10 Mar Consumer Psychology
Consumer behavior refers to the acquisition, consumption, and disposal of time and offerings (goods, services, and ideas) by decision-making units. Consumer behavior is pervasive and universal involving, as it does, choices made during the waking moments of virtually all human beings in all societies and cultures. In addition to overt observable behaviors (e.g., purchasing, word-of-mouth communications regarding products and services), consumer behavior also includes the covert psychological states and processes (e.g., motives, learning, attitudes, decision making, past experience) that underlie and inﬂuence the overt behaviors. Last, consumer behavior also includes decisions regarding the cessation or lessening of certain behaviors (e.g., smoking; unsafe sex; eating fatty foods).
But why do psychologists ﬁnd it worthy of study? Discussed in greater detail elsewhere (Jacoby, 1975: pp. 981–985), a few of the reasons are as follows.
- First, consumer behavior is a domain providing innumerable opportunities for important, socially meaningful research. Learning how to inﬂuence the underprivileged in this country and elsewhere to adopt and increase consumption of products and services good for them and to cease consumer behaviors that are less appropriate or even harmful is one example.
- Second, consumer theory and research have the potential to contribute to the development and extension of psychology
- Third, because of the universal and pervasive nature of consumer behavior, this context provides excellent opportunities for examining the validity and limits of psychological theory.
- Fourth, consumer research provides numerous opportunities for working with dependent variables that, from the perspective of test subjects, are meaningful and consequential.
- Fifth, in attempting to understand consumer behavior, one is forced to consider a broader array of factors than is typical in much psychological research. This occasionally leads to seeing relationships that might not have been noted had one not been forced to approach the subject using a broad perspective.
Interest by psychologists in consumer behavior and the factors that inﬂuence such behavior has a 110-year history. In 1900, H. Gale published work on the position of an ad on the printed page in ‘The University of Minnesota Studies on Psychology’. In his 1903 book, The Theory of Advertising, Walter Dill Scott, whose dissertation on attention and persuasion was with Wundt, introduced the concepts of needs and motives to advertising. Scott’s 1908 book (The Psychology of Advertising in Theory and Practice) included the word psychology it its title. However, except for occasional articles in the Journal of Applied Psychology, psychologists devoted little scholarly attention to consumer behavior during the ﬁrst half of the twentieth century. When studied at all, consumer behavior was often viewed as a convenient place to test more fundamental psychological propositions. For example, when the United States was experiencing shortages in traditional cuts of beef during World War II, Kurt Lewin’s classic studies on public vs private commitment assisted both government and industry in reorienting food consumption away from foods in short supply and making internal meats (e.g., brain, liver, kidney) more palatable to the American consumer. With the exception of Katona (1951, 1953), essentially a voice in the wilderness, few psychologists studied consumer behavior for its intrinsic interest. Situated in industry, most members of American Psychological Association’s (APA) Division of Consumer Psychology had an applied orientation and were interested in research that assisted business.
Consumer Psychology. Jacob Jacoby, New York University, New York, NY, USA; Maureen Morrin, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.