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Previous research has shown that individuals value objects more highly if they own them, a finding commonly known as the endowment effect. In fact, simply touching an object can create a perception of ownership that produces the endowment effect. Through a series of three studies, we extend this line of research in several ways. First, we investigate the effect of haptic imaging - the mental visualization of touch - on perceived ownership. We find that individuals who imagine touching an object when their eyes are closed experience a level of perceived ownership similar to that of individuals who actually touch the object. We explore the process through which this occurs, demonstrating that, when a person's eyes are closed, haptic imagery leads to perceptions of physical control, which in turn increase feelings of ownership. Moreover, the more vivid the haptic image, the greater the perception of control and the feeling of ownership. This has important implications for marketing in contexts where touch is not feasible, such as online, since haptic imagery could act as a surrogate for touch.
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Research Article
In search of a surrogate for touch: The effect of haptic imagery on
perceived ownership
Joann Peck
a,
, Victor A. Barger
b
, Andrea Webb
a
a
University of WisconsinMadison, 975 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706, USA
b
University of WisconsinWhitewater, 800 West Main Street, Whitewater, WI 53190, USA
Received 22 February 2009; received in revised form 4 September 2012; accepted 7 September 2012
Available online 14 September 2012
Abstract
Previous research has shown that individuals value objects more highly if they own them, a nding commonly known as the endowment effect.
In fact, simply touching an object can create a perception of ownership that produces the endowment effect. In this paper, we extend this line of
research in several ways. First, we show that haptic imagery, or imagining touching an object, can have the same effect on perceived ownership as
physical touch. We then demonstrate that haptic imagery can lead to perceptions of physical control, which in turn increase feelings of ownership.
Moreover, the more vivid the haptic imagery, the greater the perception of control and the feeling of ownership. Implications for theory and
practice are discussed.
© 2012 Society for Consumer Psychology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Touch; Haptic; Haptic imagery; Perceived ownership
Introduction
Pretend for a moment that you are shopping for a sweater on
the Internet. You navigate to www.landsend.com, scroll through
the cardigans, and pause at one that appeals to you. You click on
the sweater for more information. A larger photo appears, and the
caption reads: Imagine holding this sweater, feeling the soft,
100% cotton in your hands.What if you did as instructed?
Would your perception of the sweater be any different than if you
had not imagined feeling it?
This research investigates the effect of haptic imagingthe
mental visualization of touchon perceived ownership. Previ-
ous research has shown that consumers value objects more
highly when they own them, a finding commonly known as
the endowment effect(Kahneman, Knetsch, & Thaler, 1990;
Knetsch & Sinden, 1984; Thaler, 1980). Importantly, this
effect is not limited to legal ownership; perceived ownership,
characterized by the feeling that something is mine,also
produces the endowment effect. While numerous antecedents
of perceived ownership have been proposed (Pierce, Kostova,
& Dirks, 2003), one is of particular interest to consumer
researchers: the ability of an individual to touch an object.
Consumer research has shown that when individuals are given
the opportunity to touch an object, they report a greater sense
of ownership of the object (Peck & Shu, 2009; Shu & Peck,
2011).
Unfortunately, touch is not always feasible. For example, when
consumers shop online, they are unable to touch merchandise
prior to purchase. What if imagining touch could serve as a
surrogate for touch? Research on imagery and the tactile system is
limited (Klatzky, Lederman, & Matula, 1993), but Intons-Peterson
and Roskos-Ewoldsen (1989) found that study participants took
longer to mentally transport imagined objects of greater weight,
which is an attribute best ascertained by the sense of touch. This
suggests that there may be a relationship between imagery and
touch. There is also some evidence for the interdependence of
touch and visualimagery, as when tactile images are accompanied
by visual images (Katz, 1925). Finally, Peck and Shu (2009)
Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: jpeck@bus.wisc.edu (J. Peck), bargerv@uww.edu
(V.A. Barger), awebb@bus.wisc.edu (A. Webb).
1057-7408/$ -see front matter © 2012 Society for Consumer Psychology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcps.2012.09.001
Available online at www.sciencedirect.com
Journal of Consumer Psychology 23, 2 (2013) 189 196
investigated the effects of ownership imagery on perceived
ownership, but they did not address haptic imagery.
