Our minds are not a blank canvas onto which experiences leave their independent and indelible impression. Consumers, therefore, would rarely enter a service encounter without prior knowledge to guide their expectations. The importance of prior knowledge – in the form of schemas – while acknowledged in the study of post-event misinformation effects on memory has received limited attention. Outside of studies investigating misinformation effects, the literature indicates that inconsistency between our expectations and what we experience, improves recall accuracy. Whether this effect translates into reduced susceptibility to misinformation effects and that schema consistency increases susceptibility, is unclear.
The main contribution of this thesis is the demonstration that consistency between schema and the experience, and its interaction with encoding goals, changes a person’s susceptibility to misinformation and their subsequent store quality perceptions. The effects of encoding goals – whether someone is trying to form an impression or remember the details of their experience – while used in previous misinformation studies, has not been previously investigated.
To investigate the effects of schema consistency and encoding goals on misinformation acceptance, and the subsequent impact of misinformation acceptance on store quality perceptions, a three-way between participant design was undertaken using a café service encounter as the context. The three factors – independent variables – and their levels included in the study were schema consistency (consistent/ inconsistent), encoding goal (impression/ recall) and post-event information (misinformation/ neutral).
Results from the study showed that misinformation effects are most likely when people are paying less attention to the service environment. The explanation provided in the study is that when there is a match between what people expect and what they experience they pay less attention to the details of the experience, which results in less diagnostic information encoded into memory. If, however, they were paying attention due to an inconsistency, the information would be attended and result in reduced misinformation acceptance. Where a person was instructed to try and remember the details of their experience rather than form an impression, they paid greater attention to detail than those who were forming an impression. When their expectations were not met in an experience, subsequent exposure to misinformation causes these people to accurately recall their original experience and escape the effect of misinformation.
Significant results were also observed for changes to store quality perceptions, revealing that consumers who accept the misinformation have store quality perceptions that reflect its inclusion. Also observed was an interaction with the initial expectations that meant merchandise quality perceptions improved when a person’s memory for the experience was consistent with their original expectations, and lower when inconsistent.