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What is Consumer Psychology?

Consumer psychology is the study of why people buy goods and services. It explores factors like personal preferences, societal trends, and emotional triggers that influence purchasing decisions. Understanding this can help businesses tailor their marketing strategies. But how does consumer psychology affect your shopping habits?
Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

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.

An early consumer psychologist understood how to make a certain baby powder particularly appealing.
An early consumer psychologist understood how to make a certain baby powder particularly appealing.

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.

Brainstorming can help determine consumer habits.
Brainstorming can help determine consumer habits.

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.

Some consumer psychologists specialize in research that explores the ways in which marriage and parenthood affect consumer needs.
Some consumer psychologists specialize in research that explores the ways in which marriage and parenthood affect consumer needs.

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.

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

Dana holds a B.A. in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa. She has loved being part of the PracticalAdultInsights team ever since discovering the joys of freelance writing after her son was born. Dana also hones her writing skills by contributing articles to various blogs, as well as creating sales copy and content for e-courses.

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Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

Dana holds a B.A. in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa. She has loved being part of the PracticalAdultInsights team ever since discovering the joys of freelance writing after her son was born. Dana also hones her writing skills by contributing articles to various blogs, as well as creating sales copy and content for e-courses.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

Daniel87

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.

kmdragon

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.

BuzzKill

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.

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    • An early consumer psychologist understood how to make a certain baby powder particularly appealing.
      By: Graça Victoria
      An early consumer psychologist understood how to make a certain baby powder particularly appealing.
    • Brainstorming can help determine consumer habits.
      By: Monkey Business
      Brainstorming can help determine consumer habits.
    • Some consumer psychologists specialize in research that explores the ways in which marriage and parenthood affect consumer needs.
      By: ftlaudgirl
      Some consumer psychologists specialize in research that explores the ways in which marriage and parenthood affect consumer needs.
    • The risk of burnout for consumer psychologists is very high.
      By: Photosebia
      The risk of burnout for consumer psychologists is very high.
    • Consumer psychology may look at how people make decisions on large purchases.
      By: Deklofenak
      Consumer psychology may look at how people make decisions on large purchases.
    • Consumer psychology may study the effect demographics and personal preference has on purchasing decisions.
      By: bokan
      Consumer psychology may study the effect demographics and personal preference has on purchasing decisions.
    • A consumer psychologist may examine whether or not magazine advertisements can convince reluctant consumers to try new products.
      By: Rido
      A consumer psychologist may examine whether or not magazine advertisements can convince reluctant consumers to try new products.