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The role of emotional intelligence in consumer responses to advertising

O papel da inteligência emocional nas respostas do consumidor à publicidade
Ana Cristina Antunes e Francisco Costa Pereira
p. 29-44


As diferenças existentes entre consumidores podem originar reacções distintas face à publicidade. A presente investigação é um estudo exploratório que pretende analisar a influência da inteligência emocional, da necessidade de cognição e da necessidade de emoção nas respostas à publicidade dadas pelos consumidores. Os resultados obtidos confirmam a importância de considerar a inteligência emocional como um factor relevante para prever a opinião global e a atitude desenvolvida relativamente ao anúncio, bem como as respostas emocionais do consumidor quando confrontado com o anúncio. É ainda discutida a influência da necessidade de cognição e da necessidade de emoção nas reacções emocionais perante a publicidade.

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1. Introduction

1In a competitive and continuously changing world, where new forms of media are arising and becoming increasingly popular, advertising needs to be effective. In order to be effective, advertising has to attend to a multitude of factors. It is undeniable the influence that variables like culture, social class, lifestyles and the social group exert on the individual and his/her responses to advertising.

2Besides these variables, the characteristics of the receptor have been widely recognized has having a major impact on advertising effectiveness. In fact, there is evidence that supports the claim that individual differences can lead to changes in the way people respond to an advertising appeal (Moore et al., 1995; LaBarbera et al., 1998; Ruiz and Sicilia, 2004).

3Affect and cognition are two main individual processes that exert an influence on affective and behavioural responses and some attention as been devoted in trying to understanding more clearly the influence of these two variables in advertising effectiveness (Fabrigar and Petty, 1999; Harris and Moore, 1990).

4One of the individual characteristics related to cognition focuses on the cognitive style and is referred to as the need for cognition. Need for cognition (NFC) can be defined as «the tendency to engage in and enjoy thinking» (Cacioppo and Petty, 1982, pp. 116). The researchers usually distinguish between two groups of individuals, high and low NFC individuals, and this individual’s propensity for cognition influences a wide range of consumer attitudes and behaviors. There is evidence that attitudes of individuals with high NFC are more resistant and persistent over time (Areni et al., 2000) and their consumer attitudes towards new products can be predicted by their cognitive responses whereas attitudes of their low NFC counterparts can not (Haughvedt, Petty and Cacioppo, 1992). The differences in NFC also influence the reaction to advertising: individuals high on NFC a) respond more positively to informationally dense ads and ads containing high quality arguments (Cacioppo et al, 1996), b) prefer factual ads whereas those with low NFC prefer evaluative ads (Venkatraman; Marlino, Kardes and Sklar, 1990), c) process and evaluate advertising information more thoroughly than low NFC individuals (Mantel and Kardes, 1999; Peltier and Schibrowsky, 1994), d) only react to promotional signals if they are accompanied by a price cut whereas their NFC counterparts react to a mere presence of a promotional signal (Inman, McAllister and Hoyer, 1990). So, the diagnosis of information is the focus for high NFC individuals (MacInnis and Jaworski, 1989; Petty et al., 1983), for they are mo- tivated to elaborate and process the message advertisement quite carefully whereas the low NFC individuals prefer to use heuristic processing. However, when little information is available in the ad and it is mainly emotional, the effectiveness of the ad it’s similar for both high and low NFC individuals (Ruiz and Sicilia, 2004).

5Although most of the consumer behavior research still relies on cognitive topics, the study of emotions is arising as a trend, included in what Simonson et al. (2001) refer to as «hot topics» in consumer behaviour. Affect can influence a variety of behavioral phenomena (Wegener and Petty, 1994), including the arousal of consumer behaviours (Ferrés, 1996) or individual responses to advertising (Ruiz and Sicilia, 2004).

  • 1 These measures are the Standartized Emotion Profile (Holbrook & Batra, 1987), the Feeling-Belief me (...)

6Several measures have been developed to account for the affective processing style1and one of these measures is Need for Emotion (Raman, Chattopadhyay and Hoyer, 1995), based on the idea that individuals differ in their tendencies to process affective or emotional stimuli. Need for emotion (NFE) can be defined as the «tendency or propensity for individuals to seek out emotional situations, enjoy emotional stimuli, and exhibit a preference to use emotion in interacting with the world» (Raman, Chattopadhyay and Hoyer 1995, p. 537). Although it has been suggested that NFE is situationally bounded and is mainly directed at short range emotions instead of more lasting emotional states, NFE can partially explain patterns of individual behaviour.

