Two Essays on Hope and Consumer Behavior

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Virginia Tech


This dissertation consists of two essays on the impact of hope on financial decision making. While hope is a commonly experienced positive emotion, research on the impact of hope on consumer decision making is relatively sparse. The first essay examines the impact of hope on gambling intentions. Findings from seven studies, including one consequential, demonstrate that in a gambling context, hope leads to suboptimal decisions when the focus of hope is on winning. We theorize and show empirically that this effect occurs because hope triggers experiential processing, which in turn increases gambling, interestingly without affecting rational expectations of winning. Evidence from a variety of gambling contexts suggest that hope leads to both intent and actual gambling behavior. This effect of hope on gambling does not hold for individuals low on trait experiential processing and is attenuated when individuals are prompted to not rely on their feelings. Thus, the authors contribute to the literature on hope by providing a detailed understanding of how hope impacts processing of information, which in turn leads to suboptimal decisions in a gambling context. More broadly, this work offers implications for policy makers and consumers to understand and to become aware of how everyday positive emotion can be detrimental to consumer welfare. The second essay examines the impact of hope on savings. Across five studies, this research displays that hope increases willingness to save. The effect of hope on savings intention is mediated by hope's focus on the future. When hope is no longer focused on the future but is instead focused on the past, this effect disappears. To rule out positive emotion in general as a driving effect, we examine pride, a positive emotion which is generally focused on the past and find that pride does not lead to savings intention unless the focus of pride is shifted to the future. We also examine an alternative potential explanation that a sense of closeness with one's future self is driving the effect of hope on savings intention but do not find support for this, rather it is a future time perspective that mediates the effect of hope on willingness to save. These findings and their implications for research on positive emotion, time perspective and financial decision making are discussed.



hope, financial decision-making, information processing, experiential processing, gambling, risk taking, time perspective, savings