Measuring Automatic Consumer Processes Paper

Ross B. Steinman, Ph.D., Temple University
Published Date: 
22 May 2013

To what extent are people aware of and in control of the influences for their purchasing and consumption behavior? Consumer researchers have dedicated considerable attention to aspects of consumer behavior that are deliberate, conscious, and intentional. However, relatively limited attention has been paid to aspects of consumer behavior that operate outside of conscious awareness. These are referred to as automatic consumer processes. In the past decade, an increasing number of consumer researchers have focused on automatic consumer processes in their attempt to understand judgment and behavior. As such, developing research methodologies that can provide insight into these underlying processes has become essential to the advancement of the field.

These methodologies are important because in consumer research explicit measures, or traditional paper-and-pencil instruments, have been largely used to measure automatic consumer processes. That is, researchers studying automatic processes have had to rely on self-report measures despite the incongruity between the construct and instrument. Examples include research on consumer ethnocentrism and country-of-origin effects, mere exposure to a brand image or product package in influencing consumers’ attitudes toward the brand, and levels of processing research focusing on the effects of incidental advertisement exposure. In each of these cases, the measurement of automatic processes of product or brand information is of interest, but the lack of a reliable and valid measure of consumer attitudes, cognitions, emotions, or behaviors limits what can be learned about the topic. The issue of gathering accurate data from respondents is of utmost importance to consumer researchers. However, in the aforementioned topics, and in many other consumer areas, it is difficult to obtain accurate information about consumers by directly asking them to report their thoughts and feelings…

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