Reference effects and customer engagement in a museum visit

Noel Yee Man Siu*, Tracy Junfeng Zhang, Ho Yan Kwan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: By extending the expectancy-disconfirmation theory and integrating the elaboration likelihood model, this study aims to explore the reference effects (i.e. disconfirmation and self-identity) and customer engagement that affect customer experience on satisfaction with a museum visit. The study is designed to test a dual-mediator mechanism involving disconfirmation and self-identity. The moderating role of cognitive, affective or behavioral engagements is also examined with the overall purpose to advance the understanding of customer experience in cultural consumption such as museum visits. 

Design/methodology/approach: A self-administered field survey in two stages was carried out on visitors to the Hong Kong Museum of Art. A total of 465 valid response sets were used for analysis. Hypotheses were tested using confirmatory factor analysis, three-step mediation test, structural equation modeling and moderation regressions. 

Findings: Disconfirmation and self-identity are found to be dual mediators in the experience–satisfaction relationship. Cognitive engagement reduces the effect of knowledge experience on disconfirmation and self-identity but increases that of the entertainment experience on disconfirmation and self-identity. Affective engagement amplifies the effect of knowledge experience on self-identity but mitigates the importance of entertainment evaluations. 

Practical implications: Findings highlight the importance of both perceived knowledge and entertainment experiences in visitors’ evaluation of a cultural experience. Managers are suggested to craft promotional messages with the psychological appeal that connects visitors with museum services. Appropriate engagement tactics for museums can be developed to avoid overloading visitors with information. 

Originality/value: Previous studies treat disconfirmation as the dominant reference effect in the formation of customer satisfaction. This study shows both disconfirmation and self-identity as dual reference effects that link the customer experience to satisfaction in the museum context, serving as a pioneer in defining how the influence of experience on reference effects varies depending on how customers are cognitively and affectively engaged in such context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)482-508
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management
Issue number2
Early online date17 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management

User-Defined Keywords

  • Customer engagement
  • Customer experience
  • Disconfirmation
  • Museums
  • Reference effects
  • Self-identity


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