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EMAC 2022 Annual

Delight my eyes and my brain: Affective and cognitive responses to attractive social media influencers

Published: May 24, 2022


Sara Volkmer, Technical University of Munich; Martin Meißner, Technical University of Munich


Prior work suggests that attractiveness is a key component of source credibility, and, thus, evokes a cognitive response that affects expertise and credibility perceptions. On social media platforms focused on visual content (e.g., Instagram), however, influencer attractiveness might create an affective response, too, if followers experience aesthetic pleasure when looking at an influencer’s content. This paper explores the affective and cognitive response to influencer attractiveness in the form of credibility perceptions and aesthetic pleasure. To investigate this framework, we conducted a 2 (low vs. high attractiveness) × 3 (low vs. pretended high vs. high expertise) between-subjects online experiment (n = 451) in a health influencer context. We find that perceived attractiveness affects source credibility through perceived expertise. Additionally, we find that perceived attractiveness positively affects a user’s aesthetic pleasure. Both source credibility and aesthetic pleasure have positive downstream effects on product attractiveness, as well as eWOM, follow and purchase intentions.