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Concept      Cognitions   Motivation

2. Cognitions

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2.1 Definition of cognitions

The term cognition refers to the mental processes of knowing, perceiving, and judging which enable an individual to interpret the world about him. Persons, objects and events are perceived by an individual who endeavours to make sense of the stimuli to which he is exposed. His reactions are influenced by the ways in which he perceives certain kinds of objects: he develops a personal view of the world surrounding him which is derived from his environment and his frame of reference. Although his conception of the world tends to be unique-in the sense that no two persons have precisely the same set of beliefs and attitudes-a degree of uniformity must exist, because human beings share several basic characteristics. These fundamental features may relate to biological needs such as food and rest, or to psychological satisfactions to be found, for example, in aesthetic pleasures such as listening to music. The more cohesive a community, the more likely its members are to share very similar sets of cognitions.

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2.2 Cognitive map

The cognitive map of the individual will reflect, therefore, a subjective view of the world; but, to the individual, these beliefs are valid and form the core of his personal orientation towards life in general and may profoundly affect his personal relationships. His consumption habits are also likely to be influenced by his cognitions. These may relate, for example, to the nutritional content of fresh, unprocessed foods compared with tinned foods. Aspects of buying behaviour, such as brand allegiance, store loyalty, or distrust of advertising, may be evident in some cases. Differences in social status may be reflected in the emphases given to certain cultural activities like frequenting art exhibitions, attending symphony concerts or weekend lecture courses. Deep personal convictions may result in activities dedicated to sponsoring political or religious creeds; to the furtherance of trade unionism; or to the development of birth control clinics. Diverse forms of behaviour are generated, therefore, by the beliefs, attitudes and value systems which are held by particular people.

The environment in which an individual lives is complex and confusing; there is so much activity; there are so many stimuli competing for his attention. The individual, exposed to this bewildering 'noise', attempts to build some cognitive structure which will enable him to interpret the world about him in a meaningful way.

2.3 Factors affecting cognition

This cognitive map or structure is determined principally by two kinds of factors: stimulus factors and personal factors. These factors interact to produce an individual's personal set of concepts which affect his economic, social and cultural activities.

The nature of physical stimuli tends to influence the degree of perception; a flashing neon sign, an ordered array of objects on display, a colour advertisement encountered among a series of monochrome pages in a magazine, or a sudden loud noise are almost sure to attract attention. The senses are sti-mulated by unexpected or unusual objects or events; in the fairly predictable routine of everyday life, an individual tends to seek variety and change. Perception has been described as 'to observe through the senses' and the following model has been given by Young:

                          to see

                          to hear

                          to touch                                               thing

To perceive =   to taste                         some        event

                          to smell                                                relation

                          to sense internally

Personal factors modify the effect of the various physical stimuli which influence Perception. 'Behind every act of perceiving is the individual's past history of experience. Previous experience has built up a relatively stable cognitive organization within the individual which determines the meaning of a particular percept.'

The 'Span of apprehension' limits the number of objects or concepts to which an individual may pay attention and comprehend at any one time. Empirical studies have indicated that there are wide personal differences, and that the span varies in an individual according to the nature of the objects and events, the personal significance which these may have, and the period of time during Which they are under review. Consumers, for example, are exposed to a multitude of promotional messages from marketers of goods and services. Sl,ne Of these communications are dismissed as having no personal appeal or interest; the products featured do not offer benefits which an individual is seeking at that time. Of those market communications that are accepted, only a limited number of concepts about specific products or services is likely to be comprehended and become part of the cognitive map of an individual consumer.

Furthermore, perception is necessarily subjective: an individual tends to interpret information according to his existing beliefs, attitudes and general disposition. Messages may be distorted by 'sharpening', i.e., adding new elements to make them fit in with existing predispositions and value systems. 'Levelling' may also occur where messages are simplified, perhaps by removing dissonant elements, so that they are acceptable. Warnings against the dangers of smoking which have to be included by Government order on advertising and packaging of cigarettes in Britain, are likely to be 'screened-out' by habitual smokers. Marketing communications are subject, in short, to selective and distorted perception before being assirnflated by consumers. Moreover, the same messages may be interpreted quite differently by individual consumers, although within defined social and cultural groups similar reactions may be expected. Members of a particular culture tend to form similar cognitive systems which direct the social actions of the individual. People may differ quite strongly from each other about an event they witnessed, or in their assessments of the value of a product or service. 'There are no impartial facts. Data do not have a logic of their own that results in the same cognitions for all people. 2