We contribute to existing literature in several ways. Previous
research, which has demonstrated a link between touch and
perceived ownership (Peck & Shu, 2009; Shu & Peck, 2011),
has hypothesized, but not shown, that physical control is an
antecedent of perceived ownership. We measure both con-
structs in this research and show the link between them. We
also measure the vividness of touch imagery and delineate the
relationship between haptic imagery, physical control, and
perceived ownership.
Touch, perceived ownership, and haptic imagery
If physical touch leads to an increase in perceived ownership,
could haptic imagery have a similar effect? Imaging is a cognitive
process in which sensory information is represented in working
memory (MacInnis & Price, 1987). Just as perception is a
multi-modal experience, imagery may operate as a mental
recreation of experience involving multiple senses. Bone and
Ellen (1992) conjecture that imagery may involve sight, taste,
smell and tactile sensations(p. 93). There is also some evidence
for a relationship between haptic and visual imagery (Campos,
López, & Pérez, 1998; Zhang, Weisser, Stilla, Prather, & Sathian,
2004). For example, Katz (1925) noted that when he thought
about the smoothness of a pane of glass, haptic images were
usually accompanied by visual images: as he imagined the haptic
sensation of touching the glass, he also mentally observed his
hand touching the glass. The congenitally blind individuals make
use of images (Kerr, 1983; Zimler & Keenan, 1983), but the
nature of the imagery can be difficult to interpret because they
tend to use visual words to describe the images. Heller (1991)
advises that we should remember that visual images can contain
tactile and kinesthetic components(p. 257).
Klatzky, Lederman, and Matula (1991) propose two general
principles regarding the haptic imagery system. First, the function
of haptic imagery should be similar to that of actual touch. This
could include functional equivalence between imagery and
perception, and the possibility that clear haptic imagery may be a
cue for the retrieval of associated information (Paivio, 1975).
Second, information conveyed by haptic imagery should corre-
spond in content to information extracted by touch. For example,
salient haptic attributes include softness, texture, weight, and
texture; similar attributes should be present in haptic imagery.
In our first study, the participants touch or imagine touching
an object and report the extent to which they feel a sense of
ownership of the object. We find that imagining touching an
object has a similar effect on perceived ownership as physical
touch, but only when one's eyes are closed. We hypothesize,
and show in our second study, that this is due to a difference in
perception of physical control; that is, touching or imagining
touching an object with eyes closed results in greater feelings of
physical control of the object compared to not touching or
imagining touching with eyes open. Further investigating this
process, we hypothesize, and show in our third study, that it is the
vividness of the haptic imagery that determines the perception of
physical control and feeling of ownership. In essence, closing
one's eyes and imagining touch are closer to actual touch due to
the vividness of the imagined touch experience. The more vivid
the haptic imagery, the greater the perception of physical control
and, consequently, the stronger the perception of ownership.
Study 1: Haptic imagery leads to perceived ownership
Since perception and imagery are related, might blocking
perceptual distractions enhance imagery? Unnava, Agarwal,
and Haugtvedt (1996) found that when imaging and perception
compete for the same resources, the positive effects of imaging
on learning are reduced. Using functional magnetic resonance
imaging (fMRI), Marx et al. (2003, 2004) noted different
patterns of brain activation when the participants' eyes were
open versus closed. They hypothesize that, based on these
patterns, closing one's eyes leads to a state characterized by
imagination and multisensory activity(p. 924). In contrast,
when one's eyes are open, the presence of visual stimuli can
interfere with visual imagery (Sherwood & Pearson, 2010).
Ehrlichman and Micic (2012) report that research on gaze
aversion has demonstrated that averting one's gaze frees up
cognitive resources, and this occurs even when one's eyes are
closed.
When conducting imagery studies, the participants have
sometimes been instructed to close their eyes (e.g., Bone &
Ellen, 1992; Keller & McGill, 1994 (Experiment 1); Petrova &
Cialdini, 2005 (Study 3)), but more often no instructions
regarding opening or closing eyes have been given (e.g., Dahl,
Chattopadhyay, & Gorn, 1999; Keller & McGill, 1994 (Experi-
ment 2); Petrova & Cialdini, 2005 (Studies 1 and 2); Unnava et al.,
1996; Unnava & Burnkrant, 1991). Considering the possibility
that blocking perceptual distractions might enhance the effects of
haptic imagery, we hypothesize that haptic imagery is more likely
to resemble actual touch in terms of its effect on perceived
ownership when one's eyes are closed than when one's eyes are
open. Formally:
H1. Imagining touching an object with eyes closed will lead to
greater perceived ownership of the object compared to imagining
touching an object with eyes open.
