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This research finds that merely touching an object results in an increase in perceived ownership of that object. For nonowners, or buyers, perceived ownership can be increased with either mere touch or with imagery encouraging touch. Perceived ownership can also be increased through touch for legal owners, or sellers of an object. We also explore valuation of an object and conclude that it is jointly influenced by both perceived ownership and by the valence of the touch experience. We discuss the implications of this research for online and traditional retailers as well as for touch research and endowment effect research.
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56
Journal of Marketing
Vol. 70 (October 2006), 56–69
© 2006, American Marketing Association
ISSN: 0022-2429 (print), 1547-7185 (electronic)
Joann Peck & Jennifer Wiggins
It Just Feels Good: Customers’
Affective Response to Touch and Its
Influence on Persuasion
Prior research has assumed that touch has a persuasive effect only if it provides attribute or structural information
about a product. Under this view, the role of touch as a persuasive tool is limited. The main purpose of this research
is to investigate the persuasive influence of touch as an affective tool in the
absence
of useful product-related
information. The authors find that for people who are motivated to touch because it is fun or interesting, a
communication that incorporates touch leads to increased affective response and increased persuasion,
particularly when the touch provides neutral or positive sensory feedback. People who are not motivated to touch
for fun will also be persuaded by a communication that incorporates touch when they are able to make sense of
how the touch is related to the message. The authors explore the effectiveness of different types of touch in
generating an affective response, and they replicate the effects on attitudes and behavior in a real-world setting.
This research suggests that the marketing implications of touch are more substantial than previously believed. The
authors present research implications for direct marketing, product packaging, point-of-purchase displays, and print
advertising.
Joann Peck is Assistant Professor of Marketing, University of Wisconsin-
Madison (e-mail: jpeck@bus.wisc.edu). Jennifer Wiggins is Assistant Pro-
fessor of Marketing, Kent State University (e-mail: jjohnson@bsa3.kent.
edu). The authors thank the Madison Children’s Museum for its coopera-
tion on this project, and they thank Jan Heide, Ken Wathne, Sung Kim,
and Neeraj Arora, as well as colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-
Madison, University of Chicago, and the Haring Symposium, for their
helpful suggestions and feedback. Finally, they thank the three anony-
mous
JM
reviewers who helped strengthen this research. This research
was funded, in part, by a grant to the first author from the University of
Wisconsin-Madison graduate school.
To read or contribute to reader and author dialogue on this article, visit
http://www.marketingpower.com/jmblog.
T
he opportunity to touch products has been shown to
have a persuasive influence on customers’ attitudes
and behavior. Touching a product has been found to
increase attitudes and purchase intentions toward the prod-
uct and to increase the confidence in the evaluation of these
products (Peck and Childers 2003a). The need to touch in
product evaluation has been linked to the placement of
products in stores (Underhill 1999) and to the inability of
certain products to be sold online (Citrin et al. 2003;
McCabe and Nowlis 2003).
Most applications in marketing focus on touch that pro-
vides specific attribute information about the product. For
example, the packages of both Paper Mate Dynagrip pens
and Ove Glove have portions of the plastic cut out, allowing
shoppers to explore and examine the grip of the pen and the
unique fabric that makes the gloves heatproof. DuPont cre-
ated a one-page advertisement for paper used to make
overnight courier envelopes that stated, “Go Ahead: Tear
this Page in Half” (this appeared in Fortune Magazine,
December 29, 1997). Attempting the near impossible task
of tearing the page conveys the product benefit of the
strength of the paper. Such efforts have been shown to have
an effect on purchase behavior; for example, providing
unwrapped rolls of toilet paper in a point-of-purchase dis-
play that allowed customers to feel and compare the tex-
tures of different brands resulted in large increases in sales
for the store brand in a supermarket chain (Britain’s ASDA;
see Lindstrom 2005).
For touch to have an influence in marketing decisions
and evaluations, must it provide product attribute informa-
tion, or can hedonic aspects of touch also be persuasive?
The importance of hedonic benefits to consumers in mar-
keting has been recognized in the areas of sales promotions
(e.g., Chandon, Wansink, and Laurent 2000) and retailing
(e.g., Arnold and Reynolds 2003). In this article, we exam-
ine whether the hedonic benefits of touch influence deci-
sions independent of the information gathered through
touch. We suggest that touch can create an affective
response, which can influence a customer’s decision-
making process even though the touch adds no product-
related information to the decision.
If the hedonic aspects of touch can increase persuasion,
the use of touch in marketing may be more broadly applica-
ble than previously believed. Thus far, efforts have been
limited to touch that provides attribute information about a
product; it is often the case that this kind of touch can be
used effectively only in contexts in which customers can
physically evaluate the product. However, the use of touch
as a hedonic tool has the potential to be applied to a broad
set of products and even services and in a wide variety of
contexts that were previously unrecognized in studies of
touch, including package design, print advertising, direct-
mail advertising, and point-of-purchase displays.
Customers’ Affective Response to Touch / 57
1
Note that persuasion includes measures of attitude toward the
message and attitude toward the organization as well as behavioral
measures. For simplicity, we use the term “persuasion.
Background and Hypotheses
Instrumental and Autotelic Need for Touch
Peck and Childers (2003b) find that the effects of touch are
stronger for some people than for others. They identify indi-
vidual differences in need for touch (NFT), that is, a per-
son’s preference for the extraction and utilization of infor-
mation obtained through touch. Prior research (see Citrin et
al. 2003; Peck and Childers 2003a) has found that some
people prefer to evaluate products through touch and are
more frustrated when shopping if they do not have the
opportunity to touch products. The NFT is conceptualized
as having two dimensions: instrumental NFT and autotelic
NFT (Peck and Childers 2003b). People who are high in
instrumental NFT use touch to gather information about a
product to help them make judgments. They are more adept
at gathering information through touch, and the opportunity
to touch products provides them with access to relevant
information they cannot gather through other means, such
as reading descriptions of products or visually inspecting
products (Peck and Childers 2003a). A customer who is
high in instrumental NFT touches a sweater to learn if the
material is thick enough to provide warmth. In addition to
customers’ “rational” information-gathering motives, some
people shop for the sensory experiences (Holbrook and
Hirschman 1982; Sherry 1990). In contrast, people who are
high in autotelic NFT engage in touch because it is fun,
interesting, or enjoyable, an experience that is more hedonic
than instrumental. A person who is high in autotelic NFT
often feels an irresistible need to engage in exploratory
touch and is focused on the sensory aspects of touch as an
end in and of itself (Peck and Childers 2003b). The cus-
tomer who fingers the sleeve of a cashmere sweater that he
or she has no intention of purchasing, simply because the
cashmere feels pleasant to touch, is likely to be high in
autotelic NFT.
If touch that does not convey a product attribute can
affect persuasion, we expect that this type of touch will be
more effective for certain people. Specifically, we posit that
a message that incorporates a touch element without prod-
uct attribute information will be more persuasive for people
who are high in autotelic NFT than a message with no touch
element. However, we expect that people who are low in
autotelic NFT will not find touch as inherently interesting
or as irresistible. Consequently, we expect that a touch ele-
ment that does not provide attribute information will not
influence people who are low in autotelic NFT. This leads
to our baseline hypothesis:
H
1
: A message that incorporates a touch element (versus a
message with no touch element) will increase persuasion
for people who are high in autotelic NFT but will not
influence persuasion for those who are low in autotelic
NFT.
1
Autotelic NFT and the Sensory Feedback of the
Touch Information
It is probable that the type and valence of sensory feedback
provided by the touch element influence its persuasiveness.
Touch that produces positive sensory feedback has been
shown to increase attitudes more for high-NFT people than
for low-NFT people. In one study, high-NFT people exhib-
ited a larger increase in attitudes when they touched a soft
sweater that was pleasant to touch than when they touched a
rough sweater that was less pleasant to touch (Peck 1999).
The pleasant sensory experience of touching the soft
sweater appears to have increased persuasion more for the
high- than for the low-NFT participants. The affective
nature of autotelic NFT suggests that people who are high
in autotelic NFT are likely to have a stronger affective
response to touch than those who are low in autotelic NFT.