Perception of the physical attributes of products is a matter of particular interest to marketers. An interesting example of the influence of branding on the perceived taste of beer occurred in an experiment undertaken by Allison and LTI-d3 to test the hypothesis that beer drinkers were unable to distinguish between major brands of unlabelled beers. A sample of 326 male beer drinkers (who drank beer at least three times a week) was randomly selected. Each drinker was given a six-pack of unlabelled beer identified merely by alphabetical letters. Each pack contained three brands, one of which was the brand the subject had indicated earlier that he most often drank. Participants were asked to rate the beer for general overall taste on a ten-point rating scale, and to rate it also for specific qualities. After a week, drinkers were given new six-packs which had labels identifying brands in the usual way. As a group, the 'blind' test drinkers were generally unable to distinguish 'their' brand of beer-they rated it about the same as the other brands. But when the packs were labelled (in the second test), they rated all the beers higher and their 'own' beer highes of all. The only condition in the experiment which had been changed was the labelling of the beers, and yet the findings were that most beer drinkers could not identify their favoured brand of beer in a 'blind' taste test.

Perceived differences in products may not necessarily depend on intrinsic qualities; consumers evaluate products against the background of their experiences, expectations, and associations. Perception is seldom an objective, scientific assessment of the comparative values of competing brands of a product. It is a personal interpretation of the information about a specific product which has been successful in attaining a level of significance in a particular consumer's mind.

Perceptions about people and objects may change as more information becomes available to an individual, and as his needs develop during the course of life. Experiences with a particular brand of a household product may have been disappointing; the service offered in a retail store may be perceived to have deteriorated; a strong personal appeal may have been established by a competitive advertising campaign; or the growing public sensitivity to harmful food additives, for example, may have influenced personal beliefs about the brand of food product customarily bought. Changing family needs, increased amounts of disposable income, or more sophisticated tastes, may also alter perceptions about some products. 

As people acquire new wants, they are led to seek out new information, to learn more. As they learn more about a subject, new wants may be induced, thus impelling them to learn still more. It is also possible, of course, that changes in wants may inhibit the seeking of more information ... the problems of wants and cognitive change is a complicated one ... 2

Even when provided with new information (which may logically demand change-as in the case of the published data on the dangers of smoking), emotions and personal needs may be so dominant that they preclude change taking place in an individual cognitive structure.

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2.4 Characteristics influencing cognitive change

Ballachey 2 has postulated that cognitive change is partly controlled by the characteristics which already exist in a cognitive system. He described 'three main systematic characteristics': multi , consonance, and interconnectedness. The first of these characteristics refers to the degree of complexity existing within a cognitive system. Some consumers, for example, may have extremely elaborate sets of beliefs about food; they may take into account nutritional values, hygiene attributes, ease of preparation, cultural and social significance, etc. Food is not merely sustenance: it is a sophisticated subject which has almost endless permutations. The degree to which an individual is able to achieve a balance between these various aspects of a particular kind of food will define his cognitive consonance. The more complex the cognitions in the system, the more difficult it tends to become for consonance to be achieved. The third characteristic-interconnectedness-relates to the degree of relationship between sets of cognitions in an individual structure. For example, the Jewish faith closely integrates personal hygiene and food with religious observances; beliefs and practices are interdependent, and result in a distinctive type of cultural behaviour.

Although it is conceded that the impact of multiplexity and interconnectedness on cognitive change 'are complex and little understood" there appears to be a general movement towards attaining an internal harmony or consonance in a cognitive structure. Because individuals vary in their abilities to tolerate strain and imbalance, a general level of consonance does not apply, Some individuals, by their education and professional training, may be able t( deal more effectively with situations which may pose serious problems for less experienced people.

Cognitions are not abstract concepts; they are intimately connected to personal needs and ambitions of individuals.

2.5 Cognitive dissonance

The theory of cognitive dissonance was propounded by Leon Festinger, 4 Professor of Psychology at Stanford, USA, in 1957. It has two underlying hypotheses:

1. The existence of dissonance, being psychologically uncomfortable, will motivate the person to try to reduce the dissonance and achieve consonance.

