Food. Hunger stimulates your need to eat.

Information search– A successful information search leaves a buyer with possible alternatives, the evoked set.

Evaluation of Alternatives–need to establish criteria for evaluation, features the buyer wants or does not want. Rank/weight alternatives or resume search.

Purchase decision–Choose buying alternative, includes product, package, store, method of purchase etc.

Purchase-when consumer implants his decision.

Post-Purchase Evaluation–outcome: Satisfaction or Dissatisfaction. Cognitive Dissonance, have you made the right decision.

Kotler & Armstrong (2005) explained four different situations can be in consumer buying behavior:

When the consumer involvement is high and significant difference between brands exist.

When the consumer involvement is low and significant difference between brands exist.

When the consumer involvement is high but there is no significant difference between brands.

When the consumer involvement is low and there is no significant difference between brands.

In the first situation there will be more chances of cognitive dissonance as compared to other three situations.

Cognitive dissonance is the motivating state that occurs when an individual is in conflict. Ordinary sources of dissonance are incompatibilities between behavior and private opinion or between two items of information. Dissonance theory holds that these states lead to a behavior that is intended to reduce the conflict and is reflective of the amount of conflict that exist. Rotter argues that people will not feel personal responsibility unless they also feel personal responsibility for their behavior. In more current psychological jorgan, cognitive dissonance is a direct function of the causes to which behavior is attributed (Rotter, 1996).

Rotter was among the first to suggest that people can be differentiated on the basis of their tendency to ascribe their success or failure to internal or external causes.

Some people are internal oriented who take personal responsibility for their success or failure. But some people are external oriented who don’t take personal responsibility for their success or failure. The relationship between attribution theory and dissonance is implicit in the observation that dissonance reflects how responsible the person feels for the outcome of the behavior. By definition those who attribute outcomes to external causes do not accept personal responsibility and they are not subject to cognitive dissonance. But the people, who are internally oriented, feel pride when they succeed and feel shame when they failed (Rotter 1996).

This cognitive view of motivation is based on the assumption that people continually evaluate their behavior, look for reasons behind their success or failure, anticipate the probable future outcome of intended behaviors and react emotionally with their success or failure (Rotter 1996).

3) Methodology:

This is an empirical research involving one independent variable and one dependent variable. Several research questions arises which are to be answered such as the most basic research question is whether or not, consumers have tendency to justify their purchase decision (Which they have taken) in order to reduce anxiety? The second research question is what can be the different ways to justify their purchase decision (Which they have taken) in order to reduce anxiety? Lastly and most importantly it is to be find whether or not, the tendency to justify the purchase decision (Which one person has taken) in order to reduce anxiety has a negative relation with the amount or intensity of cognitive dissonance? The main hypotheses which are to be tested are as follows:

Greater the intensity of cognitive dissonance, lesser will be the probability of justifying the performed behavior (Purchase action).

Consumers having tendency to justify their performed behavior are more likely to reduce their cognitive dissonance as compared to the consumers having no tendency to justify their performed behavior.

To collect data a questionnaire is developed and respondents are asked to rate different items described in the questionnaire. Difficulty faced by respondents in understanding the items in questionnaire is overcome by face to face discussion with the respondents. Context or scenario of each respondent may vary slightly because of different nature of cognitions held by the consumers. So items in the questionnaire are elaborated according to the nature of cognitions held by each respondent.

Amount or intensity of dissonance is the only independent variable and it is measured directly as well as indirectly also. Items of direct measure of cognitive dissonance in questionnaire (CCD1, CCD2 & CCD3) reflect the intensity of cognitive dissonance at present. Indirect measure of cognitive dissonance can be calculated by first measuring discrepant and consonance cognitions related to the purchase decision through questionnaire. Discrepant and consonance cognitions are measured along an interval rating scale with lower limit of 1 and upper limit of 5. Vallerand and Thill, (1993) Proposed an index by to calculate the cognitive dissonance is applied and that index is slightly modified in such a way so that amount of cognitive dissonance calculated by this index will also give the values that lie between 1 and 5.

Difference between this indirect measure of cognitive dissonance and direct measures of cognitive dissonance is referred as reduction in cognitive dissonance.

Six items are described in questionnaire for 6 different justifying behaviors and these are the binary in nature. The logical function “OR” is applied between these 6 items.

