The contrasting influences of incidental anger and fear on responses to a service failure

Lei Su*, Lisa C. Wan, Robert S. Wyer, Robert S. Wyer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Customers’ disposition to register a formal complaint about an inferior product or poor service is often mediated by attributions of responsibility. However, the anger or fear that people happen to be experiencing for totally irrelevant reasons can also influence this disposition. Two field studies and four laboratory experiments indicate that when people feel angry at the time they encounter a service failure, they are more likely to blame the service provider for the failure and more likely to register a complaint. When they experience fear, however, they are uncertain about the cause of their misfortune and decrease their negative reactions relative to conditions in which fear is not experienced. The effects of these incidental emotions are evident both when a service failure is personally experienced and when it is only observed. These effects are eliminated, however, when individuals do not have the cognitive resources available to assess the reasons for the service failure and the conditions surrounding it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)666-675
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology and Marketing
Issue number9
Early online date18 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Marketing

User-Defined Keywords

  • attribution
  • complaint
  • incidental emotion
  • purchase intention
  • service failure


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