Consumption emotions play an important role in many aspects of consumption experiences (Bagozzi, Gopinath, & Nyer, 1999). People pursue hedonic consumption for experiential benefits such as feelings, fun, and fantasy; emotional outcomes are regarded by consumers as crucial elements to evaluate the quality of these experiences (Holbrook, O'Shaughnessy, & Bell, 1990). In an experience economy, it is not enough to have customers merely satisfied with products and services (Pine & Gilmore, 1999); rather, by emphasizing the experiential components of consumption experiences, tourism managers need to develop more positive emotive responses (Schmitt, 1999). Therefore, both marketing researchers and practitioners have begun studying the emotions elicited by consumption experiences to determine the characteristics of positive hedonic experiences and their effects on behavior.
Just over a decade ago, Oliver, Rust, and Varki (1997) defined delight as an emotional response coexisting with customer satisfaction, and proposed a model (referred as the ORV model in this thesis) that established a linkage between customer delight and behavioral intentions. This model is significant, as other researchers in parallel streams agree that delight is a specific emotion elicited by a consumption experience that impacts on attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors (Finn, 2005; Füller & Matzler, 2008; McColl-Kennedy & Smith, 2006). However, in general there has been little exploration of the antecedents of the emotions elicited by a consumption experience, that is, the subjective factors that lead to a specific emotion elicited in response to an experience (Watson & Spence, 2007). This current study explores how delight is elicited subjectively in a theme park experience, a typical example of hedonic consumption (Bigné, Mattila, & Andreu, 2008). It differs from most other prior marketing studies in that it adopts the cognitive appraisal theory (CAT) of emotion from the domain of psychology in order to identify the antecedents of delight.
The ORV model and most researchers in marketing base their studies on categories and dimensions approaches (see Section 2.2.2) that categorize an emotion in terms of positive or negative valence and high or low arousal. CAT on the other hand, provides a mechanism for the elicitation of an emotion considering that individuals evaluate their experiences against their motivations and using defined appraisal dimensions (Kumar & Garg, 2010). Variations in people’s evaluation of an experience on these dimensions can lead to different emotional responses to the same event (Choi,Sung, Lee, & Cho, 2011). An individual may use some or all of these dimensions for their evaluation (Nezlek, Vansteelandt, Van Mechelen, & Kuppens, 2008). Academics and practitioners can better understand how individuals interpret the stimuli from experiences by identifying these appraisal dimensions (Ritchie, Tung, & Ritchie, 2011). This study therefore tests how CAT appraisal dimensions lead to the elicitation of delight and satisfaction in a theme park setting (Milman, 2009).
A questionnaire survey was used to collect data from Chinese visitors to Happy Valley Theme Park in Shanghai. Two rounds of pilot tests were used to develop the final questionnaire and to establish the measurement model used for analysis of the data. The formal empirical test (n=645) examined the hypothesized appraisal antecedents of delight and satisfaction, as well as their impacts on behavioral intentions, by using structural equation modelling and a rank sum test. The results indicate that the CAT appraisal dimensions do predict the elicitation of satisfaction and delight. Importantly, the results indicate that there are multiple paths leading to delight. This finding allows a number of previous research studies that have found various paths leading to delight to be parsimoniously reconciled. The results also allow delight to be differentiated from satisfaction by visitors’ evaluations on appraisal dimensions that affect emotional intensity. Finally, the results support previous research that indicates that delight and satisfaction have effects on behavioral intentions, in this case in a theme park setting. Based on these findings, the ORV model is extended by including multiple antecedents leading to delight, and by differentiating delight from satisfaction based on their different antecedents. This thesis is the first in the marketing and tourism literature to provide empirical support for the effects of appraisals of the dimension affecting emotional intensity, although Johnson & Stewart (2005) proposed such a relationship conceptually.
This thesis therefore allows the subjectiveness of tourism experiences to be better understood. The adoption of CAT as the basis for elicitation of emotions means that a consumer’s emotional response to a hedonic experience is affected by some characteristics of their motivational status. The reason why an individual elicits specific emotion and how that person’s consumption experience leads to one specific emotional response rather than another is therefore explained by differences in their goals of experiencing the hedonic consumption event. This will provide managers with the knowledge to elicit favorable emotions in their visitors by better designing experiences for motivation-based market segments. A variety of further research topics are discussed.