Consumer psychology in a virtual store : the impact of automatic priming and assimilation/contrast effect on shoppers’ perceptions and behaviors
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The goal of this dissertation is to understand unconscious effects in a 3D virtual store by examining how environmental cues in a store prime consumers and change their perceptions and behaviors automatically. By replicating and extending Bargh’s (1996) priming study, it was hypothesized and confirmed that age stereotypical avatars activate stereotype related concepts and influence shoppers’ walking speed as well as their choice of a product in a 3D virtual store setting. Further, the study proved that priming through elderly avatars can positively affect participants’ intentions to donate and to volunteer for a charity organization. The results supported the predictions of an automatic priming effect and an assimilation/contrast effect with important qualifications related to preexisting prejudices. The findings of this dissertation provide directions for future research and practical insights for online retailers and marketers of nonprofit organizations that will help them design and use virtual environments to maximize marketing outcomes.