Evaluating Theory-Driven Empirical Papers

Theory-driven empirical papers in JCR aim to test (or extend) consumer-relevant theories. They typically apply a theory (or key claims of it) in a consumer context and test it (usually with experiments). Realism and relevance are important but are less essential for these papers.

Theories exist at different levels (e.g., evolutionary psychology vs. motivation vs. information processing vs. neuroscience), and most phenomena are multiply determined. Explanations at different levels are not necessarily “competing”; the question is not which theory is most “correct,” but which is more appropriate and useful in consumer behavior. In addition, for research to make an original contribution, the underlying mechanism does not necessarily have to be novel; rather, it is the entire causal chain between the independent variable and dependent variable that should be evaluated for novelty.

Evaluation Criteria

  • Are the theory and the CB context appropriately connected?
  • Is the empirical package sufficiently complete to provide enough evidence for the theory?
  • Does the phenomenon studied in the experiment occur outside the artificial conditions of the experiment, or is it something that only happens because of the very set of conditions that the researcher set up in the study?
  • Are mediators and moderators used to provide empirical evidence?
  • If the critical main effect is not intuitive, are there moderators to help explain boundary conditions for the counterintuitive prediction?
  • Is the paper designed for theory confirmation, theory extension, or theory integration/expansion?  The last category is the most ambitious, and the most comprehensive, and may need a variety of evidence (requiring more tolerance in assessment of the provided evidence).
  • For mediation: Does the mediation lead to meaningful insight? Is the mediator sufficiently distinct from both the IV and the DV?
  • For moderation: Will the boundary conditions provide insight? Can boundary conditions be used to infer the process? Do the boundary conditions have a natural correlate in the real consumer world?

Examples of Theory-Driven Empirical Papers

Mogilner, Cassie and Jennifer Aaker (2009), “The Time versus Money Effect: Shifting Product Attitudes and Decisions through Personal Connection,” Journal of Consumer Research, 36 (August), 277-291. https://doi.org/10.1086/597161

Ward, Morgan K., and Darren W. Dahl (2014), “Should the Devil Sell Prada? Retail Rejection Increases Aspiring Consumers’ Desire for the Brand,” Journal of Consumer Research, 41(3), 590-609. https://doi.org/10.1086/676980

Pham, Michel (1998), “Representativeness, Relevance, and the Use of Feelings in Decision Making,” Journal of Consumer Research, 25 (Sep), 144-159. https://doi.org/10.1086/209532

See more: How Do We Evaluate JCR Papers?

The Editors

Bernd Schmitt, June Cotte, Markus Giesler, Andrew Stephen, and Stacy Wood are the current editors of the Journal of Consumer Research.

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