Introduction (Psychology and Mental Health)
The decision-making approach to understanding consumer behavior follows from the assumption that the consumer is someone who seeks and takes in information from numerous sources, processes it, and then makes a selection from a set of alternatives. A major proponent of this view is James R. Bettman. The essence of his theory, presented in An Information Processing Theory of Consumer Choice (1979), is an explanation of how consumers react to information—from advertisers, friends, family, salespeople, and so on. The theory integrates six components of information processing: limitations in the human capacity to process information; the motivation to move from some initial state to a desired state; attention to and perceptual encoding of information; the search for information from memory and the external environment, and the evaluation of this information; decision processes; and the effects of consumption and learning. All these components are related through the construct of choice. Put another way, one becomes motivated, pays attention, obtains and evaluates information, learns, and compares alternatives to reach a goal. Because of its comprehensive nature, Bettman’s theory of consumer choice has been highly influential in the academic and marketing communities.
The information-processing and decision-making perspectives on consumer purchases stand in sharp contrast to an alternative view, called behavioral...
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The Difficulties of Prediction (Psychology and Mental Health)
The prediction of behavior on the basis of attitudes has always been complex. While it is true that people who have a positive attitude toward a product buy more of it than those who do not, other hypothesized links between attitudes and behavior simply do not hold. For example, lifestyle surveys have shown an increasing trend toward the belief that meal preparation should take as little time as possible. Yet during the same time period in which these surveys were conducted, sales of frozen pizza remained constant and sales of frozen dinners fell.
Along similar lines, attitudes toward advertisements do not necessarily correlate with attitudes toward the product being advertised, let alone with purchase of the product. Even a specific attitude may fail to predict behavior toward an object. To demonstrate this, one might ask a friend to describe her attitude toward a Mercedes or a Porsche and toward a Kia. The attitude of many people toward the former is far more favorable, but in reality they are less likely to purchase their preferred make of automobile.
One reason the theory of reasoned action has been successful is that it does not attempt to link attitudes to behaviors in general. Because of this, the prediction of specific behaviors toward “attitude objects” can be achieved. This theory can also be applied to changing specific behaviors. For example, if a person does not intend to engage in a...
(The entire section is 794 words.)
Advertising and Consumption (Psychology and Mental Health)
There have historically been three independent forces stimulating research on consumer behavior. One arises from the desire to influence consumers. Consumer decision-making research combines with advertising and marketing to create desires for products, preferences for brands, and patterns of consumption. An opposing force encouraging consumer behavior research is the desire to protect consumers; organizations committed to consumer rights have identified their own agendas for research on the decision-making processes of consumers. The third group interested in consumer behavior consists of scientists with a fundamental interest in human behavior as it occurs in the marketplace. The field on the whole is neutral with respect to the interests of consumers or those who wish to influence them.
The strong emphasis on decision making in the field of consumer psychology has, as in many areas in psychology, been encouraged by the cognitive revolution. Although researchers continue to recognize that people respond to affective and emotional appeals, they have become more attuned to consumers’ conscious processing of information. This trend can be expected to continue. The need to gather and evaluate information will grow as products and services become more diverse and complex. Another reason that consumer psychology will continue to place an emphasis on decision making is consumers’ demand for more complete and...
(The entire section is 325 words.)
Sources for Further Study (Psychology and Mental Health)
Acuff, Daniel S. What Kids Buy and Why. New York: Free Press, 1999. Written for marketers aiming at children, this resource describes the developmental processes of childhood psychology and how to utilize that knowledge in product development and advertising.
Bettman, James R. An Information Processing Theory of Consumer Choice. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1979. A scholarly presentation of an integrated theory of consumer choice from an information-processing perspective. Numerous propositions are formulated, with frequent reference to empirical research.
Fenwick, Ian, and John A. Quelch, eds. Consumer Behavior for Marketing Managers. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1984. Reviews of the consumer-behavior research literature on issues concerning current applications. Of special interest is the discussion of the consumer decision-making process. Topics covered are the information overload controversy, low-involvement consumer information processing, and the view that consumer behavior involves the making of decisions.
Graham, Judy F. Critical Thinking in Consumer Behavior: Cases and Experiential Exercises. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Education, 2004. The focus of this book is introducing the concepts and theories of consumer behavior, with case studies in several business contexts to analyze.
Jacoby, Jacob, and Jerry C. Olson, eds. Perceived Quality:...
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Consumer Psychology (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
The study of the behavior of consumers of goods and services regarding their buying patterns and reactions to advertising and marketing.
Consumer psychology seeks to explain human, or consumer behavior, in two basic ways: what the consumer wants and what the consumer needs. The logical explanation for fulfilling the needs is a simple one. If a person lives in New York, that person needs a winter coat to survive the cold outside. But why the person buys a particular style or color hinges on the more complex issues of why a particular choice is made. The Society for Consumer Psychology is a division of the American Psychological Association (APA). The group's main focus is conducting scientific research, development and practice in the field. Its quarterly journal, Journal of Consumer Psychology as well as another publication, Journal of Consumer Research and Psychology and Marketing, periodically serves as the voice of those engaged in the understanding of why people buy what they buy.
What the consumer wants
The key to unlocking consumer psychology is understanding that desires rule over needs when it comes to consumer purchase. In a modern world with hundreds of brands of toothpaste, where new food products and electronic gadgets emerge daily, it is the interest...
(The entire section is 885 words.)