How Consumers’ Pre-Crisis Associations and Attitude Certainty Impact Their Responses to Different Crises

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Through two experiments, this study examines how consumers with positive or negative associations in corporate ability (CA) versus social responsibility (CSR) respond to associated-based corporate crises. It also tests how consumers further adjust their responses based on the perceived certainty in their pre-crisis company attitudes. Theoretical insights from cognitive psychology (confirmation bias and attitude certainty literature), interpersonal communication (expectancy violations theory), corporate reputation, and crisis management are used to inform predictions. Results of Experiment 1 reveal attitude certainty determines when positive pre-crisis associations buffer a company against crises or backfire. Additionally, the buffering and backfiring effects vary in magnitude dependent on the relevance of the crisis to these associations. Results of Experiment 2 show attitude certainty also matters when prior associations are negative. This study contributes to crisis communication and management scholarship by providing interdisciplinary insights on how consumers update their crisis responses according to various contextual factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)815-839
Number of pages25
JournalCommunication Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018



  • attitude certainty
  • confirmation bias
  • corporate associations
  • crisis management
  • expectancy violations theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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