The effect of induced positive consumption simulations on purchases

By our News Team | 2023

Researchers find that while, in general, mental simulation works in for campaigns, marketers must identify ways to strengthen its impact.

Researchers from Yale University and the University of Southern California in the US have published a new study that evaluates more than 50 previous studies conducted over four decades to determine when mental simulation prompts will heighten consumers’ purchases.

The study, entitled ‘EXPRESS: From Mentally Doing to Actually Doing: A Meta-Analysis of Induced Positive Consumption Simulations’, appears in the American Marketing Association’s peer-reviewed Journal of Marketing.

Consumer Research

Photo by Shoval Zonnis from Pexels

Marketers often prompt mental simulations via visuals or via verbal calls to action. For example, restaurants try to entice patrons with mouthwatering photos on their Instagram accounts or menus. 


The Apple Vision Pro launch video shows people using the new headset computer in the hope that consumers will simulate how they would use the device.


Mental simulation has been shown to improve action readiness and is thus used in advertisements and other communications to facilitate purchase and consumption.


“However,” say the researchers, “although some studies have noted positive influences on behavioural intentions and behaviour, others have found minimal or even negative effects. 


“It is difficult to interpret these findings given how the modality of simulation, frequency of induction, type of consumption experience, and target populations vary widely in research and practice.”

Important findings for the industry


This new study evaluates multiple studies conducted from 1980 – 2020 to analyse when mental simulation prompts heighten consumers’ purchases. It produces several important findings for the industry:


  1. Mental simulation increases behavioural responses. However, the average effect is small – suggesting that while mental simulation works in general, marketers must identify ways to strengthen its impact.
  2. The study identifies more powerful mental simulation prompts – such as dynamic visuals with augmented reality (AR) or 360-degree videos, along with verbal instructions to go along with visuals – and guides marketers how to use such interactive media.
  3. The frequency and spacing of the mental simulation determines its effect on consumer behaviour and the study offers guidance to managers for effective ad planning and delivery. For example, when marketers place the same message across different platforms, consumers may be exposed to the same content over and over again within a single episode of mental simulation. In addition to repetition being annoying in general, mass repetition is not just ineffective, but also reduces consumption, likely due to familiarisation.
  4. Simulation has limited impact on behaviour in online samples in which participants may not be sufficiently motivated to engage in mental simulation.


“While mental simulation inductions are a common approach found across many industries and product categories, our systematic, large-scale analysis suggests that marketers should carefully consider the right approach, context and frequency of prompting mental simulations,” the researchers say.


You can find out more about the study here.


Dr Kin Kariisa

Group CEO - Next Media

Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

  • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
  • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
  • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
  • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.