Author: Chan, Cheng Chu
Title: Extending the homophily theory to human images with applications to hotel websites
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2019
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Web sites -- Design
Hotels -- Computer network resources
Department: School of Hotel and Tourism Management
Pages: 267 pages : color illustrations
Language: Chinese
Abstract: Hotel products are inherently experiential in nature. Browsing a hotel website, a customer enters a virtual lobby, through which perceived quality and impression towards the hotel may be developed before actual consumption. Hotels increasingly use human images on their websites to bring the impersonal online experience closer to face-to-face interaction. However, the effects of hotel websites with human images, as well as the appropriate human images to be used on hotel websites, have yet to be studied extensively. Grounded on the homophily theory, this study aims to examine the effect of "similar human images" on consumers' hotel booking intention. The Mehrabian and Russell's (1974) Stimuli-Organism-Response model is adapted to examine the mechanism driving the homophily effect in the hotel website context. In addition to the mediator (i.e., Affective States) in the existing S-O-R model, this research extends the model by investigating the effects of two mediators, Cognition towards the Hotel and Website Stickiness, and two moderators, Consumers' Need for Status (CNFS) and Consumers' Need for Uniqueness (CNFU) on consumers' responses. The independent variables including status homophily and value homophily are operationalized as demographic similarity and behavioral similarity respectively. These two independent variables are hypothesized to individually and jointly influence consumers' affective states generated by the hotel website and cognitions towards the hotel, which then influence website stickiness and booking intentions. Three experiments are conducted to test the hypotheses and the overall conceptual framework. PROCESS analysis is mainly used to analyze the data. The findings of this research show that human-present hotel websites do not generate more positive feelings and thoughts in consumers. Moreover, consumers prefer dissimilar over similar human images on hotel websites. Dissimilar human images not only generate more positive feelings toward the website, but also enhance consumers' perceived quality of the hotel, and promote bookings. Nevertheless, the effects of human-present website and dissimilar human images depend on consumers' social needs, including need for status and need for uniqueness. This study contributes to the website design and visual communications literature by extending the homophily theory to investigate the effect of "similar human images" online. It also extends existing knowledge about homophily by observing its impact on inducing affective and cognitive states, and providing empirical evidence on the combined effects of both status and value homophily. Additionally, this study provides practical contributions to hotel practitioners on website design in terms of the more effective human images to be integrated on their websites.
Access: open access

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