The role of arousal congruency in influencing consumers' satisfaction evaluations and in-store behaviors

Jochen Wirtz, Anna S. Mattila, Rachel L.p. Tan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Purpose – It is widely accepted that consumers enter into a service consumption experience with a set of expectations, including affective expectations. This research aims to investigate the matching effects between arousal-level expectations and perceived stimulation (i.e. arousal congruency) on satisfaction and in-store behaviors. Design/methodology/approach – A 3 (under-stimulation, arousal congruency and under-stimulation) perceived arousal congruency)×2 valence (pleasant or unpleasant environment) factorial design was employed and tested across two service settings, a music store and a book store. A short narrative was used to induce arousal level expectations (high and low). Subjects were then exposed to a video clip in which the actual arousal of the store environment was manipulated at three levels (high, moderate, low). Consequently, subjects could perceive the store environment to match their expectations (arousal congruency), exceed their expectations (over-stimulation) or to fall short of their expectations (under-stimulation). Half of the video clips showed a pleasant store environment, whereas the other half of the videos involved an unpleasant store environment. Satisfaction and in-store behaviors served as the two dependent variables in this study. Findings – The results of this study indicate that the valence of the service environment (pleasant or unpleasant) moderates the arousal-congruency effect on satisfaction and in-store behaviors. Satisfaction in pleasant service environments was maximized at arousal congruency, while such matching effects failed to influence satisfaction in unpleasant settings. For in-store approach behaviors, perceived under-stimulation, compared with over-stimulation, had a positive effect on in-store behaviors. Practical implications – The findings of this study indicate that retailers need to pay attention not only to the pleasantness of the store environment, but also to arousal level expectations regarding the servicescape. Originality/value – This paper posits a hitherto neglected theory that affective expectations, which reflect people's expectations about how they expect to feel in a given situation, might be equally important in influencing customer responses in a service setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6-24
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Service Industry Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 20 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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