2. When dissonance is present, in addition to trying to reduce it, the person will actively avoid situations and information which would be likely to increase dissonance.

An individual strives towards consistency (consonance, agreement, equilibrium within his cognitive structure (set of beliefs about people, products, events, etc.) and endeavours to reduce tension so as to make life pleasant. Dissonance (disharmony, frustration) is a state of psychological tension which may result from purchasing a product, particularly if it is an expensive one. 'The magnitude of post-decision dissonance is an increasing function of the general importance of the decision and of the relative attractiveness of the unchosen alternatives. 4

When a choice has to be made among several products or versions of a product, a buyer is likely to experience some anxiety, which will tend to become more intrusive after a commitment to purchase has been made. He may experience some doubts as to the wisdom of his choice, particularly when the qualities of rejected alternative products are brought to his notice, either through advertisements or by word of mouth. The product to which he is n committed may fail to live up to his expectations in some way or other. Its ,negative' features may begin to cause him nagging doubts; he is, in fact, experiencing post-decisional dissonance.

According to Festinger's theory, a buyer in this situation will endeavour to reassure himself by seeking information in support of his chosen product, and also by avoiding sources of information which are likely to reduce his buying confidence. He may, in addition, actively collect data which reflects disadvantageously on the alternative products. In order to reduce dissonance, a buyer 'nay, therefore, select information favourable to his choice of product, and at the same time, distort or dismiss unpleasant facts. People are selective in their perception, and tend to collect information congruent with their existing beliefs and attitudes.

The reassurance theory of advertising recognizes that buyers may experience dissonance after purchasing some products, and it is suggested that advertising messages should be aimed at present users as well as potential users of products. Various studies have indicated that 'reassurance advertising' has practical value in marketing strategies. Two American researchers were concerned with its impact on car advertising:

A great deal of advertising, contrary to what one might expect, is read after rather than before the car is bought, and serves to repersuade the reader that he has been wise and practical; Cadillac is well aware of this and its advertisements constantly pat the owner on the back for his good taste and rationality.

Sheth 6 has commented on dissonance theory related to advertising readership data. 'Starch has found that for both non-durable and durable goods, ad. readership of a specific brand is higher among users of the brand than among non-users. Brown has noted that 90% of the people who had recently purchase@ a Ford read Ford advertisements.'

There is some evidence, therefore, that advertisements for certain products tend to be read more after purchase, in order, possibly, to reduce dissonance. Of course, the purchaser of a specific brand or type of product will tend to be 'sensitized', i.e., more aware of other owners, but this does not entirely explain the phenomenon.

Admittedly, it is difficult to measure the effect of 'reassuring' advertisements, though this could probably be done successfully using some of the techniques of motivation research.

Marketers of many kinds of products should take note of the need to dispel dissonance, otherwise repeat business may not be forthcoming, and existing customers would be unlikely to recommend prospective users to buy their particular choice of product.

Manufacturers can reassure customers through efficient after-sales service. The successful Volkswagen operation in Britain has been built on first-class spares and servicing facilities. In the industrial sphere, W. & T. Avery Limited have always given special attention to their maintenance servicing of weighing and testing machines. In several industrial product markets, 'package deals' involving the supply, installation and servicing of equipment help to overcome buyers' legitimate anxieties and confirm their judgement in selecting particular suppliers.

Instruction manuals should contain information which reassures purchasers; the introductory pages may well be devoted to compliinenting the buyer on his choice. 'Guarantee' cards which are mailed to manufacturers for registration or purenase, coula oe Tne signal ior a letter to oe sent to customers oiter. ing them advice on the use of the product, giving details of service agents, and leaflets could also be enclosed which illustrated associated produc manufacturer. 'Reassurance' information could also be printed on so that the advertising message is taken right to the point of purch Dissonance reduction should also be an active duty of the sales perienced salesmen realize that, unless customers feel happy aboul or services they buy, repeat orders are unlikely. In the chapter on organizational buying behaviour, it will be shown that the manufacturer's salesman is regarded as a highly reliable and valued source of information. Opportunities obviously exist for salesmen to reassure buyers and to build goodwill for business.

