Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Mohammadali Zolfagharian

Second Advisor

Dr. Reto Felix

Third Advisor

Dr. Pramod Iyer


The impact of the choice of language is continuously widening and deepening in different socio-political contexts due to globalization and multiculturalism (Heller, 2010). A nascent stream of research (Zolfagharian, Hasan, & Iyer, 2017) also suggests that, in multicultural service encounters, employee choice of language affects customer perceived interaction quality, which in turn influences a host of outcome constructs germane to service researchers. Therefore, this dissertation focuses on how employee choice of language works in customer mind and shapes their attitude toward service interaction and the service itself. The exploration of this underlying psychological mechanism is expected to provide answers to the queries on whether and to what extent language matters in bilingual service interactions. This dissertation specifically identifies cognitive, affective, and behavioral aspects of customer attitude where employee choice of language may exert influence. Besides, this research studies how employee choice of language evokes positive and negative routes of attitudes. This study also conceptualizes and tests how customer bilingualism and self-concept clarity play a role in directing customers toward these alternative routes of attitudes through their interplay with employee choice of language. To conduct this study, a scenario-based between-subjects experiment of 3 (employee choice and use of language: adheres to, adapts to, and ignores) x 2 (customer preference: two languages spoken in a bilingual service context) is conducted to capture the effects of employee choice of language on customer attitudes. The experiment is conducted on Mexican-Americans who are eighteen years or older and who have a preference for English or Spanish in the specific service context. The results support in general the proposed conceptual model and reveal the impact of employee choice of language in triggering both positive and negative attitudes. Self-concept clarity moderates the effect of employee choice of language on cognitive attitudes. However, the effect of positive and negative affect on customer behavior shows a negativity bias of employee choice of language. Unlike negative affect, positive affect does not influence customer behavior.


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