Method
Study 1 was a 4 (touch/imagery: no touch and no imagery,
no touch and haptic imagery with eyes open, no touch and
haptic imagery with eyes closed, touch and no imagery) × 2
(product: Koosh ball, blanket) design, with the first factor
manipulated between the participants and the second factor
within the participants. Conditions with simultaneous touch and
haptic imagery were omitted due to our focus on identifying a
surrogate for touch; inclusion of a touch and no imagery
condition enables us to compare the effects of touch with the
effects of haptic imagery, whether with eyes open or closed.
Thus, in the first three conditions, the participants could not
touch the products, but they were instructed to image. In the
fourth condition, the participants touched the products and
there were no imagery instructions.
190 J. Peck et al. / Journal of Consumer Psychology 23 (2013) 189196
Three hundred and twenty-six individuals participated in
small groups of between five and ten. The participants sat at a
table and a product was placed at the center of the table; the
distance between the participants and the product was no more
than two feet. The participants were instructed to evaluate the
product for one minute as if they were considering buying it.
They were not allowed to touch the object. For those
participants in the haptic imagery with eyes closed condition,
the instructions read as follows:
In this part of the study, we ask that you evaluate the Koosh
ball/blanket as if you were considering buying it. With
your eyes closed, imagine touching the Koosh ball/blanket.
Imagine holding it in your hands. Think about how it
would feel. Please take one full minute to evaluate the
Koosh ball/blanket from where you're seated. Remember
to keep your eyes closed.
The instructions for the haptic imagery with eyes open
condition were the same, with the exception that the participants
were asked to keep their eyes open. In the no touch and no
imagery condition, the instructions were as follows:
In this part of the study, we ask that you evaluate the Koosh
ball/blanket as if you were considering buying it. Please take
one full minute to evaluate the Koosh ball/blanket from
where you're seated.
Finally, in the touch and no imagery condition, each subject
was provided with a product and instructed as follows:
In this part of the study, we ask that you evaluate the Koosh
ball/blanket in front of you as if you were considering
buying it. Please pick up the Koosh ball/blanket and take
one full minute to evaluate it.
The products were specifically chosen, through a pretest, to
provide positive haptic feedback and to be enjoyable to touch.
The order of products (Koosh ball, blanket) was counterbalanced
across the participants. No order effects were found, so this factor
was collapsed in later analyses.
Our primary dependent variable was perceived ownership.
Perceived ownership was measured with three items—“Ifeellike
this is my Koosh ball/blanket,”“I feel a personal ownership of the
Koosh ball/blanket,and I feel like I own this Koosh ball/
blanket”—each on a seven-point scale anchored by endpoints
Strongly Disagreeand Strongly Agree(α=.95 for product 1
and α=.96 for product 2). These items are adapted from a
measure of perceived ownership used in workplace settings
(Pierce, Kostova, & Dirks, 2001) that has been used previously in
consumer behavior research (Peck & Shu, 2009). The perceived
ownership of each product was measured immediately after the
participant touched/imagined touching the product.
Results
Hypothesis 1 predicted that when the study participants
imagined touching a product with their eyes closed, perceived
ownership would be greater than when the participants imagined
touching with their eyes open. An ANOVA was run with
perceived ownership as the dependent variable, and a main effect
of the touch/imagery condition was found (F(3, 322) = 4.31,
p= .005, see Fig. 1). Haptic imagery with eyes closed resulted in
significantly greater feelings of perceived ownership (M=2.29)
than both haptic imagery with eyes open (M=1.78) and no
imagery (M=1.78). Similarly, the condition where touch was
possible resulted in significantly greater feelings of ownership
(M=2.21) compared to both the haptic imagery with eyes open
condition and the no imagery condition. Interestingly, there was
no significant difference in perceived ownership between the
haptic imagery with eyes closed condition and the condition
where actual touch was possible. See Table 1 for Fvalues
between pairs.
