How Does Social Influence Really Affect Consumer Decisions? Insights from an Eye Tracking Study

43 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2014 Last revised: 17 Dec 2016

See all articles by Ting Li

Ting Li

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University; Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM)

Paul A. Pavlou

University of Houston - C.T. Bauer College of Business

Date Written: May 1, 2014


Social influence shapes consumers’ decision-making process by observing other consumers’ actions. Having shown that social influence affects consumers’ actual purchases (beyond price and discount) using longitudinal secondary data from Groupon, we conducted a lab experiment, including eye tracking, to examine how different information stimuli (i.e., social influence stimulus and discount stimulus) indirectly affect consumers’ purchasing decisions by shaping their visual attention. Using eye tracking, we were able to capture consumers’ eye movements, allowing us to identify which information stimuli (i.e., areas of interest on a webpage) consumers look at, the duration of their attention on each stimulus (i.e., fixation duration), and frequency of viewing (i.e., fixation frequency) on these information stimuli, thus enabling us to identify the exact visual information that influence their purchase decisions. By objectively measuring visual attention (measured with fixation duration and fixation frequency), we can obtain a much richer understanding of how exactly consumers cognitively process information and subsequently make decisions. We found that consumers have longer visual attention duration and check existing sales more frequently despite a smaller discount level. Interestingly, instead of a direct effect, information stimuli indirectly affect consumer purchasing decisions via their effects on visual attention. Specifically, visual attention (fixation duration and fixation frequency) on the social influence stimulus plays a mediating role (through memory recall), whereas visual attention (fixation frequency) on the discount stimulus plays a moderating role in the positive relationship between the information stimulus and purchasing decisions. The findings imply that visual attention to information stimuli has diverse (both mediating and moderating) roles in shaping consumers’ purchasing decisions. We discuss theoretical, methodological, and managerial contributions and implications of our research.

Keywords: cognitive processing, eye tracking, social influence, visual attention, fixation duration, fixation frequency, daily-deals, information stimuli, memory

Suggested Citation

Li, Ting and Pavlou, Paul A., How Does Social Influence Really Affect Consumer Decisions? Insights from an Eye Tracking Study (May 1, 2014). Fox School of Business Research Paper No. 14-033. Available at SSRN: or

Ting Li

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University ( email )

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
3062PA Rotterdam

Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM) ( email )

P.O. Box 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam

Paul A. Pavlou (Contact Author)

University of Houston - C.T. Bauer College of Business

Houston, TX 77204-6021
United States

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics