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«ONDERZOEKSRAPPORT NR 9724 VISUAL ATTENTION DURING BRAND CHOICE: AN EYE-FIXATION ANALYSIS by Rik PIETERS LukWARLOP' Katholieke Universiteit Leuven ...»

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DEPARTEMENTTOEGEPASTE

ECONOMISCHE WETENSCHAPPEN

ONDERZOEKSRAPPORT NR 9724

VISUAL ATTENTION DURING BRAND CHOICE:

AN EYE-FIXATION ANALYSIS

by

Rik PIETERS

LukWARLOP'

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Naamsestraat 69, 8-3000 Leuven

ONDERZOEKSRAPPORT NR 9724

VISUAL ATTENTION DURING BRAND CHOICE:

AN EYE-FIXATION ANALYSIS

by Rik PIETERS LukWARLOP 0/1997/2376/26

VISUAL ATTENTION DURING BRAND CHOICE:

An Eye-Fixation Analysis July 1997 Rik Pieters Katholieke Universiteit Brabant (Tilburg) Luk Warlop Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

VISUAL ATTENTION DURING BRAND CHOICE:

The Impact of Time Pressure and Task Motivation Abstract Measures derived from eye-movement data reveal that during brand choice consumers adapt to time pressure by accelerating information acquisition, by filtering information and by changing their information acquisition strategy. In addition, consumers with high task motivation filter brand information less and pictorial information more. Consumers under time pressure filter textual ingredient information more, and pictorial information less. The results of a multilevel logistic regression analysis reveal that the chosen brand is involved in significantly more intra-brand and inter-brand saccades than non-chosen brands, independent of time pressure and task motivation conditions. Implications for the theory of consumer attention and for pretesting of packaging and shelf lay-outs are offered.

INTRODUCTION

If the poet is right that the eyes are the mirror of the soul, consumers' eyemovements should be informative about processes such as attention, information acquisition and brand choice. It may come as a surprise that despite the long history (Karslake 1940) and obvious potential of eye-tracking (Kroeber-Riel 1993).

applications to relevant marketing questions are scarce (see Janiszewski 1995; Russo 1978; Russo and LeClerc 1994; Van Raaij 1977) and contributions to theory development and testing have been limited.

In their review of consumer decision making, Payne, Bettman and Johnson (1993) call for the development and refinement of process-tracing methodologies that allow consumers highly flexible and rapid access to information, and in a recent review Bagozzi (1991) calls for the use of psycho-physiological measures to test hypotheses about underlying information processing and choice processes, grounded in sound theory. We follow up on both calls by examining consumer's visual attention during brand choice, as it is influenced by two relevant context factors. We use eye-tracking methodology, and develop eye-movement measures which build on theories of consumer attention and choice.

Time pressure, an environmental condition, and task motivation, a consumer individual difference variable, have been shown to systematically affect decision making and choice processes (Payne, Bettman and Johnson 1993), but they have not been examined jointly. In addition, both have been studied traditionally with information display boards, verbal protocols and similar methodology, but not with eye-tracking techniques. Eye tracking is particularly valuable in visual attention and choice research because the processes under study may occur very rapidly (Payne, Bettman and Johnson 1993), are largely automatic (Grunert 1996), and difficult to verbalise (Ericsson and Simon 1984). This study examines the influence of time pressure and task motivation on visual attention during brand choice using eyetracking methodology.

Marketing practitioners and academics share the belief that consumer attention and in-store brand choice are intimately related (Cox 1970; Dreze, Hoch and Park 1993; Kotzan and Evanson 1969; Wilkinson, Mason and Paksoy 1982).

Manufacturers try to differentiate themselves from the competition through vivid packaging design, to make their brands more noticeable. Retailers manage shelf space and special displays to draw attention to products and brands they prefer to sell (Allenby and Ginter 1995). Such attempts rest on the assumption that visual attention is a precondition to subsequent processes that eventually lead to choice, and that increased visual attention will increase the likelihood of choice. Despite the common assumption of a significant association, marketing research on the attention-choice relationship is scarce. This study examines the relationship between visual attention and brand choice, and the impact of time pressure and task motivation on the stability of the relationship.

The study aims to make three contributions. First, it offers insight into the nature of the adaptation of consumers' visual attention to time pressure and task motivation, which have not been considered simultaneously in previous research.

Second, it documents the nature of the often assumed but rarely examined relationship between visual attention and brand choice. Third, it examines indicators derived from eye-movement data that are intimately linked to the theoretical constructs under study, and that have not been applied in previous marketing research.





Before we present formal hypotheses and the specifics of the study's design and procedures, we will review briefly the relevant prior research on which we build.

First we will introduce visual attention as an important component of the brand choice process. Then we discuss the impact of time pressure and task motivation on visual attention, and the attention-choice relationship.

VISUAL ATTENTION

Visual attention is conceptualised as... a brain operation producing a localised priority in information processing - an attentional 'window' or 'spotlight' that locally improves the speed and reduces the threshold for processing events (Deubel and Schneider 1993, p.575). Visual attention manifests itself as observed motor movements of the eye and head, which ensure that the 'spotlight' of attention illuminates the desired region in space.

The spotlight of visual attention follows a scan-path over the stimulus, consisting of fixations and saccades, and several smaller corrective eye-movements.

Saccades are quick jumps from location to location during which vision is essentially suppressed (Sperling and Weichselgartner 1995). Fixations are the pauses between saccades during which the eye is relatively immobile. Since information acquisition occurs during fixations, they have been called the basic unit of encoding (Loftus 1972). Analyses of eye-movement data are based on the location and duration of fixations, and on the pattern of saccades (Viviani 1990).

Since visual attention is selective, consumers will not fixate all locations of a stimulus display in the same way. Some locations of the display will be fixated more densely than others, and some locations may be skipped entirely. Research shows that informative regions of stimuli are more likely to receive fixations than other regions (Loftus 1972).

Information acquisition during fixations appears to be a two-stage process (Loftus 1983; Christianson, Loftus, Hoffman and Loftus 1991; Viviani 1990). In the first or perceptual stage, the visual system acquires information from the physical stimulus. This stage affords an abstracted representation of the stimulus, and its duration is assumed to be relatively stimulus and person-independent and fixed. In the second or conceptual stage, cognitive processes come into play. This stage affords an identification of the stimulus by comparing the representation with pre-existing knowledge in memory, and its duration is assumed to be variable. As a consequence, the overall duration of fixations is variable as well. Research reports fixation durations ranging from 50 milliseconds to over a second, depending on task and subject characteristics (Gould 1976; Loftus 1972; Loftus and Mackworth 1978;

Viviani 1990) with an average between about 200 and 400 milliseconds (e.g., Christianson, Loftus, Hoffman and Loftus 1991; Leven 1991).

Saccades provide information about the pattern of visual attention, and they have been used to study reading, picture perception and visual search processes (Rayner 1994). Before beginning to scan a stimulus, and as a function of the task and the expected properties of the stimulus, individuals prepare a global scan routine (Levy-Schoen 1981). For instance, individuals prepare to make mUltiple horizontal saccades prior to a reading task (Rayner 1994). During the scanning routine, physical characteristics of the stimulus and the information content, and other local factors may give rise to adjustments of the global scan routine (Janiszewski 1995).

TIME PRESSURE AND TASK MOTIVATION

Many important decisions have to be made under time pressure, with insufficient time to collect complete information, and to weigh all pros and cons extensively (Svenson and Maule 1993). Time pressure regulates the amount of information that can be processed, and its impact on consumer decision making appears significant (lyer 1989; Payne, Bettman and Johnson 1988; Wright 1974;

Wright and Weitz 1977). Since research about the impact of time pressure on visual attention has been lacking, we will briefly review findings from decision and their implications for visual attention. The conceptual model of this study is presented in Figure 1.

**********Insert Figure 1 about here********** Consumers appear to use at least three strategies to cope with time pressure: by accelerating information acquisition, by filtering part of the available information, and or by a shift in the information acquisition strategy.

Acceleration occurs when consumers speed up information collection and processing (Ben-Zur and Breznitz 1981). When accelerating, the consumer does everything as usual, only faster. One way to accelerate the rate of visual information acquisition during brand choice under time pressure is by reducing fixation durations.

This is accomplished by reducing the time spent encoding the stimulus in the second, conceptual stage of information acquisition. In a relevant study, Levy-Schoen (1981) found that the average fixation duration of individuals who read a text slowly was 287 milliseconds, as compared to an average fixation duration of 247 milliseconds for individuals who read at their normal pace. The reverse effect of speeding up reading was not examined, but appears likely.

Filtration occurs when consumers become more selective in the face of time constraints, and ignore some information in favour of other, purportedly more relevant, information (e.g., Easterbrook 1959). Filtration in visual attention is demonstrated when consumers skip certain elements of information about the brands in the display, or do not fixate some brands at all. The decision to skip elements is based on global expectations about the types of information in different locations of the display, and on parafoveal and peripheral attention during scanning (Janiszewski 1995).

Finally, a strategy shift occurs when consumers adopt modes of information acquisition and decision making which are less costly and faster to implement than others. Research indicates that under time pressure, consumers use simpler, noncompensatory rules more frequently than compensatory rules (Svenson, Edland and Slovic 1990; Edland 1994), and that they weigh negative information more heavily (Wright 1974; Wright and Weitz 1977). Investigating choices among gambles, Payne, Bettman and Johnson (1988) found that under time pressure their subjects shifted from a processing-by-brand to a processing-by-attribute strategy. Processingby-attribute increases the likelihood that all alternatives are scanned at least partially within the time available for task completion, and it is cognitive less taxing (Bettman, Johnson and Payne 1991). Visual attention patterns provide insight into processing and acquisition strategies, since saccades within brands (intra-brand saccades) express information acquisition by brand, and saccades between brands (inter-brand saccades) express information acquisition by attribute.

The effects of task motivation on cognitive elaboration during advertising processing have been examined extensively (cf. Petty Cacioppo and Schuman 1982) and some research has examined task motivation effects on attention for advertising (cf. Celsi and Olson 1988). This research indicates that under high task motivation, consumers spend more time acquiring information, scrutinise the message arguments more extensively, and tend to base their overall evaluation more on message arguments than on peripheral cues (Petty and Cacioppo 1986). Some research indicates that under high task motivation, consumers use more compensatory processing (Irwin and Smith 1957). This suggests that the impact of task motivation on visual attention during brand choice may be complimentary to the impact of time pressure. Specifically, we expect consumers under high task motivation to decelerate information acquisition, as evidenced by longer fixation durations. We also expect them to attend to more elements of the stimulus, as evidenced by a lower frequency of skipping, and we expect them to use more information acquisition by brand, as evidenced by higher numbers of inter-brand saccades. Of course, the extent to which time pressure and task motivation are complimentary depends on the strength of the experimental manipulations and the size of the effects. The following hypotheses are

offered:

Hypothesis I: Time pressure leads to acceleration, more filtration, and to more information acquisition by attribute and less by brand, as expressed

–  –  –

Hypothesis 2: Task motivation leads to deceleration, less filtration, and to less information acquisition by attribute and more by brand, as expressed through'respectively increased fixation durations, decreased skipping of brand elements, decreased inter-brand saccades, and increased intrabrand saccades.

VISUAL ATTENTION AND BRAND CHOICE



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