7The research interest in the impact of emotions in advertising is clear when we consider not only the different forms of measurement developed but also the number of studies that compare the relative impact of emotional versus informational advertising appeals on cognitions, attitudes and behavioural intentions (Fabrigar and Petty, 1999). Using the concept of affect intensity (AI), one of the constructs related to need for emotion, several studies have been designed to understand the influence of advertising in consumers’ emotions (Aaker et al., 1986; Geuens and Pelsmacker, 1999; Larsen and Diener, 1987; Moore and Harris, 1996). One of the results is that some people experience their emotions with greater vividness or a greater magnitude of intensity when exposed to emotional stimuli (Aaker et al., 1986; Larsen and Diener, 1987). Using these results, Moore, Harris and Chen (1995) found that high affect intensity (AI) individuals reported higher levels of affective reactivity when facing an emotional appeal than did their low counterparts, regardless of whether the emotions were positive or negative. Yet, there seems to be no difference in the emotional response intensity when both types of individuals, high and low AI, are exposed to a non-emotional appeal. In an extension of this study, Moore and Harris (1996) found that when ads are emotional, either conveying positive or negative emotions, high AI persons had stronger emotional reactions than their low AI counterparts. This difference was not present in the case of non emotional ads. High AI individuals had also stronger attitudes toward the ad but only when they are exposed to a positive emotional ad. These findings imply that one of the reasons for the effect of emotional ads lies in the characteristics of the individuals exposed to the ads. They also hint that high AI individuals are more likely persuaded by emotionally charged advertising appeals.

8Also related to the style of affective processing is one of the most popular topics of research nowadays, emotional intelligence. The study of this construct evolved from the broader approaches to understand intelligence proposed by Gardner (1983) and Williams and Sternberg (1988). Originally conceptualized by Salovey and Mayer (1990), emotional intelligence involves

«the ability to perceive accurately, appraise and express emotion; the ability to access and/or generate feelings when they facilitate thought; the ability to understand emotion and emotional knowledge; and the ability to regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth» (Salovey and Mayer, 1990, pp. 10).

  • 2 The two last ones were called by Meyer, Salovey & Caruso (2000) «mixed models» because they mix in (...)

9There has been a considerable effort to theoretically develop this construct and the actual result is the existence of three different models, ranging from the ability models (Meyer and Salovey, 1997) to the non-cognitive (Bar- On, 1997) and competency-based models (Goleman, 2001).2

10According to Meyer and Salovey’s ability model (1997) emotional intelligence is a type of intelligence that involves a set of skills related to emotions and to the processing of emotional information. These abilities generally pertain to the perception, the expression and the regulation/management of emotions and the capacity to utilize (or reason with) emotions in thought (Mayer, Salovey and Caruso, 2000), therefore giving a relevant contribution to logical thought and intelligence. There is a hierarchical organization in these abilities, from the most basic to the most complex and integrated psychological processes, and they are thought to develop much the same way as the crystallised abilities do (Meyer and Salovey, 1993).

11Bar-On (1997, 2006) and Goleman (1995, 2001) have taken emotional intelligence one step away, with broader perspectives that include desirable motivational, interpersonal, and intrapsychic attributes that resemble perso- nality traits and attitudes more than traditional abilities. The non-cognitive model proposed by Bar-On (1997) is so called because it portrays emotional intelligence as an «array of non-cognitive capabilities, competencies and skills that influence one’s ability to succeed in coping with environmental demands and pressures» (Bar-On, 1997, pp.14). The operationalization of this model considers 15 non-cognitive components that resemble personality factors. These components can be grouped into five specific dimensions that are: intrapersonal emotional intelligence, interpersonal emotional intelligence, adaptability emotional intelligence, stress management emotional intelligence and general mood emotional intelligence. Goleman’s (2001) competency-based model is specifically directed for workplace applications, with an emphasis on leaders. This model involves 20 competencies that distinguish individual differences in the workplace performance. These competencies relate to how we manage our own feelings and our relationships with others and can be grouped in four clusters: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.

12Emotional intelligence has been studied for its numerous relationships with other variables, like leadership (Bertges, 2002; Leban and Zulauf, 2004), its influence on work and school performance (Van Rooy and Viswesvaran, 2004) or in problem solving (Schutte et al., 2000). But its relationship with advertising as not yet been established, therefore increasing the relevance of this research.

