This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 15 table of contents.

Consumer Psychology

Consumer psychology is a branch of industrial/organizational psychology that helps with advertising and marketing of goods to consumers. Consumer psychologists employ the principles of attitude change and persuasion discussed earlier in this chapter. As the Petty and Cacioppo Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) points out, "warm and fuzzy" ads are effective, as long as people do not pay too much critical attention to the content. Consequently, the airwaves (and magazine and web pages) are full of ads that attempt to create a positive attitude toward products by associating them with attractive people and appealing situations.

How is insecurity used in ads?

Another approach to advertising is to create insecurity in potential consumers, then offer a solution to the problem. Many beauty products are sold using this approach. First the ad raises awareness of a problem, such as wrinkles that make a person look older. Then the ad offers a solution, such as a skin cream.

What are common concerns of consumer psychologists?

Not all consumer psychology is in the service of business; in the mid-60s consumer psychologists started doing research aimed at "safeguarding consumer rights and looking after their welfare" (Jacoby, 1975). But, far more often, consumer psychologists do market research for businesses. This involves surveying a certain population to see what they need or want in a product, or keeping track of the results from test marketing products in limited areas. Survey research skills and computer data analysis skills taught in graduate social psychology programs are useful in that kind of work.

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