This implies that people who are high in autotelic NFT, in
particular, are likely to be more susceptible to the increase
in persuasion that comes from a pleasant touch experience.
Positive affective responses have been shown to influ-
ence attitudes and behavior. In advertising research, induc-
ing a positive mood in viewers or generating a positive
affective response has been found to increase attitude
toward the ad (see Aaker, Stayman, and Hagerty 1986;
Batra and Ray 1986; Brown, Homer, and Inman 1998;
Burke and Edell 1989), time spent viewing the ad (Olney,
Holbrook, and Batra 1991), and attitude toward the brand
(Brown, Homer, and Inman 1998; Burke and Edell 1989;
Holbrook and Batra 1987). Positive affective responses
have also been shown to influence behavior directly. For
example, experiencing pleasure (Cunningham 1979; Forbes
and TeVault 1975; Isen and Levin 1972; Strahilevitz and
Myers 1998) has been shown to increase people’s likeli-
hood of donating to charity significantly. Positive feelings
have also been shown to increase people’s willingness to
participate in an experiment and to help people in need
(Isen 1987). Finally, positive affect has been linked to the
hedonic and experiential aspects of consumer behavior,
increasing variety-seeking behavior, experiential shopping,
and hedonic consumption (Cohen and Areni 1991;
Hirschman and Stern 1999; Kahn and Isen 1993). This sug-
gests that engaging in touch that creates a positive affective
response is likely to lead to more positive attitudes and
greater behavioral intentions toward a product.
Therefore, we expect that people who are high in
autotelic NFT will exhibit an increase in persuasion when
they are exposed to marketing messages that incorporate a
touch element with positive sensory feedback. In contrast,
people who are low in autotelic NFT are more likely to
process touch information that is included in a marketing
message in the same way that they process any other infor-
mation in the message and, therefore, will be unlikely to
experience a persuasive effect of positive sensory feedback.
Thus, touch should influence people who are low in
autotelic NFT only if it provides information that helps
them interpret the message. Exposure to a touch element
that does not provide useful information is unlikely to
increase the attitudes of such people. This leads to our next
hypothesis:
58 / Journal of Marketing, October 2006
2
The term “congruence” has also been used to describe the rela-
tionship between a piece of information that is being processed
and a person’s information-processing style (see Higgins 2000).
Our definition of congruence emphasizes the congruence between
the touch information and the message into which it is incorpo-
rated and does not imply congruence with the person who is pro-
cessing the message.
H
2
: Compared with a message with no touch element (control
condition), a message that includes a touch element with
positive sensory feedback will increase persuasion more
for people who are high (but not low) in autotelic NFT
than will a message that includes a touch element with
neutral or negative sensory feedback.
Congruence Between the Touch Element and the
Message
Consumers’ responses to additional information that is
incorporated into a marketing message, such as a picture or
a touch element, have been shown to be influenced by the
congruence between the additional information and the
message.
2
Heckler and Childers (1992) define “congru-
ence” as having two components: expectancy, or the degree
to which the additional information falls into the pattern or
structure of the message, and relevancy, or the degree to
which the additional information contributes to or detracts
from the theme of the message. Information that is unex-
pected, such as humor, has been shown to increase favor-
able evaluations and recall of an advertisement (Lee and
Mason 1999). Conversely, irrelevant information has been
shown to have a negative effect on both the evaluation and
the recall of an advertisement (Heckler and Childers 1992;
Lee and Mason 1999). This implies that incorporating a
touch element into a communication in which it would be
unexpected, such as a print advertisement or direct-mail
brochure, may lead to a favorable evaluation of the message
and increase attitude toward the message, depending on the
relevancy of the touch element to the message.
Lee and Mason (1999) suggest that the difficulty with
irrelevant information is that a person is unable to perceive
the connection between the information and the message
and, therefore, becomes frustrated. This implies that if
people who are low in autotelic NFT are processing a touch
element as part of the overall message, an irrelevant touch
element will create confusion and frustration and thus
detract from their attitude toward the message. However, if
people who are high in autotelic NFT are simply respond-
ing affectively to the touch element and not processing it as
part of the message, the negative effect of irrelevancy is
likely to be attenuated. This leads to our third hypothesis:
H
3a
: For people who are high in autotelic NFT, a message that
includes a touch element will be more persuasive than a
message that does not include a touch element, regardless
of the congruency between the touch element and the
message.
H
3b
: For people who are low in autotelic NFT, a message that
includes a touch element will be more persuasive than a
message that does not include a touch element only if the
touch element is congruent with the message.
Study 1
The purpose of Study 1 was to test H
1
–H
3
and to determine
the effects of incorporating a touch element that does not
provide product attribute information into a communica-
tions message on people who are both high and low in
autotelic NFT. Study 1 was a 2 (touch element: present ver-
sus absent) × 2 (autotelic NFT: high versus low [determined
by a median split]) design; the first factor was manipulated
between subjects, and the second factor was measured
between subjects. Nested within the touch-element condi-
tion were two levels of congruence between the touch ele-
ment and the message (congruent and incongruent [deter-
mined by a pretest]) and three levels of sensory feedback
(positive, neutral, and negative [determined by a pretest]);
both were manipulated between subjects.
Variables and Procedure
Three hundred forty-five undergraduate students partici-
pated in exchange for extra credit in a marketing class. Each
participant read a pamphlet with the same message that
requested that the participant make a donation of time or
money to an arboretum located in the Midwest (see Appen-
dix A). We asked participants to list their thoughts as they
read the pamphlet. In the touch-element conditions, a touch
element was attached to the front of the pamphlet. We used
six touch elements in all; we varied the sensory feedback or
valence provided by the touch element and the congruence
between the touch element and the message across
conditions.
We evaluated congruence of the touch element with the
message and sensory feedback through pretests. We pre-
sented each participant in the congruency pretest (n = 56)
with three of the six sample touch elements (we counterbal-
anced the order and found no order effects) and the pam-
phlet with the arboretum appeal and asked them to rate the
congruence of each sample touch element with the appeal.
We measured congruence using two questions: “The ‘fit’ of
this touch sample with the pamphlet is…?” with endpoints
“very bad/very good” and “very unfavorable/very favor-
able,” each of which were seven-point scales. We averaged
the two measures of congruence (all r’s > .85) to obtain one
measure of congruence for each touch element. Participants
rated three touch elements as highly congruent with the
message of the pamphlet: a feather (M = 5.18), tree bark
(M = 5.52), and sandpaper (M = 4.14), and none was sig-
nificantly higher than the others on congruence (ps > .05).
Participants rated three other touch elements as being low
on congruence with the message: a soft silver swatch (M =
2.42), a slightly textured black-and-gold swatch (M = 1.90),
and steel wool (M = 2.62), and none was significantly dif-
ferent from the others (all ps > .05). The three congruent
touch elements were all significantly higher on congruency
than the incongruent touch elements.
A second pretest evaluated the valence of the sensory
feedback provided by touching each touch element. Thirty-
six participants rated how pleasant each of the touch ele-
ments was to touch on a seven-point scale. For the congru-
ent touch elements, participants rated the feather as
extremely positive (M = 5.68), the tree bark as neutral (M =
Customers’ Affective Response to Touch / 59
3
We conducted one final pretest to ensure that vision did not
influence the touch valence ratings. Sixteen participants evaluated
the valence of the six touch elements without vision. We put each
touch element in an enclosed box and instructed the participant to
reach in and touch the six touch elements, which we presented one
at a time with the order counterbalanced. We found no significant
order effects, and the valence ratings mirrored those we found in
the presence of vision.
4
Because we used undergraduate students, we also included a
measure that stated, “This pamphlet would encourage other people
to be more likely to donate time or money to the Arboretum.” This
question elicited slightly higher means than the students’ own will-
ingness to donate, but we obtained the same pattern of results, so
we do not report these.