13For its importance, the attitudinal responses to advertising have been studied since the 1950s (Cohen, 1990), but it was with the works of Mitchell and Olson (1981) that a new concept as arised, the attitude toward the ad (Aad). Several models have been proposed (Lutz et al., 1983; MacKenzie and Lutz, 1989) to explain the antecedents of Aadand its causal relations and there is already a considerable body of evidence on the Aadeffects on brand attitude and brand cognition (Batra and Ray, 1986; Lutz, 1985; MacKenzie et al., 1986; Brown and Stayman, 1992). Aadwas chosen in this study as depen- dent variable for its relation with advertising effectiveness. Emotional responses to advertisements interact with viewing contexts and influence Aad (Coulter, 1998; Coulter and Punj, 1999).

14The main purpose of this investigation is to analyse the role that these three variables, the individual tendencies to engage in affective or cognitive activities and emotional intelligence, play in the responses to advertising.

2. Method

2.1. Subjects

15Eighty-seven undergraduate students attending Escola Superior de Comunicação Social participated in this study. Of this sample 78,2 % were female and 21,8% were male. Their ages ranged between 18 and 27 with a mean age of 19,6 years.

2.2. Measures

16All of the data and measures used in this study were operationalized, collected and measured at the individual level of analysis, since our intention is to analyse individual responses to advertising.

17Three instruments were used to measure affect and cognition in the individuals, our independent variables. These measures are the Need for Cognition Scale (Cacioppo et al., 1984), the Need for Emotion Scale (Raman, Chattopadhyay and Hoyer, 1995) and the Emotional Competence Inventory (Boyatsis, Goleman & Rhee. 1999), using a 5 point Likert scale (1= strongly disagree, 5= strongly agree). The Need for Cognition and Need for Emotion scales are both unidimensional measures. The Emotional Competence Inventory is designed to measure four dimensions associated with emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.

18Attitude toward the ad (Aad), the global evaluation of the ad and the emotional response toward the ads were our dependent variables. They were chosen because they are related to the concept of advertising effectiveness.

19Global evaluation of the ad is made using a single-item associated with a 5 point scale (1= I didn’t like it at all, 5= I liked it a lot). The emotional response toward the ad was assessed with PAD (Meharabian and Russell, 1974), a 18-item self-report instrument in the form of a semantic differential. This five-point semantic differential evaluates three independent dimensions of emotional responses: Pleasure, Activation and Domination.

20A scale was devised to measure attitude toward the ad, its items extracted from the relevant literature (e.g., MacKenzie and Lutz, 1989). Aadscale has 21 items and is answered using a 5 point Likert scale (1= strongly disagree, 5= strongly agree).

2.3. Procedure

21The administration of the instruments and exposition to the advertisements took place in Escola Superior de Comunicação Social after the subjects were told that the general purpose of the study was to investigate the relation between individual variables and advertising. The voluntary nature of participation was stressed and the confidentiality of the data guaranteed. Subjects were further informed that their first activity involved thinking about a series of statements and were presented the NFE, the NFC and the ECI scales. Following, the individuals were exposed twice to ad 1 and were asked to fill a questionnaire intended to measure Aad, the emotional response and the global evaluation of the ad. After viewing the second ad, a similar process took place. Both advertisements were television ads and they were real. The first advertisement is mainly emotional and is related to a symbolic dimension, whereas the second ad contains information about environmental behaviour.

3. Results

22Table 1 reports the descriptive statistics for the three independent variables in this investigation, namely Need for Cognition (NFC), Need for Emotion (NFE) and Emotional Intelligence (EI).

Table 1 – Descriptive statistics for NFC, NFE and EI





Std. deviation


Need for Emotion







Need for Cognition







E. I. Self-Awareness







E. I. Self-Management







E. I. Social Awareness







E. I. Relationship Management







23As can be observed, the scales present a mean result around 3,5 and have low levels of dispersion. Tables 2 and 3 provide descriptive statistics concerning the individual reactions to the ads. The division in two tables is an attempt to present separately the reactions to ad 1 and ad 2.