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2.6 A dissonance study: 'When Prophecy Fails'

What is now virtually a classic study of the influence of dissonance occurred in the USA some years ago, and was recorded by Festinger et al. A Mrs Marion Keech of Lake City, USA, had attracted a group of followers who believed that she had received messages 'sent to her by superior beings from planet called "Clarion" '. These messengers had arrived in flying saucers to warn her of an imminent flood that would 'spread to form an inland sea stretching from the Arctic Circle to the Gulf of Mexico'. This would be accompanied by a cataclysm which would 'submerge the West Coast from Seattle, Washington to Chile in South America'.

Festinger and his colleagues joined the group which was prepared to abani their occupations, homes, and friends, and to await arrival of a flying saucer which, it was said, would take them 'to a place of safety in outer sp little band of believers waited until the midnight of 20 December,,o Visitor had been predicted to call and escort them to safety. But th, strange visitation or flood; only intense despair and dismay were ex by the group. However, Mrs Keech eventually announced that she h received another message to say that the group's behaviour had so pleased God that the threatened cataclysm had been averted.

By this ingenious 'rationalization', the group was able to explain its behaviour and overcome dissonance. Reality had been distortedso that failur@ of the prophecy was consonant with group activities. The suppression of unpleasant facts and the promotion (and even invention) of favourable facts have marketing implications, although not necessarily related to space travel.

2.7 Learning processes

Howard 8 has commented that: 'Common sense suggests the importance of learning in buyer behaviour'. Custo ' mers buy the same brand of product again because experience (i.e., learning) with the earlier purchase had been satisfactory. If this pattern of buying is consistent over a period of time, a buying habit is formed and brand loyalty develops. This type of buying situation illustrates, however, merely one elementary method of learning; learning processes may be conplex and involve elaborate systems of acquiring knowledge. Organizational buying, for instance, frequently entails acquiring considerable amounts of information about technical specifications, relative qualities of comparative materials, sophisticated pricing techniques, etc.

The process of learning is a fundamental activity which has been the subject of countless empirical studies affecting both human and animal behaviour. Some of these researches have resulted in contradictory theories and explanations so that there is no general agreement about the nature of learning. Thouless9 has drawn attention to the fact that a great deal of the 'early experimental investigation of learning was made by means of animals, and the first tendency was to attribute the power of learning to the operation of a few somewhat mechanical laws'. This overlooked that human behaviour is far more varied than animal behaviour'. . . and the fact that language may be used for the purpose of modifying behaviour introduce obvious differences from the learning even of the most advanced sub-human vertebrates'.

2.8 Definitions of learning

Learning has been defined as the 'more or less permanent change in behaviour which occurs as a result of practice'; it acts as an 'intervening, unobserved variable linking the two sets of observables'lo shown in the following model:

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On the left of the model are descriptions of the 'successive exposure of the organism to the same situation'. The right-hand side contains 'a series of obviOusly parallel alternatives expressing the idea that learning produces progressive changes in behaviour'.

Learning itself cannot, of course, be observed; only the 'end-product', i.e., behaviour patterns and the changes which may have taken place in them as the result of the learning process, may be observed.

2,9 Learning theories

Two general categories of learning theory may be identified: connectionist, and cognitive. Within these generic classifications, several variations occur.

Connectionist theories are based on the association between stimuius aria response; learning is postulated as being the development of behaviour (response) as the result of a subject being exposed to a stimulus. Perception and insight are not regarded as significant influences in the learning process.

Some connectionists rely on classical conditioning as an explanation of learning. Two objects or ideas are connected by the prospect of a reward being given as the result of certain action. Alternatively, some punishment may follow in specific situations. This pleasure-pain theory has been widely researched in laboratory experiments. Pavlov's famous experiments on conditioned reflexes in dogs are well-known. He was able to get dogs to salivate by ringing a bell without the actual presentation of food. Earlier, the dogs had been accustomed to hearing a bell being rung several times when food was being given to them. Eventually, the secretion of saliva was activated by the sound of the bell alone.