As for as participants of study are concerned, judgment sampling technique is used. Only those consumers are selected who have faced cognitive dissonance. The judgment about the respondents involves two requisites. First is that respondent should be a satisfied consumer. Second is that respondent must have felt some attraction towards competitive products which he did not purchased. Sample size is determined by the formulae with taking 95% confidence interval and the maximum affordable error is taken 0.15. Variance for the sample is estimated by using the rule of thumb. Rating scale is used in the questionnaire to determine the constructs involved in research. Using the formulae, sample size is determined to be 120. Therefore 120 consumers are selected who faced the cognitive dissonance.

Logistic regression is an appropriate statistical analysis for this research as in this research dependent variable is binary in nature. In logistic regression terms, independent variable is called “Predictor variable” while the dependent variable is called “Response variable”. This is because of the fact that predictor variable can predict the probability of specific response occurrence.

Probability (Dissonance Reducing Behavior) = [1 / (1 + e -Z)]

Where Z = Constant + B(x)

In order to test the 2nd hypothesis of this research, t-test (Assuming unequal variances) is used as variance of population is not known. There are two groups which are made on the basis of binary outcome of dependent variable and the difference between the mean values of independent variable is to be tested that whether it is significant or not.

Goodness of model fit can be determined by different statistics. For this purpose in this research it is determined by -2LL statistic, Cox-Snell and Negelkerk R2 statistics, Classification table of observation and predictions and contingency table for Hosmer and Lemeshow test.

-2LL is a statistic gained by multiplying log of likelihood by -2. It denotes the Badness of Model fit. Its value ranges from 0 to infinity. The perfectly fit model will have -2LL equal to zero. The shortcoming of this statistic is that it does not have upper limit and hence difficult to interpret.

Cox-Snell R2 statistic can’t equal to 1 even if the model is perfectly fit and the value closer to one is considered good. Negelkerk R2 statistic reflects the percentage variance explained by the predictor variable. Classification table reflect the percentage of responses correctly predicted. Contingency table for Hosmer and Lemeshow test show the frequency of correct response under different situations. In order to improve the Godness of Modal Fit, Iteration changes are made. Coefficient statistics will also change and log likelihood will decline with each subsequent iteration. Iteration will continue until log likelihood decreases by less than 1 percent. Goodness of model fit is shown in the appendix B to E.

Reliability of the three items in the questionnaire is tested using the Cronbach’s alpha value and its value 0.9226 which very close to one. So the scale is reliable to a great extent.

4) Results

Of 120 respondents 72 reduced their cognitive dissonance by adopting different ways of reducing dissonance as described in this paper. Consumer might adopt one or more ways to reduce dissonance. The way which is most frequently used is over estimating the competitive advantage of ones purchased product and it used 44 times out of 72 respondents. The 2nd most frequent way used by respondents is “Selective Retention” which was adopted by 35 respondents out of 72 respondents.

Statistics shown in the appendix F confirm the hypothesis that there is a negative link between intensity of cognitive dissonance and tendency to justify the one’s own actions as coefficient of cognitive dissonance is -1. Probability of adopting the justification behavior will be equal to 50% when cognitive dissonance intensity is equal to 2.944 approximately.

Reduction in cognitive dissonance is calculated through 3 different ways as current intensity of cognitive dissonance is measured with 3 different items (CCD1, CCD2 & CCD3 coded in the questionnaire). It is found that the mean difference of reduction in cognitive dissonance between 2 groups is insignificant as shown by the appendix G, H & I. The t-statistic is less than the critical value in all the three appendices. So the 2nd hypothesis is rejected. Hence it is concluded that dissonance reduces with the passage of time irrespective of the fact whether or not he adopts the justification behavior to reduce dissonance. So it might be concluded that people adopt or do some other thing in order to reduce cognitive dissonance and this is exactly in accordance with cognitive dissonance theory and in the light of cognitive dissonance, individuals reduce their dissonance either by altering their beliefs or by making a firm determination of not repeating the similar kind of behaviors.

5) Discussion

This research is helpful especially for technological and electronics industries. The results can be interpreted in order to understand the consumer post purchase behavior. The results leads towards the fact that even satisfied customer might switch over to other brands. So this will lead towards the idea that customer satisfaction and customer retention both are two distinct concepts. In order to better manage the consumer cognitive dissonance, it is suggested that organizations should conduct the experiments before launching a new product in the market. Experimental arrangement should be in such a way that two or more modals (each having different competitive advantage) of the new product should be made and experimental and control groups should be formed for each modal. Cognitive dissonance of each group can be then measured and compared and experiments can be replicated and an optimal modal can identified which minimize the cognitive dissonance.

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