5
We were concerned that the autotelic dimension of the NFT
scale would be too focused on product touch to capture the effects
in this context. We administered an additional scale, which
included items modified from the autotelic NFT scale to move
away from referring to actual product touch (for a list of autotelic
NFT items and additional touch items [called “Funtouch”], see
Appendix B). We also analyzed all studies using the Funtouch
items and found the same results as we did for the autotelic NFT
items. For simplicity, we report only the autotelic NFT results.
4.01), and the sandpaper as negatively valenced (M = 2.90).
Using paired valence t-tests, we obtained the following
results: feather versus tree bark: t(35) = 5.84, p < .01;
feather versus sandpaper: t(35) = 8.45, p < .01; and tree
bark versus sandpaper: t(35) = 2.42, p < .01. Among the
incongruent touch elements, participants rated the soft sil-
ver swatch as extremely positive (M = 5.59), the slightly
textured black-and-gold swatch as neutral (M = 4.04), and
the steel wool as negatively valenced (M = 2.90). Again,
using paired valence t-tests, we obtained the following
results: soft silver swatch versus black-and-gold swatch:
t(35) = 6.53, p < .01; soft silver swatch versus steel wool:
t(35) = 10.60, p < .01; and slightly textured black-and-gold
swatch versus steel wool: t(35) = 7.80, p < .01.
3
After read-
ing the pamphlet, participants in Study 1 completed a ques-
tionnaire, which included measures of their attitudes toward
the message and the arboretum and their willingness to
donate time or money to the arboretum.
4
We used familiar-
ity with the arboretum and prior donation behavior in terms
of time and money as covariates in the analyses; we found
no significant effects on the results. Next, under the guise of
a different study, participants completed the autotelic com-
ponent of the NFT scale (6 items) from the 12-item NFT
scale (Peck and Childers 2003a; for scale items, see Appen-
dix B).
5
The NFT scale measures dimensions of both instru-
mental NFT and autotelic NFT. As Peck and Childers
(2003b) recommend, depending on the underlying theory,
researchers might choose to employ just one dimension of
the NFT scale. Finally, we thanked participants and
debriefed them.
Results
We found support for H
1
, which predicted that a touch ele-
ment would increase persuasion for people who are high in
autotelic NFT but not for those who are low in autotelic
NFT. We measured both attitude toward the pamphlet and
attitude toward the organization on three seven-point scales
(“What is your overall feeling toward the pamphlet/organi-
zation?” anchored by “very unfavorable/very favorable,
“very bad/very good,” and “very negative/very positive”).
We averaged these (all αs > .90) for a measure of attitude
toward the pamphlet and attitude toward the organization.
With attitude toward the pamphlet as the dependent
variable, the interaction between whether a touch element
was present (yes/no) and autotelic NFT was significant
(F(1, 339) = 5.25, p < .05, ω
2
= .02). There was no signifi-
cant main effect for the touch/no touch element or for
autotelic NFT (ps > .05). Using planned contrasts, we found
that participants who were high in autotelic NFT had a
more positive attitude toward the pamphlet when a touch
element was present than when it was absent (Ms = 5.32
and 4.83, respectively; F(1, 339) = 4.93, p < .05, ω
2
= .04;
see Table 1), whereas a touch element had no effect on par-
ticipants who were low in autotelic NFT (M = 5.13 for
touch and 5.40 for no touch; F(1, 339) = 1.19, p > .05). We
obtained the same pattern of results for the likelihood of
donating time or money to the organization (see Table 1);
the interaction between touch/no touch and autotelic NFT
was significant (F(1, 339) = 6.16, p < .05, ω
2
= .02), but no
main effects were significant (ps > .05). Participants who
were low in autotelic NFT were unaffected by a touch ele-
ment (Ms = 3.34 for touch and 3.54 for no touch; F(1,
339) = .37, p > .05), and participants who were high in
autotelic NFT were significantly more willing to donate
time or money when a touch element was included in the
appeal (Ms = 3.65 and 2.75; F(1, 339) = 9.25, p < .05, ω
2
=
.05). The presence of the touch element did not affect atti-
tude toward the organization; there were no significant main
effects or interaction effects, implying that the persuasive
influence of the touch element may be restricted to the spe-
cific message that incorporates the touch element and not
extended to the organization that is sponsoring the message.
H
2
predicted that for people who are high (but not low)
in autotelic NFT, a message that included a touch element
with positive sensory feedback (versus a message with no
touch element [control condition]) would increase persua-
sion more than a message that included a touch element
with neutral or negative sensory feedback. We found partial
support for this hypothesis. Using planned comparisons, for
both attitude toward the pamphlet and likelihood of donat-
ing time or money, we found that participants who were
high in autotelic NFT were most persuaded by touch infor-
mation that provided positive sensory feedback compared
with the no-touch-element control condition (attitude
toward the pamphlet: Ms = 5.49 and 4.83; F(1, 329) = 6.32,
p < .05, ω
2
= .05; likelihood of donating time or money:
Ms = 3.87 and 2.75; F(1, 329) = 10.09, p < .05, ω
2
= .04;
see Table 1). A touch element with neutral sensory feedback
also significantly increased persuasion for participants who
were high in autotelic NFT compared with the control con-
dition (attitude toward the pamphlet: Ms = 5.32 and 4.83;
F(1, 329) = 4.21, p < .05, ω
2
= .04; likelihood of donating
time or money: Ms = 3.79 and 2.75; F(1, 329) = 9.38, p <
.05, ω
2
= .03), whereas a touch element providing negative
sensory feedback did not significantly influence persuasion
for participants who were high in autotelic NFT (all ps>
60 / Journal of Marketing, October 2006
TABLE 1
Attitude Toward the Pamphlet and Likelihood of Donating Time or Money × Autotelic NFT, Congruence,
and Valence: Study 1 Means
Low Autotelic NFT High Autotelic NFT
Valence Incongruent Congruent Total Incongruent Congruent Total
A: Attitude Toward Pamphlet
Negative 4.67
a
5.06 4.90
a
5.15
b
5.21
b
5.17
b
n= 19 n= 29 n= 48 n= 31 n= 21 n= 52
Neutral 5.25
a
5.60 5.41
a
5.29
b
5.34
b
5.32
b
n= 24 n= 21 n= 45 n= 25 n= 28 n= 53
Positive 4.74
a
5.53 5.10
a
5.48
b
5.50
b
5.49
b
n= 26 n= 22 n= 48 n= 21 n= 24 n= 45
Total 4.90
a
5.36 5.28
b
5.36
b
n = 69 n = 72 n = 77 n = 73
Touch-element total 5.13
a
5.32
b
n = 141 n = 150
No-touch-element total 5.40
a
4.83
b
n= 24 n= 28
B: Likelihood of Donating Time or Money
Negative 2.74 3.14 2.98 3.29
c
3.38
c
3.33
b
Neutral 3.04 3.86 3.42 3.88
c
3.71
c
3.79
c
Positive 3.35 3.95 3.62 3.90
c
3.83
c
3.87
c
Total 3.07 3.60 3.65
c
3.66
c
Touch-element total 3.34 3.65
c
No-touch-element total 3.54 2.75
b
a
Cell means are significantly different from the control (no touch element) mean of 5.40 for low autotelic NFT.
b
Cell means are significantly different from the control (no touch element) mean of 4.83 for high autotelic NFT.
c
Cell means are significantly different from the control (no touch element) mean of 2.75 for high autotelic NFT.
Notes: All comparisons are based on planned contrasts. All scales are seven-point scales. For likelihood of donating time or money, cell means
are significantly different from the control (no touch element) mean of 3.54 for low autotelic NFT.
.05). For participants who were low in autotelic NFT, nega-
tive sensory feedback significantly decreased persuasion for
attitude toward the pamphlet compared with the no-touch-
element control condition (Ms = 4.90 and 5.40; F(1, 329) =
3.94, p < .05, ω
2
= .02). However, for likelihood of donating
time or money, persuasion was unaffected (p > .05; for
means, see Table 1). In addition, for participants who were
low in autotelic NFT, positive or neutral touch elements did
not influence persuasion compared with the no-touch-
element condition.
