Purpose: This study aims to draw on the malleable nature of processing fluency to identify the role of consumer expectation in generating diverging effects of metacognitive experiences on perception of product innovativeness and product evaluation. It also examines critical boundary conditions to offer a more sophisticated understanding of the interactive effect of expectation and processing fluency. Design/methodology/approach: Studies 1, 2A and 2B recruited 1,922 online participants, and Studies 3 and 4 recruited 644 college students. The authors manipulated product innovativeness expectation by exposing participants to expert reviews of new products, and processing fluency by presenting product detail in either easy-to-read font/color contrast or difficult-to-read font/color contrast. Subsequently, perceived product innovativeness and product evaluation including actual product adoption were measured. Findings: When a product was expected to be innovative (ordinary), feelings of difficulty with processing its detail increased (decreased) perceived innovativeness and, in turn, interest in purchase. The observation occurred only when a credible external source (vs firms) generated the innovativeness expectation or consumers’ elaboration level was not high. Furthermore, when innovativeness became associated with negative implications, perceived innovativeness no longer enhanced but impaired purchase intention. Research limitations/implications: Studies used incrementally new products only. Really new products involving a high adoption risk might produce a diverging effect. The findings need to be replicated with higher involvement products. An ideal level of difficulty with comprehending product information was not examined in the present research. Practical implications: Results carry significant weight for firms who seek to draw consumer attention to their new products by choosing an optimal format of product presentation. The findings suggest that they can proactively administer a proper level of ease/difficulty with comprehending product detail depending on the extent of product innovativeness and target audience. Originality/value: Extant research has not addressed how the malleable nature of processing fluency systematically affects innovativeness perception and product evaluation. The key contribution of this paper to the metacognition literature is the role of consumer expectation that alters the meaning of metacognitive experiences in relation to innovativeness perception. In addition, this is one of the first to empirically investigate perceptual processing fluency in the elaboration likelihood model theory.
- Metacognitive experience
- Processing fluency