Characteristics and Models of Consumer Psychology

Are you ready to enter the world of consumer psychology? You'll learn why people consume certain products, as well as the theories and explanatory models that support these types of behaviors.
Characteristics and Models of Consumer Psychology

Last update: 06 January, 2021

The confluence of the industrialization process and the development of science has led to the emergence of disciplines dedicated to analyzing consumption and the market. For instance, consumer psychology, also known as behavioral economics, is a discipline that studies cognitive and emotional trends. Furthermore, the goal here is to understand how they influence the market.

The current culture of many developed countries is basically a consumerist one. This trend continues to be on the rise and the role of consumer psychology is increasingly relevant, both in academic and commercial settings.

This field of psychology studies how people make decisions when it comes to acquiring a product. In addition, what factors intervene in the desire to shop and the reasons that ultimately determine purchase behavior. Continue reading this analysis about the main psychological variables of the consumer and environmental factors that influence them.

An illustration of consumer psychology.

The consumer in psychology

Consumer psychology is about the emergence of purchasing needs and related psychological and environmental factors. Also, it’s possible to draw a series of strategies focused on the commercial offering of a consumer good from this discipline.

The key aspects of the analysis of consumer behavior are:

  • Personal. These are the characteristics that set you apart and make you unique. Consumer psychology takes into account the diversity in each consumer group it analyzes.
  • Cognitive components. These are the ideas and thoughts through which people operate. Consumer psychology studies how you process information and make decisions regarding consumption.
  • Behavioral elements. This aspect studies consumer behavior in order to outline the strategy of approaching a brand to potential buyers.
  • Social aspects. People in this branch study sociological guidelines to find marketing strategies based on the understanding of certain types of behaviors.
  • Emotional aspects. Researchers analyze them to determine the feelings a product generates or should generate.

In general, these principles delimit the base on which consumer psychology works. This basis is common to any product or service intended to be marketed, whether it’s an object or something intangible like insurance. This discipline can even collaborate in the promotion of commercial strategies for the improvement of the quality of life.

Psychological factors that influence the consumer

Consumer psychology analyzes consumer behavior by taking into account the group context in which the person operates. Thus, it delimits different group types according to the type of influence it exerts on the consumer:

  • The Primary Group takes into account the family or closest environment in which each person grows up. It’s primary because it reflects how people learned their first purchasing habits and mode of selection.
  • Then, there’s the Secondary Group, which includes friends, co-workers, couples, and institutions that have been part of your life at some point.
  • Finally, the Tertiary Group includes the media, social leaders, YouTubers, influencers, etc. In short, any influencing factor with which you haven’t had physical contact or might be abstract in essence.

All these groups have an impact on your psychology and behavior and, therefore, are determining factors in your consumption dynamics.

Thus, family defines the patterns of consumption of an individual insofar as it’s through their patterns and beliefs that people initially learn how to behave when consuming, whether they’re aware of it or not.

Similarly, the Secondary Group also generates a certain effect on you. One that affects your behavior as a consumer, especially in terms of assimilation to the norm. Finally, the tertiary group has a determining influence. This is because it’s usually the one that sets the most trends via endorsements from celebrities.

Other factors that influence consumer behavior

However, groups aren’t the only influencing factors. There are other sources and consumer psychology takes them into account:

  • Culture. Factors such as traditions can create patterns of behavior that relate to your consumption needs.
  • Status. Given that social beings try to fit in with groups they either belong to or aspire to belong to, it’s common to adopt their behavioral dynamics of consumption.
  • Emotions. People have defined psychophysiological reactions to certain situations. This discipline studies it to define which emotions lead to the purchase of products.

Taking into account all the factors we mentioned above, consumer psychology doesn’t only determine the consumption needs of people and how to influence them. Instead, it also creates specific consumer profiles and, thus, helps brands.

A group of people brainstorming.

Models used in consumer psychology

This field specializes in features belonging to different areas, such as marketing, economics, and sociology. Here are some of the explanatory models they use:

  • Field theory states that consumption depends on the environment of a person at the time of purchase.
  • The learning model deals with the components of the purchase such as impulses, stimuli, and reactions. This is because these elements are present when a person buys something.
  • A model based on psychoanalysis defends that people buy things according to their morals, instincts, and conscious and unconscious viewpoints.
  • The sociological field suggests that people buy according to their culture and groups they belong to.
  • Finally, the economic theory sustains that people buy what’s more profitable and value the benefit that a purchase will bring.

You must keep in mind that your purchasing decisions also depend on your needs at any given moment. Thus, every person prioritizes according to their conditions and desires when buying. However, they often do so based on needs generated by economic interest.

Final notes on consumer psychology

Purchase decisions often depend on trends. Thus, people buy things because others have them and feel left out if they don’t buy them as well.

There are many theories that could explain consumer behavior, but in general, most of them defend the existence of many influencing factors. Furthermore, they support the notion that buying decisions are sometimes unconscious.

As you can see, consumer psychology is a field that tries to describe and explain people’s needs based on behaviors, emotions, thoughts, and context.

Knowing consumer behavior, its term in the commercial field, is quite useful for the positioning of a brand. In fact, many agencies have these kinds of specialists to aid them with their observations and theories.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Morales, A. V., & López, W. L. (2008). Investigación cualitativa y psicología del consumidor: alternativas de aplicación. Avances en Psicología latinoamericana26(2), 290-303.
  • Pardo, I. Q. (1998). La psicología económica y del consumidor en España. Reflexiones conceptuales y práctica profesional. Papeles del Psicólogo70.
  • Parrado Corredor, F. (2013). JB Watson y la Publicidad, los Inicios de la Psicología del Consumidor. Revista colombiana de psicología22(2).
  • Ruiz, M., & Palaci, F. (2011). Variables cognitivas y psicología del consumidor. El modelo de la confirmación de expectativas en la actualidad. Boletín de psicología103, 61-73.
  • Sandoval, M., Botero, M. M., & López, W. (2009). Desarrollo histórico del pluralismo en la psicología del consumidor y tendencias actuales. Psicología del trabajo y de las organizaciones: reflexiones y experiencias de investigación.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.