In this research, the authors examine the role of process versus outcome simulation in product evaluation and demonstrate how manipulating the type of information-processing mode (cognitive vs. affective) leads to unique effects in process and outcome simulation. The article begins with the premise that when consumers do not have well-formed preferences for a product, they tend to focus on the usage process. The authors predict and find that outcome simulation is more effective than process simulation in increasing product evaluation under a cognitive mode, whereas process simulation is more effective than outcome simulation under an affective mode. Establishing boundary conditions, the authors further show the effect of two important moderators that alter consumers' focus on/away from the product's usage process. Specifically, they show a reversal of the effect for each type of mental simulation for hedonic products, for which product benefits are the more salient aspect (vs. the usage process). Furthermore, a distant-future (vs. near-future) evaluation frame shifts people's focus away from the usage process toward product benefits and reverses the effect of each type of simulation. The authors conclude with a discussion of theoretical and managerial implications.
Min Zhao, Steve Hoeffler, G. Zauberman
Journal of Marketing Research