Preference-inconsistent information and cognitive discomfort: A cross-cultural investigation

Praveen Aggarwal, Chang Soo Kim, Taihoon Cha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This study aims to examine cultural differences between Easterners and Westerners in processing preference-inconsistent information. The focal question that the study addresses is as follows: When faced with negative information about their preferred alternative, do Easterners and Westerners respond differently? If yes, how do these differences impact purchase intentions? A total of 102 students from a major Korean university and 96 students from a major Canadian university participated in the study. The experiment involved reading fictitious but realistic product reviews about a new car model and responding to survey questions. The authors find that, compared to Eastern consumers, Western consumers are affected differently by preference-inconsistent information. They experience a greater level of cognitive discomfort, exhibit a stronger motivation to reduce that discomfort, and attempt to resolve the conflict between their original preference and inconsistent information. These factors lead to a significant reduction in their purchase intentions. The use of student subjects may limit the generalizability of the study's findings. Marketers can benefit by knowing that negative information about a product (as, say, in an online review) does not have a uniform effect across cultures. Consumers in Eastern cultures are more capable of handling negative information without reversing their product preferences. Western consumers, on the other hand, will strive to resolve the conflict between their preference (positive affect) and the negative product review (negative affect) by either changing their preference or discounting the review. Mostly, the damaging effects of a negative review are likely to be greater in Western cultures. This study is the first attempt at examining the effect of cultural differences on processing preference-inconsistent information. As organizations become more global, understanding culture-based differences in information processing can help marketers create a more nuanced marketing strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)392-399
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Consumer Marketing
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 26 2013


  • Cognitive discomfort
  • Consumer behaviour
  • Culture (sociology)
  • Eastern cultures
  • Preference-inconsistent information
  • Product reviews
  • Purchase intention
  • Western cultures


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