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Monochrome Forests and Colorful Trees: The Effect of Black-and-White versus Color Imagery on Construal Level

Hyojin Lee, Xiaoyan Deng, H. Rao Unnava and Kentaro Fujita

Journal of Consumer Research, 2014, vol. 41, issue 4, 1015-1032

Abstract: Marketing communications (e.g., advertising, packaging) can be either colorful or black and white. This research investigates how presence or absence of color affects consumer information processing. Drawing from construal-level and visual perception theory, five experiments test the hypothesis that black-and-white (BW) versus color imagery is cognitively associated with high-level versus low-level construal, respectively. Experiment 1 establishes this association via an Implicit Association Test. On the basis of this association, experiments 2 and 3 show that BW (vs. color) imagery promotes high-level (vs. low-level) construal, leading to sorting objects on the basis of high-level (vs. low-level) features, segmenting behaviors into broader (vs. narrower) units, and interpreting actions as ends (vs. means). Extending this effect into consumer decision making, experiments 4 and 5 further show that consumers presented with BW (vs. color) product pictures weight primary and essential (vs. secondary and superficial) product features more and prefer an option that excels on those features.

Date: 2014
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