Comparison Standards: Exploring Their Variety and the Circumstances Surrounding Their Use


  • Sarah Fisher Gardial University of Tennessee
  • Robert B. Woodruff University of Tennessee
  • Mary Jane Burns Florida International University
  • David W. Schumann University of Tennessee
  • Scott Clemons University of Indiana-Southeast


Satisfaction research has made a significant contribution to the field of consumer behavior by exploring the role that comparison standards play when consumers make product-related judgments. However, little empirical attention has been given to documenting 1) the different types of standards which consumers might use or 2) how the evaluation context might influence the consumer's selection of different comparison standards. In this study, in-depth interviews were conducted with members of a health club during which they were asked to discuss their use experiences (comparison standards were neither cued nor prompted). From these interviews, a protocol analysis was conducted which verified a variety of unprompted comparison standards which the
consumers used when discussing the service faculty. In addition, the comparison standards which consumers used varied with the means-end hierarchy level at which the judgment was being made, and to a lesser extent with judgments which resulted in emotion versus evaluation responses. Implications for theory development, measurement, and future research are noted.




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