Table 2 – Descriptive statistics for overall evaluation emotional and attitudinal reactions) to ad 1

Message reactions to ad one





Std. deviation


Global Opinion






PAD – Pleasure







PAD – Arousal







PAD – Domination







Aad -Affective dimension







Aad -Cognitive dimension







Table 3 – Descriptive statistics for overall evaluation, emotional and attitudinal reactions to ads 2

Message reaction to ad two





Std. deviation


Global Opinion






PAD – Pleasure







PAD – Arousal







PAD – Domination







Aad -Affective dimension







Aad-Cognitive dimension







24The analysis show us that in general the mean results are higher for reactions to advertisement 2 comparatively with reactions to advertisement 1, exception made in arousal dimension of the emotional response toward the ad 1 and the affective dimension of the Aad1. All the coefficient alphas obtai- ned are acceptable, indicating an adequate internal reliability, with one exception, the arousal dimension of the emotional response toward advertisement 1.

25Next, the relationship between affect and cognition scores and our dependent variables were investigated. Tables 4 and 5 specifies the correlations between Need for Cognition, Need for Emotion and Emotional Intelligence, on one hand, and global opinion of the ad, emotional responses toward the ad and Aad, on the other.

Table 4 – Pearson correlation coefficients for NFC, NFE, EI, the global opinion and the dimension Pleasure


Global opinion



Ad one

Ad two

Ad one

Ad two

Need for Emotion





Need for Cognition

– 0,200


– 0,213


E. I. Self-Awareness

– 0,046




E. I. Self-Management

– 0,018




E. I. Social Awareness

– 0,005


– 0,112


E. I. Relationship Management



– 0,019


Table 5 – Pearson correlation coefficients for NFC, NFE, EI and Aadand the arousal dimension


Aad – Affective Dimension

Aad – Cognitive Dimension



Ad one

Ad two

Ad one

Ad two

Ad one

Ad two

Need for Emotion



– 0,026




Need for Cognition

– 0,064


– 0,142




E. I. Self– Awareness



– 0,030




E. I. Self– Management



– 0,047




E. I. Social Awareness



– 0,094


– 0,007


E. I. Relationship Management







26The results point out that the several dimensions of affect and cognition are related to global opinion of the ad, emotional responses toward the ad and Aad. All the correlations were only found for advertisement 2, for the responses to advertisement 1 appear to have no relation with the personality variables measured in this study.

27The global opinion of ad two is significantly related to emotional intelligence but not with need for emotion nor need for cognition. This implies that individuals with a higher EI will present a more favourable global opinion to the ad. But these two variables, need for cognition and need for emotion are both related to the dimension pleasure found in emotional responses to advertisement 2, while need for emotion also maintains a significant correlation with the dimension arousal of the emotional response toward the ad (in ad 2). This emotional dimension is also correlated with self-management (one of the dimensions of EI). There is a remarkable pattern of correlations between the attitude toward ad 2 (considering both components, affective and cognitive dimensions) and all the independent variables of our study, need for cognition, need for emotion and emotional intelligence.

28The nature of these relations between the independent variables and the reactions to ad 2 was further investigated with a regression analysis.

29The results show that emotional intelligence can predict, at a short length, the attitude toward the ad, its affective dimension being a function of Relationship Management in a explanation of 8,0% with a Beta of 0,302 and the cognitive dimension also being predicted by the same cluster of emotional intelligence, that explains 10,8% of the variance found (β = 0,344). There are not differences produced in Aaddue to a higher NFE, contrary to what was expected considering the results obtained with individuals with high lev- els of affect intensity (Moore and Harris, 1996).

30Emotional intelligence (specifically the dimension Self-Management) and need for emotion are both predictors for the dimension Arousal of the emotional response toward the ad 2, explaining together 16,4% of the variance found in this variable (β1 = -0,301; β2 = -0,235). This can help explain the tendency, detected in high affect intensity individuals, to be more persuaded by emotionally charged advertising appeals (Moore and Harris, 1996). The arousal associated with the emotional response towards an ad encountered in high NFE individuals can lead to a higher propensity to attend to the appeals presented, that can therefore exert a higher influence.

31The dimension Pleasure of the emotional response toward the ad 2 is a function of Need for Emotion (NFE) and Need for Cognition (NFC), that together explain 12,9% of the variance in this variable (β1 = -0,270; β2 = -0,232). Besides the evidence already collected by Areni et al. (2000), Haughvedt, Petty and Cacioppo (1992), Cacioppo et al. (1996), Venkatraman; Marlino, Kardes and Sklar (1990), Mantel and Kardes (1999) and Peltier and Schibrowsky (1994) concerning NFC and its impact on several variables, our results point to the important influence that NFC exerts on the emotional response toward an ad, when conjugated with NFE. This provides empirical evidence of the interaction between emotion and cognition that has been re- cently established in literature.