A post hoc study revealed that our instructions to image
produced haptic mental images and not just visual mental
images. Sixty-nine students wrote down adjectives to describe
the blanket they imagined touching. The number of haptic
words (e.g., soft,”“smooth) and the number of non-haptic
words (e.g., blue) were analyzed. The average number of
haptic words recorded was 3.5 and the mode was 3.0. On
average, 68% of the words the participants used to describe the
image were haptic. Only one participant did not record any
haptic words, and only three students listed less than 25%
haptic words. This supports the effectiveness of our instructions
in eliciting haptic images rather than merely visual images.
Discussion
In Study 1, we found that individuals who imagine touching
an object when their eyes are closed experience a level of
perceived ownership similar to individuals who actually touch
the object. This effect is not observed when a person imagines
touching an object with their eyes open. Thus our hypothesis
that imagining touching an object with eyes closed (vs. eyes
open) leads to greater perceived ownership is supported. In
Studies 2 and 3 we investigate the process through which this
occurs.
Study 2: Haptic imagery with eyes closed leads to
physical control
Touch is the primary means by which consumers acquire
haptic information, such as weight and texture, from products
(McCabe & Nowlis, 2003; Peck & Childers, 2003a). However,
touch is also the mechanism through which consumers ma-
nipulate objects. Pierce et al. (2003) suggest that the direct
physical control of objects that is afforded by touch may be an
antecedent of perceived ownership. They delineate three paths
through which perceived ownership emerges: (1) control of an
object, (2) acquisition of intimate knowledge of an object, and
(3) investment of the self in an object.
People value their possessions because these can be used to
exhibit control over the physical environment and other people
(Furby, 1978b). Control over the physical environment stems
from control of the object, control over the use of the object,
191J. Peck et al. / Journal of Consumer Psychology 23 (2013) 189196
and use of the object as a mechanism to exert control over other
parts of the environment(Pierce et al., 2003, p. 89). In a study on
ownership semantics, objects over which individuals exercised
the most control were most likely to be perceived as theirs
(Rudmin & Berry, 1987). Others have noted that objects that can
be physically controlled are more likely to be associated with the
self (Belk, 1988; Ellwood, 1927; Furby, 1978a; Lewis & Brook,
1974; Seligman, 1975). Since control is associated with the self,
objects that are under one's control engender greater feelings of
ownership.
Although control of an object has been hypothesized to be an
antecedent of perceived ownership, this has not been empirically
tested (Peck & Shu, 2009; Shu & Peck, 2011). If control is in fact
an antecedent, we would expect that touch and touch imagery
would result in greater perceived control compared to no touch
and no touch imagery. We would also expect,from Study 1, that a
condition with touch imagery with eyes closed would result in
greater perceptions of control than a condition with touch imagery
with eyes open. Formally:
H2. Actual touch and imagining touch (haptic imagery) with
eyes closed will lead to greater perceived physical control of an
object compared to both a haptic imagery with eyes open and a
no touch without haptic imagery condition.
The purpose of Study 2 was to examine the link between touch
and touch imagery and the perceived sense of physical control of
an object. We also included an individual difference in preference
for touch as a covariate, since individuals greater in their need
for touch(Peck & Childers, 2003b) could potentially feel more
control when they haptically image compared to those lower in
their need for touch.
Method
Study 2 employed four conditions (touch/imagery: no touch
and no imagery, no touch and haptic imagery with eyes open,
no touch and haptic imagery with eyes closed, touch and no
imagery) in a between-subjects design. A blanket, as in Study
1, was used for Study 2. Two hundred and eighty individuals
participated in small groups, and each group was randomly
assigned to a condition. The participants sat at a table and a
closed folder was placed in front of each participant. The front
of the folder read Do Not Open Until Instructed.Inside each
folder was a swatch of a blanket. The purpose of the folder was
to ensure that each participant viewed the swatch for exactly the
same amount of time; the participants were instructed to open
their folders simultaneously, and after 30 s had elapsed they were
instructed to close them. The swatches of fabric were cut from the
same blanket, and the same swatches were used across all
conditions. All participants were initially instructed to evaluate
the swatch, without touching it, as if they were considering
buying a blanket. The instructions read as follows:
We ask that you evaluate a blanket as if you were considering
buying it. A swatch of the blanket has been placed inside the
Fig. 1. Mean perceived ownership (17) by imagery/touch condition (Study 1).