Although not specifically hypothesized, we can exam-
ine the effect of valence within the touch-element condi-
tions. Within the touch-element condition, we performed a
3 (valence) × 2 (congruency) × 2 (autotelic NFT) analysis;
both attitude toward the pamphlet and likelihood of donat-
ing time or money were dependent variables. For both
dependent variables, there was a significant main effect for
valence of the touch element (attitude toward the pamphlet:
F(2, 279) = 3.16, p < .05, ω
2
= .02; likelihood of donating
time or money: F(2, 279) = 4.84, p < .05, ω
2
= .04). There
was also a significant main effect of congruence, and a two-
way interaction between congruency and autotelic NFT was
significant for both dependent variables (we discuss this
further with the congruence results); no other interactions
were significant. When we used a touch element, a posi-
tively valenced or neutral valenced touch element was more
persuasive than a touch element that provided negative sen-
sory feedback. For attitude toward the pamphlet, a neutral
or positively valenced touch element resulted in a signifi-
cantly more positive attitude toward the pamphlet than a
negatively valenced touch element (negative [M = 5.04]
versus positive [M = 5.29] touch element: F(2, 279) = 2.85,
p < .05, ω
2
= .02; negative versus neutral [M = 5.36] touch
element: F(2, 279) = 3.65, p < .05, ω
2
= .02). The difference
between the mean attitude toward the pamphlet for a neutral
touch feedback element and the mean attitude toward the
pamphlet for a positive touch feedback element was not sig-
nificant (p > .05).
With likelihood of donating time or money as the
dependent variable, we found parallel results. A neutral or
positive feedback from the touch element resulted in a sig-
nificantly greater likelihood of donating time or money to
the organization than a touch element that provided nega-
tive feedback (negative [M = 3.16] versus positive [M =
3.74] touch element: F(2, 279) = 6.23, p< .01, ω
2
= .04;
negative versus neutral [M = 3.62] touch element: F(2,
279) = 4.84, p < .01, ω
2
= .04). As with attitude toward the
pamphlet, the difference between the mean likelihood of
donating time or money to the organization with a touch
element that provided neutral feedback and a touch element
that provided positive feedback was not significant (p >
.05).
Customers’ Affective Response to Touch / 61
In addition to valence, we examined the effect of the
congruency between the touch element and the message.
We expected that for participants who were high in autotelic
NFT, the congruency between the touch element and the
message would not matter; both would be more persuasive
than the no-touch-element control (H
3a
). We found support
for this hypothesis. For both dependent variables, pam-
phlets with both a congruent and an incongruent touch ele-
ment were more persuasive than the control condition (con-
trol versus congruent: attitude toward the pamphlet: Ms =
4.83 and 5.36; F(1, 329) = 4.61, p < .05, ω
2
= .02; likeli-
hood of donating time or money: Ms = 2.75 and 3.66; F(1,
329) = 7.52, p < .05, ω
2
= .04; control versus incongruent:
attitude toward the pamphlet: Ms = 4.83 and 5.28; F(1,
329) = 3.91, p < .05, ω
2
= .02; likelihood of donating time
or money: Ms = 2.75 and 3.65; F(1, 329) = 8.46, p < .05,
ω
2
= .04).
For participants who were low in autotelic NFT, we
expected that a message with a congruent touch element
would be more persuasive than a message with an incongru-
ent touch element, compared with the no-touch-element
condition (H
3b
). We found partial support for this. An
incongruent touch element significantly decreased attitude
toward the pamphlet compared with the no-touch-element
control condition (Ms = 4.90 and 5.40; F(1, 329) = 4.08, p <
.05, ω
2
= .02), but it did not significantly influence likeli-
hood of donating time or money (Ms = 3.07 and 3.54; p>
.05). In addition, the presence of a congruent touch element
did not significantly influence persuasion compared with
the control condition (ps > .05; for means, see Table 1).
Again, within the touch-element conditions, a 3
(valence) × 2 (congruency) × 2 (autotelic NFT) analysis
yielded not only a significant main effect for valence of the
touch element (as we previously reported) but also a signifi-
cant main effect of congruence (attitude toward the pam-
phlet: F(1, 279) = 5.06, p < .05, ω
2
= .02; likelihood of
donating time or money: F(1, 279) = 2.65, p = .10, ω
2
=
.01). Most important, the expected interaction between con-
gruency and autotelic NFT was significant for both depen-
dent variables (attitude toward the pamphlet: F(1, 279) =
3.59, p < .05, ω
2
= .02; likelihood of donating time or
money: F(1, 279) = 3.66, p < .05, ω
2
= .02); no other inter-
actions were significant. In the touch-element condition,
comparing congruent and incongruent touch elements
yielded different results for participants who were high and
those who were low in autotelic NFT. For those who were
high in autotelic NFT, the congruency of the touch element
to the communication did not influence either attitude
toward the pamphlet (Ms = 5.28 and 5.36; F(1, 329) = .06,
p > .05) or likelihood of donating time or money to the
organization (Ms = 3.34 and 3.54; F(1, 329) = .04, p> .05).
However, participants who were low in autotelic NFT had a
more positive attitude toward the pamphlet when the pam-
phlet included a congruent touch element than when it
included an incongruent touch element (Ms = 5.36 and
4.90; F(1, 329) = 7.70, p< .05, ω
2
= .03), and they were
also more likely to donate time or money to the organiza-
tion in the congruent-touch-element condition than in the
incongruent-touch-element condition (Ms = 3.60 and 3.07;
F(1, 329) = 5.98, p< .05, ω
2
= .02; see Table 1). It appears
that for participants who were high in autotelic NFT, both
congruent and incongruent touch elements had a positive
effect on both attitude toward the message and likelihood of
donating time or money, but for participants who were low
in autotelic NFT, a touch element that was incongruent with
the message had a potentially negative effect.
A content analysis of the participants’ thoughts about
the congruent and incongruent touch elements supported
the predictions of H
3a
and H
3b
. Of the participants, 69
(20%) expressed confusion about the touch element and
frustration at being unable to make sense of the connection
between the touch element and the message. Of these par-
ticipants, 52 were in the incongruent-touch-element condi-
tion, suggesting that participants indeed had difficulty mak-
ing sense of an incongruent touch element and became
frustrated as a result. Notably, there was no significant dif-
ference between participants who were high and those who
were low in autotelic NFT in expressing confusion; 34 par-
ticipants who were high in autotelic NFT and 35 partici-
pants who were low in autotelic NFT expressed confusion
about the touch element. However, although the participants
who were low in autotelic NFT exhibited a decrease in atti-
tude toward the message in the incongruent condition, the
participants who were high in autotelic NFT demonstrated
no difference in attitude between the congruent and the
incongruent conditions, suggesting that though the partici-
pants who were high in autotelic NFT were confused by the
incongruent touch element, this confusion did not influence
their attitudes.
Discussion of Study 1
For participants who were high in autotelic NFT, incorpo-
rating a touch element that conveys no product attribute
information into a message increased persuasion. This
effect occurred regardless of the congruence between the
touch element and the message and was stronger for a touch
element that provided neutral or positive sensory feedback
than for a touch element that provided negative sensory
feedback and compared with the no-touch-element control
condition. However, participants who were low in autotelic
NFT showed no differences in persuasion between the
touch and the no-touch-element conditions; they responded
negatively to the inclusion of a touch element that was
incongruent with the message of the appeal. The results of
Study 1 are consistent with the theory that touch creates an
affective response for people who are high in autotelic NFT
that, in turn, influences persuasion, whereas people who are
low in autotelic NFT process touch as part of the message,
and touch is persuasive only if it provides useful informa-
tion. This implies that the relationship among touch, affec-
tive response, and persuasion may be a moderated media-
tion; that is, for people who are high in autotelic NFT, touch
creates an affective response that mediates the relationship
between touch and persuasion, but for people who are low
in autotelic NFT, this mediation effect does not occur (see
Figure 1). This leads to our fourth hypothesis:
H
4
: The increased persuasion resulting from a message that
incorporates a touch element is mediated by affective
response for people who are high in autotelic NFT but not
for those who are low in autotelic NFT.