'The extension of the concept of the conditioned reflex from the limited field in which it had been established as a useful concept to a wide explanatory principle covering all acquired behaviour of animals and men may have been due more to Pavlov's less critical followers than to Pavlov himself, 8 Conditioned responses may have some application in consumer product markets. How far the salivary glands of consumers could be activated by a secondary stimulus would be open to some interesting speculation. The prospect of reward (or punishment) may stimulate behaviour, of course. The pleasure-pain theory of learning, related to classical conditioning, has had extensive research to support it. Thorndikell undertook classical research into the behaviour of cats enclosed in puzzle boxes from which they could escape by clawing at a string or lever in order to obtain food. He enunciated the 'law of effect', which stated that the creation of a strong S-R association depended on the effects (reward or punishment) that followed the response. Thorndike did not consider that the results of his experiments with cats could be applied indiscriminately. He regarded them as valid merely for those particular animals or for others below their evolutionary level.

Hull 12 extended the 'law of effect', relating it more closely to motivational factors. He asserted that both association and selective trial-and-error learning occur because they are able to satisfy needs. Hull, unlike Pavlov and the earlier associationists, discarded the principle of sheer contiguity as a sufficient condition for learning. He insisted that learning occurs only if it satisfies a particular need. Hence, the process of learning is influenced by motivation, in that a response will follow a conditioned stimulus only if the former is likely to result in satisfaction of a need. According to Hull, reduction of needs is the activator of learning; an organism is stimulated into taking action-perhaps by trial and error learning-in an effort to reduce the tension arising from a felt need.

Skinner developed the theory of conditioned reflex by distinguishing between elicited and emitted responses. The former refer to responses to stimuli, such as Pavlov's dogs salivating at the sight of food, while the latter are of the operant type, i.e., an activity takes place, as in the case of Thorndike's cats pressing levers or pulling strings. It would appear that Skinner's interpretation of the conditioned reflex theory has some relevance to consurner buying behaviour. The stimulus of an advertising message offering a housewife a new brand of instant coffee at a special price may induce her to ask for the product at her grocery store. Intervening variables may, however, be influential in modifying or nullifying the stimulus; hence a simple S-R theory does not seem to be an adequate explanation of buying behaviour. The S-R model was popularized in the advertising business by John B. Watson, 14 whose behaviourism emphasized that advertising messages needed to be endlessly repeated to ensure that viewers were influenced sufficiently to buy. Buying habits related to particular brands of products could become imprinted on consumers' minds by a constant flow of advertising. According to Watson, advertisers were able to etch what impressions they wished on the receptive minds of their audiences.

This view of consumer psychology has obviously limitations. It does not admit that consumers exercise selective perception and that disappointing experiences with an advertised product are likely to affect buying-behaviour. On the other hand, there is an element of truth in the Watsonian approach to advertising's influence, particularly with relatively low-priced products which are bought regularly. Buying habits tend to develop because they simplify the process of obtaining food and other necessities. Buying 'rules' may be formed, e.g.,'Stick to X brand of instant coffee-the flavour is what we all like' or, negatively, 'Never buy Y brand of tights-they never last long.' Routine buying tends to encourage, therefore, habitual patterns of buying behaviour, but these do not become entirely automatic. Reasoned judgement may n ot intervene directly at the time of purchase, though it would be incorrect to describe the activity as irrational. It tends to be non-rational in the sense that many purchases of this nature may not demand conscious and considered evaluations every time they are made. Hence, advertisers have an interest in constantly reminding consumers of the advantages of buying specific brands of products. Advertising agencies recommend that their clients should invest in planned series of advertisements within a defined period of time. Frequency and recency of exposure are two cardinal tenets of advertising practice.

2.10 Cognitive theories

Cognitivists reject the proposition that human behaviour rests solely on the basis Of stimulus-response plus reinforcement. Learning is viewed as the pro. cess of restructuring the individual's cognitions with regard to specific problerns. This perceptual restructuring results in insight, which is a distinctive characteristic of intellectual activity. Problem-solving is the daily preoccupation of consumers; information about products and services may be obtained

either deliberately (planned) or accidentally (incidental). Knowledge of products or brands tends to be gained principally as the result of incidental learning through the reception and retention of advertising messages. After reception, advertising messages may be assimilated and stored with other experiences which help to form general attitudes towards the advertised product or brand. At some later time, an event may cause an individual to recall the information which he had 'accidentally' learned, and, provided he has the means and opportunity to purchase, he may buy the product advertised.

Consumers may, of course, also acquire knowledge about products on a planned basis. For example, readers of consumer guidance magazines such as Which? tend to approach the purchase of some products on a systematic (planned) learning basis. The qualities of competing products are carefully studied, and such information is usually regarded as higldy reliable and objective.

