Date of Award

2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration

Specialization

Marketing

First Advisor

Ruby Roy Dholakia

Abstract

Visual information had been found to be superior to textual information in terms of processing ease, and to increase consumer preference, attitude, and purchase intention. Since many digital devices are used to access information in contemporary society, this dissertation research is designed to extend the current literature on information presentation format. Existing research has established visual format’s superior effects mainly in decision environments that are more hedonistic in nature (e.g., jackets, crackers) than utilitarian, without a clear measure of objective decision quality. In complex decision environments that include utilitarian choices (such as for healthcare and credit card), it is unclear whether the visual advantage persists particularly since objective decision quality is a more important outcome than attitude or behavioral intentions. This research attempts to examine the potential joint effect of information presentation format and screen size on objective as well as subjective decision outcomes.

Using visual theory, construal-level theory, and research on screen size effects, three experiments investigated the visual thesis in small and large screen conditions. The three studies explored the process and outcome variables in decision making tasks for different product categories. Study 1, using the health insurance decision context, examined whether the process and outcome variables – particularly objective choice making – fare better when the information presentation format is visual than textual and when viewed on a larger than a smaller screen. Study 2 investigated the effect of hedonic/utilitarian value of product on the process and outcome variables, as well as its interaction effect with information presentation format and screen size. A jacket was used as the hedonic context and credit card as the utilitarian context. Finally, Study 3 investigated the effects of temporal bias (near- vs. far-distant future frame) on the process and outcome variables. Streaming media and video-on-demand subscription services were used in Study 3.

The research evidence supports the visual advantage for subjective/affective measures, but not for objective quality (Study 1 and 2). Textual information was found to positively affect objective quality (Study 1 and 2). Under the condition of temporal frame (Study 3), little visual advantage effect was found for both subjective and objective measures. In addition, the visual advantage only had positive effect for subjective measures when it was in the near-distant future frame but not the far-distant future frame. This research found minimal or mixed evidence for the effect of small screens.

The research contributes to the information processing and decision making literature, in particular by providing evidence of the superiority of textual format in objective decision quality. The managerial implications of the findings suggest that higher objective quality can be influenced by relevant information presentation format (particularly, the textual format) when the decision task is more utilitarian and when choice tasks are in distant time frame. The findings indicate a need for policy intervention to require appropriate amount of (text) information made available to consumers to make the (most possible) optimal decisions.

Available for download on Saturday, July 25, 2020

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