62 / Journal of Marketing, October 2006
FIGURE 1
Moderated Mediation Affect of Touch on Affective Response and Persuasion
6
In Study 2, we measured affective response using the two
scales in Appendix C. We obtained parallel results for both scales.
For simplicity, we report only the results of the first scale. In Study
3, we measured affective response using the emotional reaction
scale because we determined that this scale had greater relevance,
given the task in which participants were engaged.
Study 2
The purpose of Study 2 was to measure the affective
response in both people who were high and those who were
low in autotelic NFT to a message that incorporated a touch
element and to determine whether this affective response
mediated the relationship between touch and persuasion.
We also attempted to find additional support for H
1
, which
predicted that a touch element would be persuasive for
people who are high in autotelic NFT but not for those who
are low in autotelic NFT. Study 2 was a 2 (autotelic NFT:
high versus low [determined by a median split]) × 2 (touch
element: present versus absent) design; the first factor was
measured between subjects, and the second factor was
manipulated between subjects.
Variables and Procedure
Two hundred four undergraduate students participated in
the study in exchange for extra credit in a marketing class.
Each participant read a pamphlet with the same message
that requested that he or she make a donation of time or
money to a fictional charity called Spread the Warmth,
which provided blankets to needy families during the winter
(see Appendix A). In the touch condition, a 4 × 4 inch
swatch of black fleece fabric that was similar to the texture
of a blanket was attached to the pamphlet; the control con-
dition had no touch element. After reading the pamphlet,
participants completed a questionnaire that included mea-
sures of their affective response to the pamphlet (for scale
items, see Appendix C), attitude toward the pamphlet, atti-
tude toward the organization, and willingness to donate
time or money to Spread the Warmth.
6
Next, under the
guise of a separate study, we administered the six-item
autotelic NFT scale. Finally, we thanked the participants
and debriefed them.
Results
With attitude toward the pamphlet as the dependent
variable, there was a main effect for whether the touch ele-
ment was present (F(1, 200) = 5.25, p < .05, ω
2
= .05), a
main effect of autotelic NFT (F(1, 200) = 13.54, p < .01,
ω
2
= .08), and a significant interaction between the two
(F(1, 200) = 4.24, p < .05, ω
2
= .04; for means, see Table 2).
Participants who were high in autotelic NFT had a more
positive attitude toward the message and a greater likeli-
hood of donating time or money when the pamphlet
included a touch element than when it did not (attitude
toward the message: Ms = 6.04 and 5.46; F(1, 200) = 10.39,
p < .01, ω
2
=.06; likelihood of donating time or money:
Ms = 5.70 and 4.56; F(1, 200) = 20.75, p < .001, ω
2
= .09),
in support of H
1
. In contrast, participants who were low in
autotelic NFT had no significant difference in attitude
toward the message between the touch and the no-touch-
element conditions (Ms = 5.27 and 5.24; F(1, 200) = .02,
p > .05). Participants who were low in autotelic NFT
showed a significant increase in their likelihood of donating
time or money in the touch condition (Ms = 5.00 and 4.36;
F(1, 200) = 5.41, p < .05, ω
2
= .03). For both dependent
variables, there was a significant difference between people
who were high and those who were low in autotelic NFT in
the touch condition, suggesting that those who were high in
autotelic NFT responded more strongly to the touch ele-
ment than those who were low in autotelic NFT (attitude
toward the message: Ms = 6.04 and 5.27; F(1, 200) = 15.67,
p < .01, ω
2
= .07; likelihood of donating time or money:
Ms = 5.70 and 5.00; F(1, 200) = 6.78, p < .05, ω
2
= .04; see
Table 2). Attitude toward the organization was unaffected
by the touch element (p > .05).
We conducted Study 2 to examine directly the differ-
ence in affective response to the touch element between
people who were high and those who were low in autotelic
NFT. As expected, we found that participants who were
high in autotelic NFT had a stronger affective response to
Customers’ Affective Response to Touch / 63
TABLE 2
Attitude Toward the Message and Behavioral Intentions × Touch and No-Touch-Element Condtions × High
and Low Need for Autotelic Touch: Study 2 Means (Standard Deviations)
Low Autotelic NFT High Autotelic NFT
No Touch Touch No Touch Touch
Element Element Element Element
n = 55 n = 39 n = 50 n = 60
Attitude toward the pamphlet 5.24 5.27
b
5.46
a
6.04
a, b
(1.10) (1.02) (1.01) (.63)
Attitude toward the organization 6.22 5.94
a
6.33 6.35
a
(.80) (.89) (.74) (.84)
Affective response 4.33 4.72
b
4.54
a
5.17
a, b
(1.01) (1.03) (1.14) (1.08)
Likelihood of donating time or money 4.36
a
5.00
a, c
4.56
b
5.70
b, c
(1.57) (1.23) (1.53) (.79)
Notes: Numbers with the same superscript in the same row are significantly different at
p
= .05; means are based on seven-point scales.
the message in the touch condition than in the no-touch-
element condition (Ms = 5.17 and 4.54; F(1, 200) = 9.56,
p < .05, ω
2
= .05), and those who were low in autotelic NFT
had no significant differences in affective response to the
message, depending on the presence of a touch element
(Ms = 4.72 and 4.33; F(1, 200) = 3.06, p > .05; see Table 2).
This is consistent with the proposed view that people who
are high, but not those who are low, in autotelic NFT are
influenced by affective response to touch.
We hypothesized that a touch element that influences
persuasion would be mediated by a person’s affective
response to the touch element. However, we expected
autotelic NFT to moderate this relationship (see Figure 1).
Using LISREL 8 (Jöreskog and Sörbom 1993), we first esti-
mated a path model using the full sample. For attitude
toward the pamphlet, the path model supported complete
mediation. The path from the touch element to affective
response was significant (β = .23, t = 3.41, p < .05), the path
from affective response to attitude toward the pamphlet was
significant (β = .50, t = 8.13, p < .05), and the path from the
touch element to attitude toward the pamphlet was not sig-
nificant in the presence of the mediator (β = .08, t = 1.33,
p > .05). The results were similar to the dependent variable
of likelihood of donating time or money to the organization.
The full model showed evidence of partial mediation. The
path from the touch element to affective response was sig-
nificant (β = .23, t = 3.41, p < .05), as was the path from
affective response to the likelihood of donating time or
money (β = .53, t = 9.45, p < .05). The path from the touch
element to donating time or money remained significant in
the presence of the mediator, indicating that in addition to
mediation, there was a direct effect of the touch element on
donating time or money to the organization (β = .22, t =
3.90, p < .05).
To gain further insight, we estimated simultaneous path
models for both participants who were high and those who
were low in autotelic NFT for each of the two dependent
variables. In both cases, partial mediation was supported for
those who were high in autotelic NFT, but mediation was
not supported for those who were low in autotelic NFT.
With attitude toward the pamphlet as the dependent
variable, for those who were high in autotelic NFT, the path
from the touch element to affective response was significant
(β = .26, t = 2.91, p < .05), as was the path from affective
response to attitude toward the pamphlet (β = .40, t = 5.23,
p < .05). Finally, the path from the touch element to attitude
toward the pamphlet remained significant (β = .20, t = 2.59,
p < .05), in support of partial mediation. In contrast, for par-
ticipants who were low in autotelic NFT, the path from the
touch element to affective response was not significant (β =
.19, t = 1.40, p > .05); thus, mediation of affective response
for participants who were low in autotelic NFT was not sup-
ported. The path from affective response to attitude toward
the pamphlet was significant (β = .81, t = 5.38, p < .05), and
there was no significant effect for the touch element on atti-
tude toward the pamphlet (β = –.12, t = .06, p > .05).
The results were parallel for the dependent variable of
the likelihood of donating time or money to the organiza-
tion. For participants who were high in autotelic NFT, the
path from the touch element to affective response was sig-
nificant (β = .21, t = 3.11, p < .05), as was the path from
affective response to the likelihood of donating time or
money (β = .32, t = 4.17, p < .05). In addition, the path from
the touch element to the likelihood of donating time or
money was significant (β = .32, t = 4.17, p < .05). However,
for participants who were low in autotelic NFT, the path
from touch to affective response was not significant (β =
.17, t = 1.56, p > .05), in support of differential processes
for people who are high and those who are low in autotelic
NFT. For participants who were low in autotelic NFT, the
path between the touch element and the likelihood of donat-
ing time or money was also not significant (β = .13, t =
1.56, p > .05). Not surprisingly, the relationship between
affective response and donating time or money to the orga-
nization was significant (β = .70, t = 8.90, p < .05).