Table 1
Fvalues and pvalues of specific contrasts between conditions for perceived
ownership (Study 1). All Fdegrees of freedom are (1, 322).
Perceived ownership Haptic imagery
(eyes open)
Haptic imagery
(eyes closed)
Touch
No imagery .00
p=.99
6.45
p= .01
4.90
p=.03
Haptic imagery
(eyes open)
6.61
p= .01
5.02
p=.03
Haptic imagery
(eyes closed)
.09
p=.77
192 J. Peck et al. / Journal of Consumer Psychology 23 (2013) 189196
folder in front of you. Please do NOT open the folder until told
to do so. You have 30 s to look at the swatch. Do not touch the
fabric swatch. The researcher will tell you when to close the
folder.
In the haptic imagery conditions, the participants were then
instructed to imagine touching the blanket for one minute, as
follows:
After that, we want you to take one minute and imagine
touching the blanket. Please close your eyes/leave your eyes
open while imagining. Imagine holding it in your hands.
Think about how it would feel. Please close your eyes/leave
your eyes open as you are imagining touching the blanket.
In the no touch and no imagery condition, the participants
were asked to evaluate the blanket for one minute. In the touch
and no imagery condition, the participants were asked to touch
the swatch and evaluate the blanket for one minute. After the
minute, in all conditions, a measure of physical control and the
twelve-item need for touch scale were administered (Peck &
Childers, 2003b).
The primary dependent variable was physical control over the
object. This was measured with two items: When evaluating the
blanket, I felt as though I: (1) could move it and (2) had physical
control over it.Each item was rated on a seven-point scale,
anchored by strongly disagreeand strongly agree, and the
items were averaged (r=.91). Need for touch was measured with
twelve items that were averaged (α=.91).
Results
With physical control as the dependent variable, there was a
main effect of touch/imagery condition (F(3, 2 76) = 193, pb.001).
Not surprisingly, the condition where the participants could touch
resulted in the greatest level of physical control (M=6.30)and the
no touch, no imagery condition resulted in the least amount of
physical control (M=1.86). Interestingly, a planned contrast
revealed that the no touch haptic imagery with eyes closed
condition resulted in significantly greater physical control than the
no touch haptic imagery with eyes open condition (M=4.71 and
2.09, F(1, 2 76) = 144, pb.001, Fig. 2). The individual difference
in preference for touch (need for touch) was included as a
covariate but was not significant (F(1, 275)= .35, p= .56) and will
not be discussed further.
Discussion
In Study 2, perception of physical control varied by haptic
imagery condition, supporting H2. The condition where touch
was possible resulted in the greatest level of physical control, as
expected. In the haptic imagery conditions, imagining touch
with eyes closed resulted in greater feelings of physical control
than imagining touch with eyes open. This provides additional
support for Study 1, in which ownership was greater in the eyes
closed versus eyes open condition while imagining touching an
object. Furthermore, haptic imagery, particularly when one's
eyes are closed, leads to perceived ownership (Study 1) and
gives rise to varying levels of physical control (Study 2). We
combine these findings in Study 3 and consider vividness of
haptic imagery as a mediator of the effect of haptic imagery on
physical control and perceived ownership.
Study 3: Haptic vividness leads to physical control and
perceived ownership
Study 1 showed that perceived ownership after haptic imaging
with eyes closed was similar to perceived ownership after actual
touch. Study 2 helped explain the process through physical
control; closing one's eyes while imaging led to greater feelings
of physical control compared to imaging with eyes open. In Study
3, we examine the vividness of haptic imagery when one's eyes
are open vs. closed and the corresponding effect on perceived
ownership through physical control. Previous researchhas shown
that the effects of visual imagery are mediated by the vividness of
the imagery (Pearson, Rademaker, & Tong, 2011). Although
haptic imagery vividness and visual imagery vividness are not
identical, they appear to be correlated (Campos et al., 1998). Thus
we expect that closing one's eyes leads to more vivid haptic
imagery than imaging with one's eyes open, and this increased
vividness makes haptic imaging with eyes closed more similar to
actual touch, giving rise to greater feelings of physical control and
perceived ownership. Formally:
H3. Haptic imaging with eyes closed leads to greater perceived
ownership than haptic imaging with eyes open due to the effect
of haptic vividness on perceived physical control.
