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What is Consumer Psychology?

Dana Hinders
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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The term consumer psychology refers to the study of how people relate to the goods and services they use in their daily lives. Also known as the study of consumer behavior, consumer psychology provides opportunities to examine issues such as what factors are most important when people decide to purchase a particular item, how customers determine the value of a service, and whether or not television and magazine advertisements can convince a reluctant consumer to try a new product for the first time. This field seeks to describe and explain consumer behavior, although some consumer psychologists will attempt to predict or influence a customer’s decisions.

The discipline of consumer psychology draws heavily from the fields of marketing, advertising, economics, anthropology, social psychology, and cognitive psychology. However, the psychology of consumers has been recognized as its own area of study since World War II. One of the first noted consumer psychologists was John B. Watson, the man who suggested that ads for Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder be structured to subtly play on the anxiety and insecurity commonly felt by new mothers. His technique of recognizing the emotional appeal of advertising remains a cornerstone of consumer psychology today.

Like any other discipline, consumer psychology has several possible areas of specialization. Some consumer psychologists study the impact of advertising or product packaging on a consumer’s purchasing decisions. Others focus their research on how marriage, parenthood, and other important life stages affect consumer behavior. The psychology of price, or how the perceived value of an item is determined, is another popular specialty within this field.

Consumer psychologists can be researchers, educators, consultants, managers, and policy makers. A bachelor’s degree in consumer psychology prepares you for entry-level jobs with advertising agencies, research firms, governmental institutions, and private corporations that wish to learn more about how customers interact with a particular product. However, a graduate degree in marketing, management, or advertising is often necessary before one can expect to advance within the field.

Career opportunities in consumer psychology offer a chance to interact with a variety of people while applying problem solving and creative thinking skills to a number of tasks. A typical day working in this field involves brainstorming, analyzing research data, preparing reports, and meeting with clients. The risk of burnout is quite high, however, since most professionals are expected to work large amounts of overtime when an employer is preparing for a product launch.

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Dana Hinders
By Dana Hinders
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to her work as a freelance writer. After discovering her passion for freelance writing following the birth of her son, Dana has been a vital part of the Practical Adult Insights team. She also showcases her versatility by creating sales copy and content for e-courses and blogs.
Discussion Comments
By Daniel87 — On Jul 14, 2010

Consumer psychologists also study how the products are actually being used. Consumers sometimes find new ways to use the products, that the business may not have thought of. Business are very interested in this, because they may gain new marketing techniques from this information. They may also find ways to improve the product.

By kmdragon — On Jul 14, 2010

Consumer behavior also studies consumer retention. This is often an important aspect of research, since it is important to build a solid customer base. Consumer relationship management, one on one marketing, and personalization are all a part of consumer retention.

By BuzzKill — On Jul 13, 2010

Consumer psychologists may also look at the demographics of an area when they think about product placement or their target audience.

An urban, low-economic area may not be able to financially support a Mercedes dealership. The dealer may want to consider opening in a wealthier, suburban community that could afford the cars.

Similarly, a butcher may not want to open a store in a more liberal, eco-friendly town because it may have a high vegetarian demographic.

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to...
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