Discussion of Study 2
Study 2 replicated the finding that participants who were
high in autotelic NFT had a more positive attitude toward
messages that incorporated touch elements than toward
messages that did not incorporate touch elements. However,
this difference did not occur among those who were low in
64 / Journal of Marketing, October 2006
FIGURE 2
Brochure for Study 3
autotelic NFT. We also found that incorporating a touch ele-
ment increased likelihood of donating time or money
among both participants who were high and those who were
low in autotelic NFT. This study also directly examined the
affective response of those who were high and those who
were low in autotelic NFT when encountering a touch ele-
ment. Only participants who were high in autotelic NFT
had a significantly stronger affective response to the mes-
sage with the touch element than to the message with no
touch element. In effect, for participants who were high in
autotelic NFT, the touch element evoked an affective
response beyond that which the message evoked. We found
that this affective response mediated the relationship
between touch and persuasion for participants who were
high in autotelic NFT but not for those who were low in
autotelic NFT.
Study 3
In Study 3, we tested whether the findings of Studies 1 and
2 could be replicated in a real-world situation, and we
investigated the generalizability of our experimental find-
ings. We partnered with a midwestern children’s museum, a
“hands-on” museum targeted to children aged eight and
under. As a nonprofit organization, the museum often uses
direct-mail appeals to solicit donations and museum mem-
berships. Many of its publicity and fundraising materials
stress the museum’s unique hands-on features that encour-
age children to touch, making a touch element relevant to
its message. However, the museum had never before incor-
porated a touch element into one of its direct-marketing
efforts. Working with the fundraising staff at the museum,
we designed a brochure to solicit new memberships. The
cover of the brochure featured a picture of a cuddly looking,
spotted, cartoon dinosaur with a child reaching out to touch
it (see Figure 2). We then incorporated a touch element into
half of the brochures. Because Studies 1 and 2 suggested
that touch elements that provide positive sensory feedback
are more persuasive, we used a touch element that was soft
and pleasant to touch. For people in the touch-element con-
dition, the largest spot on the dinosaur was a circle of red
faux fur, which was found in a pretest to be soft and pleas-
ant to touch. For people in the no-touch-element condition,
the spot was printed like all the other spots on the dinosaur.
Study 3 was a 2 (autotelic NFT: high versus low [deter-
mined by a median split]) × 2 (touch element: present ver-
sus absent) design; the first factor was measured between
subjects, and the second factor was manipulated between
subjects.
Variables and Procedure
We sent the mailing to a purchased list of approximately
2000 families in zip code areas with children under the age
of eight who were not currently members of the children’s
museum. One thousand people on the mailing list received
a brochure with a touch element, and the other thousand
received the same brochure without a touch element. Each
of the 2000 recipients of the brochure also received a ques-
tionnaire in the same package, which included questions
about the recipient’s attitude toward the message and likeli-
7
Because of survey length restrictions the organization imposed,
we included only autotelic NFT.
hood of donating time or money, control questions about
the recipient’s prior donations to the museum, and the
autotelic NFT scale.
7
We included prior donation behavior
and prior visits to the museum as covariates; neither was
significant (p > .05).
Sample Description
Of the 2000 questionnaires, 116 were returned, for a
response rate of 5.8%. According to the Direct Marketing
Association (2003), the overall average response rate for
direct mail, including mailings to both house and prospect
files, is 2.54%, suggesting that our response rate is reason-
able. To help eliminate the concern of nonresponse bias, we
compared questionnaires returned in the first week (n = 79,
or 68%) with those returned in the subsequent three weeks;
we found no significant differences in demographics or in
independent or dependent variables. Of the responses, 61
Customers’ Affective Response to Touch / 65
(53%) were from the touch-element condition, and 55
(47%) were from the no-touch-element condition. The
majority of our respondents were between the ages of 35
and 44 (53%), followed by ages 25–44 (37%), 45–54 (9%),
and 60–64 (1%). The mailing-list company stated that 55%
of its list were between the ages of 35 and 44 (compared
with our 53%). Female respondents significantly outnum-
bered male respondents (102 women [88%] and 14 men
[12%]).
Results
We expected that the touch element would increase attitude
toward the message and behavior for participants who were
high but not for those who were low in autotelic NFT. We
hoped that we would be able to obtain a measure of actual
membership resulting from the mailing. Unfortunately, only
3 of the 116 respondents that returned the survey became
members of the museum, so we were unable to use this
measure. We measured behavioral intentions through a
question that asked, “After reading the brochure, how likely
are you to become a member of the Children’s Museum?”
with endpoints “very unlikely” (1) and “very likely” (7).
There was a main effect of the touch element on both atti-
tude toward the pamphlet and likelihood of becoming a
member of the museum (attitude toward to pamphlet: Ms =
4.73 and 5.34; no touch element versus touch element: F(1,
112) = 7.42, p < .05, ω
2
= .04; likelihood of becoming a
member: Ms = 3.25 and 3.92; F(1, 112) = 4.68, p < .05,
ω
2
= .03). However, this was qualified by a significant inter-
action. In support of H
1
, the expected interactions between
the presence or absence of a touch element and autotelic
NFT for both attitude toward the brochure and likelihood of
becoming a museum member were significant (attitude
toward the brochure: F(1, 112) = 10.57, p < .01, ω
2
= .09;
likelihood of becoming a member: F(1, 112) = 5.23, p <
.05, ω
2
= .05).
Using planned contrasts, we found that participants who
were high in autotelic NFT had a more positive attitude
toward the pamphlet and would be more likely to become a
member of the museum when a touch element was present
than when it was absent (attitude toward the pamphlet:
Ms = 5.58 and 4.26; F(1, 112) = 6.44, p < .05, ω
2
= .05;
likelihood of becoming a member: Ms = 4.39 and 3.43;
F(1, 112) = 4.01, p < .05, ω
2
= .04; see Table 3). In contrast,
as we expected, participants who were low in autotelic NFT
were not influenced by the touch element (attitude toward
the pamphlet: F(1, 112) = 1.53, p > .05; likelihood of
becoming a member: F(1, 112) = .55, p > .05). For attitude
toward the pamphlet as the dependent variable, we found no
main effect of autotelic NFT (p > .05); however, we did find
a significant main effect of autotleic NFT on likelihood of
becoming a member (Ms = 4.03 and 3.13 for participants
who were high and those who were low in autotelic NFT,
respectively; F(1, 112) = 6.51, p< .05, ω
2
= .06). As in
Studies 1 and 2, the presence of a touch element did not
influence attitude toward the organization (all ps > .05).
Discussion of Study 3
Study 3 replicated the results of Study 1 in a real-world set-
ting, using a more heterogeneous population than the previ-
ous studies. Thus, we are more confident that our results
generalize to the general population. A touch element that
provided positive sensory feedback incorporated into a real
marketing brochure with a congruent message increased
attitude toward the brochure and behavioral intentions
among recipients who were high in autotelic NFT without
diminishing attitude toward the brochure or behavioral
intentions among those who were low in autotelic NFT.
This demonstrates that incorporating a touch element into a
message indeed results in a net increase in persuasion, even
if the touch element does not provide any additional instru-
mental information.
