Expectation confirmation theory (ECT) is a widely accepted theoretical framework that seeks to explain how individuals’ prior expectations about a specific phenomenon shape their perceptions and judgments of it. The theory posits that individuals' expectations influence their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors towards an event, product, or service. This review provides an overview of ECT's fundamental concepts, theoretical foundation, empirical evidence, and critiques.
ECT's fundamental concept is that people have specific expectations about a product or service, and their perceptions and attitudes towards it are shaped by the extent to which their expectations are confirmed or disconfirmed. Expectations are based on prior experiences, information, and beliefs, and they guide people's perceptions, judgments, and behavior. The confirmation bias is a cognitive mechanism that explains how individuals tend to seek, interpret, and recall information that confirms their expectations, and ignore or dismiss information that disconfirms them.
ECT's theoretical foundation is rooted in social psychology and cognitive psychology. The theory draws on social comparison theory, which posits that people compare themselves to others to evaluate their abilities, attributes, and performance. ECT also draws on cognitive dissonance theory, which posits that people experience discomfort when their beliefs or attitudes are inconsistent with their behavior or experience.
ECT's empirical evidence suggests that individuals' expectations and their confirmation or disconfirmation have a significant influence on their attitudes and behaviors towards a product or service. Studies have shown that when people's expectations are met or exceeded, they tend to have more positive attitudes, higher satisfaction, and stronger intentions to use or repurchase the product or service. Conversely, when their expectations are not met, they tend to have more negative attitudes, lower satisfaction, and weaker intentions to use or repurchase the product or service.
ECT has been used to explain various phenomena, such as consumer behavior, customer satisfaction, service quality, and technology adoption. The theory has also been applied in diverse contexts, such as healthcare, education, and social media. However, some critiques of ECT suggest that it oversimplifies human cognition and behavior, neglects the role of emotions and motivations, and fails to account for the dynamic nature of expectations and their evolution over time.
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