Consumer Motivation

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Consumer motivation is an intricate psychological puzzle and a highly researched topic. Each of the six articles presented for review attempt to further our current understanding of the psycho-social nuance underlying this motivation.

In the first article, Wilcox, Kim, and Sen (2009) explore different types of motivation involved in the purchasing of counterfeit items. Expanding on current research which suggests that consumption is socially motivated, the authors test hypotheses regarding two different types of social motivation; value-expressive (self-expression) and social-adjustive (serving relationships).  The research indicates that consumers are more likely to purchase counterfeit brands such as Tory Burch when their primary motivation is to gain approval socially (social-adjustive). In addition, the research indicates that this type of motivation is strengthened by the visibility of the brand, which can be used to discourage the purchase of counterfeit luxury brands.

Similarly, Lee and Shrum (2011) examined different types of social exclusion as it relates consumption, particularly, that social exclusion can produce two types of consumer responses, self-focused and pro-social depending on which needs are being threatened. This research looked specifically at the difference in response to being ignored as opposed to being rejected. The studies confirmed the hypothesis that when a person experiences social exclusion in the form of being ignored, this tends to activate a more self-focused reaction which results in conspicuous consumption. When the exclusion took the form of rejection it appeared to activate a more pro-social response which resulted in behavior such as donating money to people in need.

Vigneron and Johnson’s (1999) article review identifies five types of perceived values as they relate to the notion of prestige in an attempt to understand how it relates to motivation; conspicuousness, uniqueness, social value, aesthetic, and quality. This is why consumers flock towards Dove products - for social value and aesthetic quality. The authors explore these perceptions regarding their independent value as well as the interactional value and propose that this research can positively influence the marketing power to increase the prestige of a given product.

Elliot and Devine (1994) explored the motivational aspects of cognitive dissonance. The findings of which demonstrate that dissonance is experienced as psychological discomfort and is relieved by attitude change. Further, that cognitive dissonance is motivational state, meaning people seek relief for the discomfort by the use of a reduction strategy, which expands on the idea of cognitive dissonance as a motivator for consumption.

In Beyond Pleasure and Pain, Higgins (1997) expands on the hedonic principle that people seek pleasure and avoid pain, by considering the concept of “regulatory focus;” which examines more deeply the role of perception and motivation in decision making, approach-avoidance principles and how people seek to increase well bring or avoid cognitive dissonance in a much more complicated way than is typically considered. These distinctions are important because drawing on the hedonic principle alone is too simple and likely to result in “….misleading conclusions.”

Also looking at regulatory focus, Dholakia, Gopinath, Bagozzi, and Nataraajar (2006) illustrates the complexity of consumer decisions regarding the encountering of a desire and the ability to resist temptation.

In four experiments, the authors provide evidence that consumers with a promotion focus (focus on positive outcomes) experience greater desire but also greater resistance to temptation, offering considerations when attempting to support consumers in curbing desire. 

Each of the articles assigned expands and deepens our understanding of consumer motivation by offering insight into the complexities of human behavior.


Dholakia, U. M., Gopinath, M., Bagozzi, R. P., & Nataraajar, R. (2006). The role of regulatory focus in the experience of self -control of desire for temptations. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 16(2), 163-175.

Elliot, A. J., & Devine, P. G. (1994). On the motivational nature of cognitive dissonance: Dissonance as psychological discomfort. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67(3), 382-394.

Higgins, E. T. (1997). Beyond pleasure and pain. American Psychologist, 52(12), 1280-1300.

Lee, J., & Shrum, L. (2012). Conspicuous consumption versus charitable behavior in response to social exclusion: A differential needs explanation. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(October 2012), 1-16.

Vigeron, F., & Johnson, L. W. (1999). A review and a conceptual framework of prestige-seeking consumer behavior. Academy of Marketing Science Review, 1, 1-10.

Wilcox, K., Kim, H. M., & Sen, S. (2009). Why do consumers buy counterfeit luxury brands? Journal of Marketing Research, XLVI(April 2009), 247-259.