Method
Study 3 employed two conditions (haptic imagery with eyes
open, haptic imagery with eyes closed) in a between-subjects
design. A blanket, as in Studies 1 and 2, was selected as the
stimuli, and the same procedure utilized in Study 2 was used in
Study 3. One hundred and thirty-three individuals participated
in small groups, and each group was randomly assigned to a
condition. The instructions read:
We ask that you evaluate a blanket as if you were considering
buying it. A swatch of the blanket has been placed inside the
folder in front of you. Please doNOT open the folder until told
to do so. You have 30 s to look at the swatch. Do not touch the
fabric swatch. The researcher will tell you when to close the
folder.
After that, we want you to take one minute and imagine
touching the blanket. Please close your eyes/leave your eyes
open while imagining. Imagine holding it in your hands.
Think about how it would feel. Please close your eyes/leave
your eyes open as you are imagining touching the blanket.
The primary dependent variables were perceived ownership,
as measured in Study 1 (α= .96), and physical control over the
blanket, as measured in Study 2 (r= .62). Three items measured
the vividness of the haptic imagery: (1) I could imagine moving
193J. Peck et al. / Journal of Consumer Psychology 23 (2013) 189196
my fingers on the blanket,(2) I felt that I could examine the
texture of the blanket,and (3) I felt as if the blanket was in my
hands.These items were rated on seven-point scales anchored
by endpoints Strongly Disagreeand Strongly Agreeand
averaged (α=.81).
Results
The multiple group structural equation model shown in
Fig. 3 was estimated using a maximum likelihood estimator.
The model demonstrated acceptable fit as assessed by the exact
fit test (χ
2
= 61, df = 46, p= .07), the close-fit test (RMSEA =
.07, 90% C.I.: .00 to .11, pclose = .25), and the comparati ve fit
index (CFI = .98). All coefficients are statistically significant at
pb.05, with the exception of the effect of haptic vividness on
physical control in the eyes open group (p= .46). A direct effect
from haptic vividness to perceived ownership was estimated
and found to be not statistically significant (p= .18 for the eyes
open group, p= .26 for the eyes closed group). We thus
conclude that closing one's eyes affects haptic vividness, which
in turn affects perceived ownership through physical control,
supporting H3.
General discussion
Product touch is a key component of consumer behavior.
Whether consumers touch to obtain information or to enjoy
sensory feedback, touch plays an important role in purchase
decisions. What happens when consumers are not given the
opportunity to touch a product? Is the inability to touch
insurmountable? Acknowledging that product touch is not
always feasible, we set out in search of a surrogate for
physical touch. Since previous research had shown that
perceived ownership produces effects similar to actual owner-
ship, we conjectured that perceived touchin the form of haptic
imagerycould produce effects similar to actual touch.
Our first study showed that haptic imagery can in fact serve
as a surrogate for touch when people imagine touching a
product with their eyes closed. Specifically, the extent to which
a person feels a sense of ownership of an object is similar
whether the person actually touches the object or closes his
eyes and imagines touching the object. We suspected that the
process through which this occurs is physical control; that is,
just as touching an object leads to feelings of physical control
over the object and thereby perceptions of ownership, closing
one's eyes and imagining touching an object leads to feelings of
physical control and perceived ownership. Study 2 suggests
that this is in fact the case, and Study 3 demonstrated that the
effect of vividness of haptic imagery on perceived ownership is
mediated by physical control when one's eyes are closed.
Research on imagery and the tactile system is limited, and
this extension of the literature on haptic imagery holds promise
for further sensory research. In addition, haptic imagery may
facilitate research in the area of touch. Haptic experiments are
time and resource intensive, since the study participants must
be physically present at a laboratory to handle physical stimuli.
When haptic imaging can act as a surrogate for physical touch,
studies may be conducted online, or at least moved to a
computer lab. Greater understanding of the effects of haptic
imaging will enable researchers to determine when physical
stimuli are necessary and when haptic imagery may suffice.
