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Karin Braunsberger

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The purpose of this research was to test the "product and endorser feature congruence hypothesis." Thus, it was tested whether matching source expertise with credence attribute claims and source experience with experience attributes claims has a positive effect on consumers' cognitive responses as well as their attitudes toward the endorser and the ad. These effects were investigated for the following reasons: First, source expertise appears to have a significant impact on persuasion (McGuire 1969) and is distinguishable from source experience (Jacoby, Troutman, Kuss and Mazursky 1986). Thus, these constructs may have differential effects on persuasion. Second, credence and experience attributes might differentially affect consumer skepticism (Darby and Karni 1973). Third, Darby and Karni's (1973) classification in combination with the "match-up hypothesis" (Forkan 1980) can be used to explain under what product attribute conditions an individual should be likely to prefer information supplied by either an expert or an experienced source. The resulting hypotheses were tested in a laboratory setting. The experimental design was a 2x2x2 between-subjects, crossed factorial design. The three factors included source expertise (high/low), source experience (high/low), and product attribute claims (experience/credence). Thus, eight different treatments (i.e., radio ads endorsing a hospital) were developed. The results indicate that while all source and product attribute claim manipulations were successful, only one of the initial hypotheses can be supported. Specifically, a source high in expertise as compared to one low in expertise appears to lead to positive attitudes toward the endorser and the ad. The following reasons might account for the unexpected results: First, some of the respondents' cognitive responses suggest that they might have been under the impression that, due to quality controls performed by federal agencies, there is little variation in the quality of patient care provided by hospitals. Second, it appears that source experience is perceived to be more ambiguous and difficult to evaluate. Third, the majority of the sample was very young (20 to 26 years of age) . For such a vital group, the choice of a hospital might not be very important.




University of Texas at Arlington.

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