The information gathered from this form of deliberate learning is then added to the existing store of knowledge acquired from past experience and/or from viewing advertisements. This new information may reinforce existing knowledge and so strengthen prevailing attitudes; or, possibly, it may cause some dissonance through being at variance with preconceived ideas about a product. In the latter case, a buyer may wish to reduce this tension by seeking (see section 2.5 on cognitions) additional information favourable to his earlier attitudes, or he may reject the dissonant information entirely, or attempt to modify it so that it will fit in with his existing attitude structure. The new model of car which he admires may have rated rather low on safety features compared with less stylish cars. If his personal preferences are still strongly favourable towards the new model, despite its indifferent safety rating, the would-be buyer may emphasize more strongly those features, e.g., styling or economy, which help to support his existing favourable attitude. He may consider that, as an experienced motorist, the safety features of that particular model of car are not so important to him as to a novice driver.

Cognitive theories of learning are particularly valuable, therefore, because they take into account the formation and effect of attitudes on behaviour and the consumer is viewed as an active problem-solver who is affected by the environment in which his needs develop. Asch's has stressed that: 'Human actions, even the most lowly, are marked by a quality of intelligence or insight... Our actions are permeated with inferences ... we may fumble and engage in trial and error, but it almost never has the blind character that associationistic doctrines impute to it.'

The Gestalt view of learning, based on Gestalt psychology, is closely associated with the cognitive theory of learning. A group of psychologists, among whom were Wertheimer, K6hler, Koffka, and Lewin, developed a distinctive type of experimental psychology. They postulated that the perceptual field contained individual stimuli which could be segregated from the total field; these they termed 'Gestalten' or 'configurations'. Phenomena should be studied as total, organized entities and not just as aggregates of distinct parts. The term 'Gestalt' was used to describe the fact that perception of an object involved an appreciation of its total nature. This derived from its parts or configurations, and it was this which, in turn, gave them meaning.

in the area of consumer behaviour, Wroe Alderson has popularized the Gestalt approach which supports the cognitive learning theory of the consurner as a problem-solver whose perception of the buying process involves a comprehensive evaluation of all the factors-economic, psychological, sociological, etc. 'Advertising strategy must take account of both gullibility and gumption, of human needs both instrumental and symbolic. In the long-run the odds are in favour of a strategy which takes rational problem-solving as a fundamental aspect of human behaviour . . .' 1 6

An associated theory of learning based on the Gestalt viewpoint, relates to Lewin's Field 'Iheory.'7 Joseph Clawson developed a model of buyer behaviour (discussed in some detail in chapter 12) which extends Lewinian theory in particular directions.

2.11 Bridging the gap

Tolman 1 8 attempted to bridge the gap between the connectionist and the cog@itive theories. He took the simple S-R theory and modified it by introducing an intervening variable. This intervening influence referred to perceptions and beliefs (i.e., cognitions) which act as organizing forces in guiding responses and in selecting stimuli. This may be shown as: S-O-R (0 = organizing force).

Tolman was influenced by the Gestalt school, and he introduced the 'signGestalt' as an explanatory principle in his experiirnents with rats. Individuals are led to believe that certain kinds of behaviour will be likely to result in the achievement of desirable goals or objectives. Their expectations are derived from 'signs', i.e., stimuli, that suggest the responses likely to result in attaining the objectives in mind. His theory could be applied to marketing behaviour related to advertising or packaging (which are stimuli or 'signs') aimed to persuade the consumer to take action (i.e., to respond by purchasing a particular brand of product). If the product is satisfactory in use, reinforcement is likely to occur and this may result in further purchases.

Bayton'9 has noted this process:

When consumption or utilization of the goal-object leads to gratification of the initiating needs there is 'reinforcement' . . . This type of behavioural change-increasing likelihood that an act will be repeated-is learning; and reinforcement is necessary for learning to take place. Continued reinforcement will influence the cognitive processes. Memory of the goal-object will be increasingly enhanced; particular sign-expectancies will be more and more firmly established; and the generalization gradient will be changed in that the psychological distance on this gradient between brand A and the competing brands will be increased.