Physical control over an object, intimate knowledge of an
object, and identification with an object are three possible
paths to perceived ownership (Pierce et al., 2001, 2003). In this
research, we focused on the effect of haptic imagery on
perceived ownership through physical control. Future research
Fig. 2. Mean physical control (17) by touch/haptic imagery condition (Study 2).
194 J. Peck et al. / Journal of Consumer Psychology 23 (2013) 189196
could investigate the other two paths to perceived ownership
and consider the possibility of interactions among the three.
For instance, it may be possible to enhance the effect of haptic
imagery on perceived ownership by encouraging identification
with an object. Similarly, educating consumers on the attributes
of an object could lead to greater perceived ownership when
coupled with haptic imaging. It may also be informative to try
discouraging object identification to reduce perceived ownership.
The additive, or multiplicative, effects of pairing physical control
with other antecedents of perceived ownership would enhance
the theoretical model linking the antecedents to ownership.
Our investigation of haptic imagery as a surrogate for touch
suggests that the vividness of the imagery is key; the more vivid
the haptic imagery, the greater the sense of physical control and
the stronger the perceived ownership. Are some types of haptic
information inherently more vivid than others, though? For
example, the haptic attribute of softness may be easier to imagine
than weight. Moreover, what happens when haptic imagery is
followed by actual touch? The imagined haptic experience could
be either more or less favorable than the actual haptic experience.
If there is a discrepancy, how will it be interpreted by the
individual? Could vivid haptic imagery negatively impact product
satisfaction due to disappointment with subsequent actual touch?
Alternatively, might the haptic experience itself be affected by
prior haptic imagery? Research on the effects of prior visual
imagery on perception suggests that this could be the case
(Pearson, Clifford, & Tong, 2008). There is also a question of past
experience with a product category. If an object is familiar, haptic
imagery may be facilitated by stored past experience, enhancing
vividness, whereas haptic imagery with unfamiliar objects may
not be as effective.
In this research, we did not find individual differences in
preference for touch information to be significant. However, we
know that haptic information is more accessible for high need
for touch individuals (Peck & Childers, 2003b). In the absence
of explicit instructions to image haptically, high need for touch
individuals may be more likely to spontaneously form haptic
images. If this is the case, they may be disappointed with the
actual product when they eventually have the opportunity to
touch it. While they may be able to compensate for a lack of
touch through spontaneous imagery, the end result could be
decreased satisfaction.
Future research should also investigate the relationship
between visual imagery and haptic imagery. While little is
known about haptic imagery, there is some evidence that visual
imagery includes haptic features (Campos et al., 1998; Zhang et
al., 2004). For example, Katz (1925) imagined the smoothness of
a windowpane and noted the presence of a hand in the image.
Since a function of imagery is the recreation of an experience,
which may be comprised of multiple modalities, the interplay of
different types of perceptual images warrants investigation.
Managerially, this research has important implications for
online and direct marketing. Consumers in these environments
are likely to experience greater uncertainty due to the absence
Coefficients in bold are statistically significant at p < .05
Fig. 3. Physical control as a mediator of haptic vividness on perceived ownership when imaging with eyes open vs. eyes closed (Study 3).
195J. Peck et al. / Journal of Consumer Psychology 23 (2013) 189196
of haptic sensory input. This is particularly problematic in
categories such as clothing, where haptics play a key role in
product evaluation. Lands' End, for example, deals with this on
its website by providing detailed product descriptions, large
product photos, and free swatches. Haptic imagery could be
added to the mix to further enhance consumer perceptions of
merchandise. Indeed, there has been a call for touch research to
explore alternatives to direct physical contact (Elder et al., 2010),
especially given the growth of non-touch media such as online
and catalog shopping. Consumers who prefer tactile input are less
likely to purchase online (Citrin, Stem, Spangenberg, & Clark,
2003) and are more frustrated and less confident in their product
evaluations when touch is not available (Peck & Childers,
2003a). The present research is a first step in examining haptic
imagery as a surrogate for actual touch, an area that holds promise
for future research in haptics.
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... (1) Supplemented by (highresolution) emotional images (2) Supplemented by pictures with I-Perspective and/or 3D images [39,53,54] H3 (0-3) 2D images N.p. Super-zoom-images (feature crops) Representation from different angles Use I-perspective [37,55] H4 (0-1) Depicted dimensions of the product N.p. ...
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