ABCs of Attitudes

The three components to an attitude are, A=Affect (how we feel about something); B=Behaviour (how we act towards something); and C=Cognition (what we think about something).

Absolute threshold

A term that refers to the smallest (minimal) level of a stimuli (e.g. sound; sight, taste) that can still be detected at least half of the time.


The process of adopting and adjusting to a new and often prevailing (dominant) cultural environment.


A=Activities; I=Interests; O=Opinions...the AIO's constitute the foundation and building blocks of a person's attitudes which typically define our lifestyle choices as consumers.

Anti-brand community

This term is characterized as a group of individuals who are bonded together by their mutual dislike, distrust, and aversion of a brand or product.


Carl Jung (1875-1961) theoretical work on personalities included archetypes, which he believed to be "ancestral memories" reflecting the common experiences of people all over the world. His explanation of archetypes included a strong belief that they were mostly biological and handed down to us. More recent research on archetypes suggests that they come from our lived experiences and reflect our cultural characteristics (and are not biological or handed down).

Aspirational reference groups

These groups of people are not known to consumers personally, but instead represent a set of ideals that others admire usually because of their popularity and celebrity status.


The voluntary or forceful abandonment of one's own culture, namely -- values, customs, traditions, language, and identity -- with the intent to adopt those of the prevalent (dominant) culture.

Associative learning

An aspect of behavioural learning theory involving the repetitive pairing of stimuli over time in order to form a strong connection (association) between two items.


A situational factor/influence on consumer decision making, atmospherics is the sum total of all physical aspects in a retail environment that the retailer controls and should monitor to create a pleasing shopping experience for customers.


Following "exposure" in the perceptual process, Attention describes the dedicated effort and focus we give to incoming sensory information (e.g. sights, sounds).


The positive or negative, long-lasting evaluations we have regarding people and things.

Balance theory

Fritz Heider's Balance Theory is a framework that can predict attitude and behavioural change. In marketing, this framework demonstrates the importance of consistency (balance) within the triad, and how consumers will seek to harmonize their values, beliefs, and perceptions when they experience cognitive inconsistencies.

Behavioural learning theories

Learning theories that focus on how people respond to external events or stimuli.


Beliefs, feelings, and behaviour that express hostility or exclude members of groups or entire groups themselves.


A brand consists of all tangible and intangible components that form a unique identity, thus distinguishing one entity from another, particularly in a competitive category.

Brand associations

This concept refers to the thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, experiences, believes, and attitudes from the consumer's experience that become tied to a brand. Anything linked in our memory to a brand - positive or negative - that forms a lasting impressions in the mind of a consumer.

Brand awareness

The sum of all points of contact ("touchpoints") with a brand.

Brand community

This term is characterized as a group of passionate and enthusiastic consumers who are bonded together by their interest in a brand or product.

Brand experience

The sum of all points of contact ("touchpoints") with a brand.

Brand image

This is a symbolic construct (representation) that is created in our minds based on all the information and expectations we associate with a particular brand.

Brand loyalty

This term refers to a consumer's commitment to repurchase a particular brand despite having other options available to them.

Brand personality

A brand's personality is comprised of human-like characteristics that convey traits consumers can identity with themselves: warmth; excitement; comfort; edginess; old-fashion; etc. Brand personality is created to persuade and influence consumer decision making based on the belief that consumers will purchase brands that are aligned with some aspect of their self-concept or self-complexity.

Cause-related marketing

A collaborative and mutually beneficial relationship between a business and a non-profit organization that provides the business with greater access to consumer markets (in pursuit of sales, growth, and profit) and the non-profit with more exposure and awareness of its cause.

Central route to persuasion

This aspect of the Elaboration Likelihood Model identifies that messages requiring extensive mental processing are more likely to result in long-term attitude changes, especially with an audience who is motivated and highly involved with the subject/topic.

Classical conditioning (Pavlovian conditioning)

A type of behavioural learning theory developed by Ivan Pavlov that explains how our responses (behaviour) to one situation can inform our response (behaviour) to a new situation.

Cognitive biases

Described as errors in memory or judgement and often an inaccurate perception of something.

Cognitive dissonance

A type of cognitive inconsistency, this term describes the discomfort consumers may feel when their beliefs, values, attitudes, or perceptions are inconsistent or contradictory to their original belief or understanding. Consumers with cognitive dissonance related to a purchasing decision will often seek to resolve this internal turmoil they are experiencing by returning the product or finding a way to justify it and minimizing their sense of buyer's remorse.

Cognitive dissonance (post-purchase dissonance)

Also known as "consumer remorse" or "consumer guilt", this is an unsettling feeling consumers may experience post-purchase if they feel their actions are not aligned with their needs.

Cognitive learning theories

Learning theories that focus on how people learn from mental processes and by observing others.


Both social comparison and informational social influence often lead to conformity, which is a long-lasting change in beliefs, opinions, and behaviours that are consistent with the people around us.

Conscientious consumerism

A term used to describe consumers who act with a heightened sense of awareness, care, and sensitivity in their purchasing decisions. This form of consumerism centres the principles of sustainability and may either present as performative or values-based decision making.

Consumer capitalism

A term that describes a material focus on consumption where (corporate) profit maximization is achieved as class structures and inequalities are exploited.

