Every year, millions of Americans get sick from foodborne illness and it is estimated half of all reported instances occur at restaurants. To protect the public, regulators are encouraged to conduct restaurant inspections and disclose reports to consumers. However, inspection reporting format is inconsistent and typically contains information unclear to most consumers who often misinterpret the inspection results. Additionally, consumers are increasingly searching for this information in a digital context. Limited research explores inspection reports as communication tools.
Using affect-as-information and ELM as theoretical frameworks, this experiment investigated how discrete emotions (e.g., disgust) conveyed through pictorial cues (i.e., emojis) influenced consumers’ processing of inspection reports. Participants, recruited from Amazon’s MTurk, were randomly assigned to one of six experimental conditions in a 3 (emoji: smiling vs. disgusted vs. none) x 2 (violation level: low vs. high) between-subjects design. Then, participants completed a questionnaire regarding perceptions and cognitive processing of the message.
Results revealed that, compared to text, disgusted face emoji increased risk perceptions and avoidance behavior. In terms of emotion, smiling face emoji motivated participants to feel more emotions related to sanitation. In turn, positive feelings decreased elaboration likelihood. As predicted by ELM, involvement also predicted elaboration, such that participants who were highly involved with inspection reports elaborated more than those less involved. Involvement also moderated the relationship between emoji presented and elaboration. Practical implications are also discussed.
Disgusting face, disease-ridden place?: Emoji influence on the interpretation of restaurant inspection reports
Health Communication, 18 August 2020
Elizabeth Ray and Patrick Merle