The influence of intervening variables between stimuli and responses in the psychological field has also been observed by Katona: 20 , as the result of past experience there exist habits, attitudes and motives which intervene by influencing how stimuli are perceived and how the organism reacts to them. The response, then, is a function of both the environment and the person.'

2.12 Stochastic learning models

Over the past couple of decades, some researchers have developed particular interest in learning theory related to mathematical models containing stochastic or probabilistic elements. Models of this nature have been originated by Estes 21 and Bush and Mosteller; 22 Kuehn 23 has extended the Bush-Mosteller model of learning. Some of these studies have been applied to the phenomenon of brand switching, an area of research which is still developing.

The basic approach of stochastic learning models rests on the hypothesis that an individual consumer learns from his past experiences in buying-the degree of satisfaction (or otherwise) obtained-and these have some influence on his future buying behaviour. The most recent buying experiences with a particular brand or product will have greater effect than those which took place at a more distant time. On this thesis, the Bush-Mosteller model is generally built, but it is also possible to construct a model which will take into account the pattern of experiences over all past events.

Over a period of time, it is assumed that the relative frequencies with which a certain brand of a product is purchased by an individual consumer can be analysed and mathematical probabilities calculated. These will be useful'in determining the likelihood of a consumer's shifting from one brand to another. If past buying behaviour involved the purchase of other brands, these will be reckoned to have a negative influence on the current brand purchased. The model suffers from serious limitations: it is applicable '. . . to only a closed market with well-established brands having homogeneous product-price relations and good distribution'. 6 There are, therefore, serious constraints in the application of stochastic learning models, although they offer an interesting method for exploring consumer buying patterns in specific product fields. How far these techniques can be made reliable indicators in dynamic market conditions has not yet been determined.


1. Young, Paul Thomas, Motivation and Emotion-A Survey of the Determinants of Human and Animal Activity, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1961.

2. Krech, David, Crutchfield, Richard S., and Ballachey, Egerton L., Individual in Society, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1962.

3. Allison, Ralph L. and Uhl, Kenneth P., 'Influence of beer brand identification on taste perception', Journal of Marketing Research, 1, August 1964.

4. Festinger, Lcon, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, Stanford University Press, 1957.

5. Riesrnan, David and Larrabee, Erie, 'Autos in America', in Consumer Behaviour, (ed.) Clerk, Lincoln, Harper, New York, 1958.

6. Sheth, Jagdish N., 'A review of buyer behaviour', Management Science, 13, No. 12, August 1967.

7. Festinger, L., Riecken, H. W. Jnr, and Schachter, S., When Prophecy Fail&, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1956.

8. Howard, John A.,Marketing Theory, Allyn and Bacon, Boston, 1965.

9. Thouless, R. H. General and Social PsycholoXv, University Tutorial Press, London,1967.

10. Hfigard, Ernest R. and Marquis, Donald G., Conditioning and Learning, Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1961.

11. Thorndike, Edward L., The Psychology of Learning, Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, 1913.

12. Hull, C. L., Principles of Behaviour, Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1943.

13. Skinner, B. F., Science and Human Behaviour, New York, 1953.

14. Watson, John B., Behaviourism, The People's Institute Publishing Co., New York, 1925.

15. Asch, Solomon E., Social Psychology, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1965.

16. Alderson, Wroe, 'Motivation', in Consumer Behaviour, (ed.) Ehrenberg, A. S. C. and Pyatt, F. G., Penguin, 197 1.

17. Lewin, l',-Urt, A Dynamic 7heory of Personality, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1935.

18. Tolman, Edward C., Purposive Behaviour in Animals and Men, D. AppletonCentury, New York, 1932.

19. Bayton, James A.,'Motivation, cognition, learning-basic factors in consumer behaviour', Journal of Marketing, 22, January 1958.

20. Katona, George, The Powerful Consumer, McGraw-Hffi, New York, 1960.

21. Estes, W. K., 'Individual behaviour in uncertain situations: an interpretation in terms of statistical association theory', in Decision Processes, (ed.) Thrafl, R. M., et a]., John Wiley, 1954.

22. Bush, Robert and Mosteller, Frederick, Stochastic Models of Learning, John Wiley, 1955.

23. Kuehn, Alfred A., 'Consumer brand choice as a learning process', Journal of Advertising Research, 2, December 1962.


Concept      Cognitions   Motivation