chapter  12
29 Pages

Experiential consumption: Affect – emotions – hedonism

ByKarl Titz

People gravitate to the things that make them feel good. Pleasure and pain are individually defined and lie on a continuum of affective states. Emotions are cognitive linguistic constructs used to give meaning to affective states. Emotional meaning is what differentiates humans from the animal world. We can assess the emotional meanings given to affective states. However, the nature of affect is auto-responsive and instinctual. Thus, while we grasp for individually defined meanings of feelings or affective states, we move toward pleasure and away from pain. One problem or a limiting factor associated with the study of hedonism is the paucity of normative studies. The pathology of hedonism has received attention through the ages and must be examined to understand normative hedonic responses. Pathological hedonism is the extreme of originally normative hedonic response. The alcoholic, the drug addict, the sex addict, the compulsive spender, the food addict, and the gambling addict engage in hedonism carried to the extreme. The pathology, originally used to mask pain, turned to compulsive addictive behavior. Hirschman and Holbrook (1982) coined the phrase, hedonic consump-

tion. They traced the evolution of the concept from product symbolism (Levy, 1959, 1963; Grubb and Grathwohl, 1967). Motivation Research was another footing for experiential consumption (Dichter, 1960). However, the most significant contribution comes from behavioral sciences. Fantasy and absorbing experience (Singer, 1966; Swanson, 1978), culture production systems in sociology (Hirsch, 1972; Becker, 1973; Crane, 1976), aesthetics within philosophy (Jaeger, 1945), and psycholinguistics, i.e., the study of affective response (Osgood et al., 1957) all have contributed to the theoretical development of hedonic consumption. Hirschman and Holbrook (1982, p. 92) defined hedonic consumption, alternatively referred to as experiential consumption, as ‘those facets of consumer behavior that relate to the multi-sensory, fantasy and emotive aspects of one’s experience with products’. Given the nature of hospitality, travel, and tourism, hedonism is a

natural lens through which to examine the consumption experience. When lounging on a South Sea island or engaged in sumptuous feasting surrounded by beautiful people, what are the underlying experiential states, and what do they tell us about the individual? Some answers to these questions can be found using hedonic constructs, and hedonic scales of likes and dislikes have long been part of the social science methodology. Hedonic or experiential consumption is central to a comprehensive

understanding of consumer behavior in the hospitality and tourism context. The intangibility of the hospitality product must be viewed through a variety of lenses to understand the fullness of the phenomena. The study of hedonic aspects of consumption experiences ties aptly into this intangibility. Examples include an adventure vacation,

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a memorable meal, or the surroundings of a plush hotel, all of which illustrate the complex nature of consumption experiences. Why does an individual choose one experience over another and what experiential qualities resonate in the individual psyche? The affective emotional states elicited as well as sought in the purchase of these experiences can and will enable developers, marketers, and managers to better understand, design, serve, and market tourism and hospitality experiences. This chapter begins by defining nomenclature associated with

experiential consumption. Particular attention is paid to a variety of conceptual models that may aid in our understanding of the hedonic aspects of the consumption experience. The review includes literatures on atmospherics, tourism, service, food, and lodging. Models and a summary table are presented and discussed for completed studies in each area covering issues on sampling, research design, analysis methods, and key findings. Discussed next are directions for future research, followed by current applications and benefits derived from research on experiential consumption. The reader should be able to grasp both the work completed as well as the wealth of opportunity and potential for the examination of consumer behavior through understanding experiential consumption.