General Discussion
In three studies, we found that the incorporation of touch
into marketing messages can have a positive effect on per-
suasion for people who are high in autotelic NFT. When a
touch element was used, a positively valenced or neutral
element was more persuasive than when a touch element
that provided negative sensory feedback was used. For par-
ticipants who were high in autotelic NFT, compared with a
no-touch-element control condition, a positively valenced
or neutral touch element increased persuasion, and a nega-
TABLE 3
Attitude Toward the Message and Behavioral Intentions × Touch and No-Touch-Element Conditions × High
and Low Need for Autotelic Touch: Study 3 Means (Standard Deviations)
Low Autotelic NFT High Autotelic NFT
No Touch Touch No Touch Touch
Element Element Element Element
n= 32 n= 23 n= 23 n= 38
Attitude toward the pamphlet 5.07 5.00 4.26
a
5.58
a
(1.18) (1.66) (.84) (1.02)
Attitude toward the organization 5.58 5.62 5.96
a
5.91
a
(1.45) (1.45) (1.22) (1.14)
Likelihood of becoming a member 3.12 3.13 3.43
a
4.39
a
(1.11) (1.82) (2.02) (1.53)
Notes: Numbers with the superscript in the same row are significantly different at
p
= .05; means are based on seven-point scales.
66 / Journal of Marketing, October 2006
tively valenced touch element did not influence persuasion.
However, for participants who were low in autotelic NFT,
compared with the no-touch-element condition, a touch ele-
ment that provided negative feedback decreased persuasion,
whereas a touch element that provided positive or neutral
feedback did not influence persuasion.
In Study 2, we examined the process by which a touch
element that provided positive sensory feedback influenced
persuasion. We found that the persuasive effect occurred
because of an affective or emotional response to the experi-
ence of touch. Participants who were high in autotelic NFT
experienced an emotional response due to the touch ele-
ment, but participants who were low in autotelic NFT did
not exhibit this same response. This emotional response to
the touch element mediated the relationship between the
presence of the touch element and persuasion
In addition to the types of sensory feedback the touch
element elicited, we examined the influence of the congru-
ency of the touch element with the overall message. For
participants who were high in autotelic NFT, a touch ele-
ment increased persuasion, regardless of whether the touch
element was congruent with the overall marketing message.
However, for participants who were low in autotelic NFT,
incorporation of a touch element that was not congruent
with the message actually decreased the persuasiveness of
the message.
Note also that in both Study 2 (the “Feel the Warmth”
study) and Study 3 (the children’s museum field study), we
found a main effect of the presence of a touch element on
persuasiveness. This is likely because both of these studies
used a touch element that provided positive sensory feed-
back, which participants perceived as fitting the persuasive
message.
Limitations and Further Research
Although this research found strong consistent effects that
suggest that touch has a positive affective influence on per-
suasion, we should recognize some limitations. We were
not successful in our attempt to obtain a behavioral measure
of persuasion. Further research should examine the effects
of touch on actual behavior. In addition, we were unable to
find an effect of touch on attitude toward the organization.
Although an increase in attitude toward the message and
behavioral intentions are positive outcomes for marketers,
the focus on building relationships with consumers that has
become prevalent in the marketing literature suggests that
persuasive elements would be more valuable if they could
contribute to a broader attitude toward the organization.
Further research may be able to determine whether there are
conditions under which the persuasive effects of touch can
be extended to the organization that sponsors the message.
For example, repeated exposures to the message may influ-
ence attitude and behavior toward the organization.
Another possible limitation is that we examined only
the process of affective response using a touch element that
was positively valenced. In particular, we used softness
because it has been associated with a pleasant sensory feel-
ing and has been used in touch research (Bushnell and
Boudreau 1991; Essick, James, and McGlone 1999). Fur-
ther research should continue to explore process issues by
examining the affective response to neutral and negatively
valenced touch elements. It could also be the case that the
emotional response to the touch element is moderated by
other factors. In the current research, participants who were
high in autotelic NFT exhibited a stronger affective
response to touch elements than did participants who were
low in autotelic NFT. We know from previous research
(Peck and Childers 2003b) that touch information is also
more accessible for high- than for low-NFT people. Thus,
not only do high-NFT people respond more strongly to
touch information, but they also may weigh it more heavily
when forming evaluations. Thus, it seems likely that a touch
element could be effective for high-NFT people under both
high- and low-involvement conditions. Further research
should be conducted to examine the issue of involvement as
it relates to high- and low-NFT people and the processes of
evaluation and persuasion.
Implications
Theoretically, this research extends touch research in mar-
keting. Previous research has focused solely on product
touch, which has been found to influence persuasion when
it provides instrumental attribute or structural information
about the product (e.g., McCabe and Nowlis 2003; Peck
and Childers 2003a). Our research found that touch can also
be used as a persuasive element outside of the product touch
context by providing an enjoyable hedonic experience for
the consumer. In addition, this research examined the
process by which hedonic touch influences persuasion and
the differences between people who are high and those who
are low in autotelic NFT. For people who are high in
autotelic NFT, incorporating a touch element into a persua-
sive communications message creates an affective response
that increases attitude toward the message and behavioral
intentions. For people who are low in autotelic NFT, a touch
element does not generate a significant increase in their
affective response.
This research implies that touch could be incorporated
into marketing messages in a variety of contexts. People
who are high in autotelic NFT will experience affective
responses and greater persuasion when they receive a mes-
sage that incorporates touch, especially when the touch ele-
ment provides neutral or positive sensory feedback. How-
ever, to avoid decreasing persuasion for people who are low
in autotelic NFT, marketers must ensure that the touch ele-
ment is congruent with the overall marketing message, and
it should not be negatively valenced. That said, the various
touch elements we used suggests that congruency between
the touch element and the message can be interpreted more
broadly than previous research on congruency has sug-
gested. For example, in our study, participants evaluated
sandpaper as being congruent with an arboretum. A similar
piece of sandpaper was used in an actual direct-mail
brochure that a charity used to solicit donations to help chil-
dren living in poverty in India. On the front of the brochure,
there was a two-inch square of sandpaper, and underneath it
were the words, “TOUCH THIS….” When the pamphlet
was opened, there was a picture of a boy, and underneath
the picture were the words, “To Feel 9-year-old Mallesh’s
hand.” The experience of touching the sandpaper likely cre-
Customers’ Affective Response to Touch / 67
ates an image of the child’s suffering and generates an
affective response of sympathy, which may lead people to
make donations to the charity. This suggests that marketers
can use touch in a variety of contexts, provided that people
who are low in autotelic NFT will be able to find some way
to make sense of the touch element.
Touch can be used as a persuasive tool beyond
brochures that request charitable donations. In some direct-
marketing situations, it may be possible to segment cus-
tomers on the basis of autotelic NFT. Many direct mar-
keters, such as Land’s End, currently provide customers
with the opportunity to request touch information, such as
fabric swatches. It is likely that a person who requests a fab-
ric swatch is high in autotelic NFT because prior research
has found a correlation between instrumental and autotelic
NFT (e.g., Peck and Childers 2003a, b). Although it may be
too expensive to mail a touch-enhanced catalog to all cus-
tomers, a direct marketer could customize mailings to cus-
tomers who request fabric swatches.
Regarding the area of product packaging, the current
research suggests that the packaging opportunities are not
limited to providing touch attribute information. New print
technologies are being introduced that provide tactile
effects, which encourage consumers to touch (Kaleido
2004). It is likely that people who are high in autotelic NFT
are more likely to approach and examine such packages
than are people who are low in autotelic NFT, because the
former enjoys the sensory experiences of touch. A product
package that is interesting to touch may increase sales of
the product even if the opportunity to touch does not pro-
vide additional product attribute information. Some evi-
dence suggests that tactile elements of product packaging
can even contribute to the overall brand image of a product.
For example, Lindstrom (2005) discusses Coca-Cola’s use
of the nostalgic glass bottle to reinforce its brand image and
suggests that it is the tactile sensation, the feel of the bottle
in the customer’s hand, that is associated with the brand.
Note that in this research, we investigated the sensory
aspects of touch independent of product attribute informa-
tion. However, product touch that conveys attribute infor-
mation may also provide interesting sensory feedback,
which would likely affect attitude toward the product
beyond the touch attribute information. For example, the
courier envelopes we mentioned previously convey the
product benefit of the strength of the paper. This research
suggests that the smooth, pleasant feel of the paper can also
increase product evaluation.