32In this case, with an emotional advertisement, the results presented by Ruiz and Sicilia (2004) were not fully replicated, since there are differences in the effectiveness of an advertisement for high and low NFC individuals. But it is important to consider that this effect appears as relevant when conjugated with need for emotion.

33Also contrary to what was expected attending to the existing literature, individuals with higher scores on NFC did not prefer the factual and informative ad (ad 1), nor responded more positively to the ad that contained more rational and consistent arguments (ad 1).

34Finally, Relationship Management (one of the dimensions from EI) predicts the global opinion of advertisement 2, although its contribution is limi- ted to 5,6% of the variance associated with this variable (β = 0,261).

35To conclude this analysis, canonical correlations were performed bet ween the two sets of variables, the personality variables (EI, NFC, NFE) and the consumer responses to advertising. We found a high correlation between the two sets, 0,418 for the first message and 0,528 for the second message, but with a lower level of significance, 0,62 for the first message and 0,26 for the second message. These results show that there are some interesting relations between the two sets, but they didn’t work well maybe due to the reduced sample used in this research.

4. Conclusions

36The current research has already emphasised the link between affect and cognition in advertising (Burke and Edell, 1989; Ruiz and Sicilia, 2004; Zajonc and Markus, 1982) and state that the preference for the use of affect or cognition can lead to different personality types or different processing styles in what concerns to reactions to advertising. But all the empirical research has not yet considered what seems to be a important individual difference, emotional intelligence, and its role in the genesis, maintenance and development of opinions and attitudes toward the ad as well as in the development of emotional responses toward the ad. Individuals with a higher EI show a tendency to produce more favourable opinions, stronger emotional responses and a more positive attitude toward emotional advertisements. Therefore, emotional intelligence influences the advertisement effectiveness. Contrarily to what is predicted in the literature (Cacciopo et al., 1996), the tendency to present a higher need for cognition is not related, in this study, to

37positive responses to informational ads.

38Evidence in favour of the interplay between affect and cognition is also provided, at an empirical level, namely for its effect on the emotional response developed toward emotional advertisements.

39For its attempt to investigate the influence of several personality variables (some of them not yet studied in advertising, e.g., emotional intelligence) over consumer responses to advertising, this study takes us a step further in the comprehension of the impact of the individual variables on advertising responses.

5. Practical and theoretical implications

40The study findings have several interesting implications for advertising. The individual differences in the tendency to use affective or cognitive information for guiding an attitude (Haddock and Zanna, 1993) also guide the attitude toward the ad. At this level, emotional intelligence seems to be an im- portant variable to help explain the development of an attitude toward an advertisement.

6. Some limitations of this study

41The size of our sample could be a limitation, but its dimension is enough for our purposes in this exploratory analysis.

42Since there is no evidence of relationships between the consumer variables and the informational advertisement, it is important to use another set of emotional and informational advertisements, to further investigate the eventual relationships among these variables and the ads.

43Other analysis should be developed to measure the stability of the independent and dependent variables.

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1 These measures are the Standartized Emotion Profile (Holbrook & Batra, 1987), the Feeling-Belief measure (Haddock & Zanna, 1993), the Consumption Emotion Set (Richins, 1997) or the Preference for Affect scale (Sojka & Giese, 1997).

2 The two last ones were called by Meyer, Salovey & Caruso (2000) «mixed models» because they mix in variables that have not been scientifically validated as being related to intelligence.

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Para citar este artigo

Referência do documento impresso

Ana Cristina Antunes e Francisco Costa Pereira, «The role of emotional intelligence in consumer responses to advertising»Comunicação Pública, vol.3 nº5 | 2007, 29-44.

Referência eletrónica

Ana Cristina Antunes e Francisco Costa Pereira, «The role of emotional intelligence in consumer responses to advertising»Comunicação Pública [Online], vol.3 nº5 | 2007, posto online no dia 15 outubro 2020, consultado o 01 março 2021. URL:; DOI:

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Ana Cristina Antunes

Escola Superior de Comunicação Social
Campus de Benfica do Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa

Artigos do mesmo autor

Francisco Costa Pereira

Escola Superior de Comunicação Social
Campus de Benfica do Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa

Artigos do mesmo autor

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Comunicação Pública Este trabalho está licenciado com uma Licença Creative Commons - Atribuição-NãoComercial 4.0 Internacional.

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