Consumer Psychology

by Senior Staff Writer, Leonard Wheeler

Everyone is a consumer and generally consumers do not like the thought of being “sold.”  We like to think that we are independent thinkers who make our own choices, however from an exposure point of view, we are influenced by advertising, marketing, sales people, research firms and institutions who prepare consumer offerings on what they think we like and want.  When it comes to consumers, the word self-satisfaction comes into play.  Are their conclusions what we really want and like or are we persuaded?  Advertisers, marketers, sales people and employees of research firms and the government all make decisions to influence us to what they like and want by their calculable methods.  In a nutshell, this is consumer psychology.  Technically consumer psychology is the study of how people relate to goods and services.  To find a true innocent consumer and to evaluate if persuasion does have buying power, it would be well suited to look at innocence or the naive consumer, youth.

Consumer psychology is very broad.  Our decisions to buy are always emotional.  Companies hire specialists to study and evaluate the perceived value of the customer and their selections from everything to packaging or the behavior of parents as consumers. (PsychInfo, para 1)  In a 2005 study at Clemson University, Bryan Denham posted conclusions on Sage Journals Online about youth and society and role of social status on sports participation among high school students and college athletes.  The affects of personal social behavior and influences from environmental factors were used as controls to measure the attitudes about competition, and social attitudes influenced by materialism and advertising in the Untied States.  Certain groups tended to be most influenced:  first men, second those who socialized the most and third those who participated the most in school-sponsored sports.  In addition to the persuasion of the above groups other factors surfaced to include the potential controls for persuasion by sex, race and exposure to print media. (Denham Bryan, 2009) The study clearly prevailed in showing advertisers that they would benefit by targeting high school markets and to market within the sex-appropriate sports for social status.  Even an amateur can identify these by basketball, football, soccer, baseball and hockey.  One might notice that the top ranked companies have a line of sports apparel marketed to the above sports for the target group of high school, university and young males in sports participation.

In a similar study the Journal of Consumer Psychology reports a study on Understanding Materialism Among Youth. (Goldberg, et al, 2003)  The authors of the study developed a Youth Materialism Style.  The results show what one might expect; materialist youths shop more, buy more and save less.  These types of youth wield power over their parents when it comes to buying power.  They study showed that children reciprocally followed their parents attitudes towards materialism.  This study was used by advertisers to identify the “tween” market as a group considered potential to be persuaded by flashy promotions, advertising and packaging. There are companies who live by these consumer priorities as their marketing guidelines.  At these companies the consumer is a science with little left up to guess and much of the business guided by numbers and data.

In a Case Study of Nike in Sweden, the researchers tested youth for the influences that persuaded them to buy certain shoes realizing that Nike is the model.  The author tested several theories:  1.  Consumer involvement in the brand and 2.  Consumer behavior.  The study was analyzed by questionnaires and description by the consumers.  In summary the authors tried to find out by questionnaire what made the students want to buy the Nike brand and what influences Nike had on the students as consumers.  The student overwhelmingly both male and female reported that the influences came from TV, media, print ads, magazines and newspapers and that they desired to buy something stylish.  There were student who reported that they liked the comfort and quality.  One who knows Nike also knows that they market the combination of “cool” shoes with comfort, style and performance.  The students indicated their awareness of all of these factors.  Even the younger students could identify that the higher the price of the shoe, the more complex the decision and the more risk there was of satisfaction. (Sprungman, Krishna 2008)

These three studies show simple examples that consumers are emotional and at all levels they practice evaluation and analysis in their individual buying decisions.  Consumer psychology can be used as a protective measure and it can be used as a persuasive tool.  Consumer psychology is an important science and most business people practice it by intuition even if they are not aware of it as a formal field of study.


Consumer Psychology and Marketing, PsychInfo, American Psychological Association, Retrieved from

Denham, Bryan E., Youth Sports Participation and Attitudes Toward Societal Competition, Concern for material Items and the Consequences of Manipulative Advertising.  (2009) Retrieved from

Goldberg, Marvin, Gorn, Gerald J., Peracchio, Laura A., Barnossy, Gary. Understanding Materialism Among Youth Journal of Consumer Psychology. (2003) Retrieved from

Sprungaram, Narsimha Vamshi Krishna.  Assessing Youth’s Buying Behaviour towards Sports Shoes, A Case Study of Nike, University of Halmstad (2008) Retrieved from