Touch also has significant implications for in-store and
point-of-purchase displays. People who are high in autotelic
NFT are drawn to opportunities to touch and are likely to
respond to opportunities to touch clothing, paper goods, and
other products that provide positive sensory feedback, even
if they are not in the process of evaluating the product. A
display that encourages touch may lead customers to inter-
act with products that they otherwise would have ignored,
which in turn may increase impulse and unplanned pur-
chases (Peck and Childers 2006).
Finally, this study suggests that touch can be used along
with pictures, photos, color, humor, and other elements to
increase the persuasiveness of print advertising. Touch
elements are unexpected information and have been shown
to increase the persuasiveness of advertisements, provided
that they are congruent with the message (Lee and Mason
1999). Recent trends in advertising have focused on the
experiential and aesthetic aspects of communication (e.g.,
Schmitt 1999; Schmitt and Simonson 1997). Incorporating
touch may be the next step in adding a hedonic or
experiential aspect to advertising and other marketing
communications.
Appendix A
Text of Messages for Studies 1
and 2
Study 1
A little piece of nature, nestled in the middle of the city, the
Arboretum is a perfect place for a stroll, curling up under a
tree with a good book, watching birds and local wildlife, or
an evening of stargazing.
But the Arboretum is more than just a park. It is a
research and teaching facility that provides a place for
people to develop a positive relationship with nature.
Every day, the Arboretum brings more people back in
touch with nature with environmental tours, class and lec-
tures, and special outreach programs at local schools. It is
an exceptional resource for learning, sharing, discovering,
and enjoying—a cherished gem of nature in an urban
setting.
The Arboretum also provides great opportunities to get
in touch with nature directly with hiking, biking and jog-
ging trails, and even trails for skiing and snowshoeing.
The Arboretum has been a pioneer in the restoration,
and management of ecological communities since the
1930’s. The Arboretum strives to conserve, restore and pre-
serve the natural lands of the city so that residents can enjoy
the beauty of nature for years to come.
As part of this goal, we recently embarked on a capital
campaign to further improve the Arboretum through a new
addition to the visitor’s center and the installation of the
four-acre Native Plant Garden. This project will help the
Arboretum improve and expand programs for university,
public and professional audiences.
You can help to bring more people in touch with nature
by becoming a Friend of the Arboretum. We gratefully wel-
come your gift because every gift enhances our ability to
provide quality programs and experiences for everyone who
enjoys and learns from the Arboretum.
Study 2
Feel the warmth of a warm winter blanket.
Winters can be icy cold, especially at night. There’s
nothing like curling up under a thick, cozy, warm blanket to
keep out the harsh winter chill. But for some families, that
warm, cozy feeling is just out of reach.
Spread the Warmth helps families in need to keep warm
this winter by providing them with new and gently used
blankets. But we need your help to spread the warmth
before the first big winter chill hits our state this year.
68 / Journal of Marketing, October 2006
Spread the Warmth needs volunteers to deliver blankets
in our city and donations to help us to purchase enough
blankets to keep everyone warm. Please help us spread the
warmth this winter.
Appendix B
Autotelic NFT Items
Autotelic NFT (6 items)
1. When walking through stores, I can’t help touching all
kinds of products.
2. Touching products can be fun.
3. When browsing in stores, it is important for me to handle
all kinds of products.
4. I like to touch products even if I have no intention of buying
them.
5. When browsing in stores, I like to touch lots of products.
6. I find myself touching all kinds of products in stores.
We measured all items on a seven-point Likert-type scale:
α = .92 (source: Peck and Childers 2003b).
Funtouch (3 items)
1. I enjoy touching various textures.
2. I am a person who likes to touch.
3. Touching in general is fun.
We measured all items on a seven-point Likert-type scale:
α = .94.
Appendix C
Affective Response Items
Affective Response (4 items)
1. This mailing was very enjoyable.
2. This mailing was very likeable.
3. This mailing was very persuasive.
4. This mailing was very interesting.
We measured all items on a seven-point Likert-type scale:
α = .86 (source: Zinkhan and Martin 1983).
Emotional Reaction (10 items)
Here is a list of emotional reactions you may have experi-
enced while reading the mailing (touching the swatches).
Please indicate how much you felt each of these emotional
reactions.
•Interested
•Moved
•Captivated
•Inquiring
•Confident
•Delighted
•Enthusiastic
•Appealed
•Satisfied
•Amused
We measured all items on a five-point scale, with endpoints
“not at all” and “a lot”: α = .84 (source: Derbaix 1995).
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The author investigates the impact of affective reactions elicited by television advertisements on two variables of major interest in advertising: attitude toward the advertisement (Aad) and postexposure brand attitude (Abp). Previous research has suffered from using non-natural settings, verbal measures of affect, and unknown brands. The author's study avoids forced exposure, uses a real program in which real commercials for unknown and known brands were embedded, and interviews subjects after they have viewed all the commercials. Thus, it offers a more natural setting in which to examine whether previously established relations between affective reactions and Aad and attitude toward the brand (Ab) still hold. The author measures affective reactions through facial expressions, as well as classical verbal measures, and finds that the contribution of affective responses to Aad and Abp is evident for verbal, but not facial, measures of affect. The impact of affective responses varies in a theoretically predictable way across familiar and unfamiliar brands, with the latter being more influenced by verbal affective reactions generated by the advertisement. The author presents several explanations for the results and offers issues for further research.
Article
The authors examine the relationships among feelings generated by new television ads for unfamiliar products, judgments of the ads’ characteristics, brand attribute evaluations, attitude toward the ad, and attitude toward the brand in a simultaneous equation model. Feelings affect attitude toward the ad and attitude toward the brand directly and indirectly. The particular effects of three different dimensions of feelings—upbeat, warm, and negative—are identified. The results are robust to multiple viewings of the ad, different measurement delay periods, and the particular ad seen.
Article
People develop feelings of ownership for a variety of objects, material and immaterial in nature. We refer to this state as psychological ownership. Building on and extending previous scholarship, the authors offer a conceptual examination of this construct. After defining psychological ownership, they address "why" it exists and "how" it comes into being. They propose that this state finds its roots in a set of intraindividual motives (efficacy and effectance, self-identity, and having a place to dwell). In addition, they discuss the experiences that give rise to psychological ownership and propose several positive and negative consequences of this state. The authors' work provides a foundation for the development of a comprehensive theory of psychological ownership and the conceptual underpinnings for empirical testing.
Article
The innovative print technologies developed by Crown Holdings for aerosol brands are discussed. Patterned Varnish technology creates a reflective, 3D effect, by emanating light and motion. Color Change technology creates the effect where a quick rotation of the pack can transform colors. Soft Touch is an over-varnish that creates a tactile and aesthetic effect for retail packaging. The important things to be considered when deciding on a print finish technology are also discussed.
Chapter
This chapter examines some of the literature demonstrating an impact of affect on social behavior. It will consider the influence of affect on cognition in an attempt to further understand on the way cognitive processes may mediate the effect of feelings on social behavior. The chapter describes the recent works suggesting an influence of positive affect on flexibility in cognitive organization (that is, in the perceived relatedness of ideas) and the implications of this effect for social interaction. The goal of this research is to expand the understanding of social behavior and the factors, such as affect, that influence interaction among people. Another has been to extend the knowledge of affect, both as one of these determinants of social behavior and in its own right. And a third has been to increase the understanding of cognitive processes, especially as they play a role in social interaction. Most recently, cognitive and social psychologists have investigated ways in which affective factors may participate in cognitive processes (not just interrupt them) and have begun to include affect as a factor in more comprehensive models of cognition. The research described in the chapter has focused primarily on feelings rather than intense emotion, because feelings are probably the most frequent affective experiences. The chapter focuses primarily on positive affect.
Article
In this article, the authors propose some psychological principles to describe the boundaries of loss aversion. A key idea is that exchange goods that are given up "as intended" do not exhibit loss aversion. For example, the authors propose that money given up in purchases is not generally subject to loss aversion. The results of several experiments provide preliminary support for the hypotheses. The authors find that, consistent with prospect theory, loss aversion provides a complete account of risk aversion for risks with equal probability to win or lose. The authors propose boundaries for this result and suggest further tests of the model.