More than meets the eye: hidden messages in the attribution of human-like values to product categories

Sheng Ye, Joanne Sneddon, Anat Bardi, Liat Levontin, Geoffrey Soutar, Julie Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose - This paper draws on values theory, associative network theory, and schema
congruity theory to examine how consumers attribute human-like values to product
categories and products, and how these attributions affect product evaluations.
Design/methodology/approach - Study one randomly assigned 925 respondents to one of
three product categories (cars, mobile phones, and vacations). They were asked about their
values, and to attribute values to an assigned product category. Study two randomly assigned
919 respondents to one of four value-expressive car conditions. They were asked to attribute
values to the car, and then about their attitudes and purchase intentions.
Findings – Respondents attributed human-like values to product categories and products that
were distinct and reflected the motivational compatibilities and conflicts inherent in the
circular structure of human values. Moreover, multifaceted value congruity effects were
found to positively influence attitudes and intentions to purchase a car, including congruity
with (a) product category values-schema, (b) consumers’ personal values-schema, and (c) the
structure of human values.
Originality – We demonstrate how a cognitive memory-based view can be used to better
understand the complexities of the attribution of human-like values to products and product
categories. Moving beyond the attribution of brand personality, this study demonstrates the
importance of not only understanding attributions of values to a product, but also considering
how these attributions interact with the more abstract product category values, to influence
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1323-1351
Number of pages29
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number5
Early online date11 Jun 2024
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2024


  • product category values
  • associative network theory
  • schema congruity theory
  • human values

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