Consumer hyperchoice

A term that describes a purchasing situation in which a consumer is faced with an excess of choice that makes decision making difficult or nearly impossible.

Consumer involvement

A consumer's involvement level reflects how personally important or interested they are in purchasing/consuming an item.


A type of subculture that actively opposes and rejects norms, values, and symbols that reflect the larger culture in which it exists.


A situational factor/influence on decision making, a crowded store may result in a lower number of visitors converting to buyers, but it may also create "herd behaviour" in which some customers are more likely to purchase when part of a crowd.

Cultural appropriation

When features of a non-dominant culture (fashion, artifacts, food, language, etc.) are taken and used without consent, respect, and handled inappropriately further entrenching dangerous stereotypes about the non-dominant culture. Cultural appropriation also occurs when the dominant culture engages in "whitewashing" or exploits the cultural object in order to benefit from it while justifying the act as a way to "honour" the less dominant culture.

Cultural norms

A set of standards and often unspoken 'rules' that members of society collectively agree upon to serve as a basis of what's consider acceptable behaviour.


The sum of learned beliefs, values, and customs that help us know how to behave as members of society.


A marketing strategy used to increase involvement and engagement levels with consumers, customization involves the personalization of products for large groups of homogenous (similar) consumers.


A term that describes a traditional and widely accepted way of behaving in a given society. Customs have existed for many generations and are passed down to the next one.


When a product becomes part of "mainstream society" (dominant culture) through the removal or disassociation with its original ethnic group (or culture).


The removal of sacred symbolism when an object becomes absorbed by mainstream society (dominant culture).

Defense mechanisms

Freud believed that when the Ego seeks to find balance between the Id and the Superego, defense mechanisms are enacted to help us reduce tension. Freud believed that our unconscious mind creates these unconscious efforts to protect the ego from being overwhelmed by anxiety.


The loss of individual self-awareness and accountability when an individual is absorbed into a larger group.

Descriptive norms

While norms give us a sense of how we might behave in accordance with society, descriptive norms refer to our perception of how people actually behave.


The mental and emotional separation a consumer undergoes with an unwanted or no longed needed product; this is considered the "invisible" part of divestment.

Differential threshold ("JND")

The differential threshold - also known as the JND or just noticeable difference - refers to the minimum difference in intensity that can be detected between two objects (e.g. the size of two bags of potato chips or the subtle difference in two logo designs).

Discretionary income

Discretionary income represents the amount of money we have left over to invest, save, or spend, after paying personal income taxes and necessities. Young adults often have to pay necessities like student loans and credit card debts, but also may pay less taxes, all of which effects their discretionary income. Discretionary income is different than disposable income because it takes necessary expenses into consideration.


A type of behavioural bias that results in the deliberate exclusion of others.

Disposable income

Disposable income represents the amount of money we have left over to invest, save, or spend, after paying personal income taxes. Seniors and retirees typically have more disposable income due to paying lower personal income taxes. Discretionary income is derived from disposable income.

Disposable products

These are products that are designed for single use, which means they get discarded ("disposed of") immediately after use. Disposable products can have severely negative consequences on the environment if sustainability isn't factored into disposal options.


The process of discarding (getting rid of) something we no longer need or want. The act of throwing something away.


The physical separation a consumer undergoes with an unwanted or no longed needed product; this is considered the "visible" part of divestment.


This term refers to the final stage of consumption after a product has been used and is no longer wanted or needed by the consumer. Divestment is comprised of disposition and detachment.

Drives/Drive theory

Drives represent the "tension" we feel when our body is out of balance, for example, due to hunger. Hunger is therefore a "drive state": drives represent physiological characteristics, or, things that we feel, and are motivated to resolve because they are essential to our survival.

Elaboration likelihood model

This models examines two different ways persuasion can be achieved (central route; peripheral route) depending on how motivated the audience is by the message and how much thinking (mental processing) needs to be done with respect to the contents of the message.

Enacted norms

These norms are endorsed by one's own culture and are expressed as explicit rules of behaviour.


Describes the process of converting our experiences into memories.


The way in which people learn about culture and shared cultural knowledge.

Ethnic group

A distinct group of people with a shared ancestry, identity, and heritage who will often share a common language, religious or spiritual practices, patterns of dress, diet, customs, and holidays.

Ethnocentric consumer

These consumers perceive their own culture or country's goods as being superior to others'.


Consumers who select brands because they represent their own culture and country of origin are making decisions based on ethnocentrism. Consumers who are quick to generalize and judge brands based on ethnocentrism are engaging their heuristics.

Evaluation of alternatives

The third stage of the Consumer Decision Making Process, the evaluation of alternatives takes place when a consumer establishes criteria to evaluate the most viable purchasing option.

Evoke set

A small set of "go-to" brands that consumers will consider as they evaluate the alternatives available to them before making a purchasing decision.

Expectancy theory

This theory works very differently from Drive theory because it explains our motivations when desirable outcomes are achieved through our own effort and performance.


This term refers to the vast amount of stimuli that surround us and that we come into contact with on a regular basis. In marketing this refers to the massive amount of commercial advertisements, commercials, products, branding, packaging, etc.

Extended self

This term describes situations in which consumers further identify their self-concept through their purchasing decisions and consumption choices.

Extrinsic brand attributes

These are the features and characteristics of a brand that enable consumers to form associations with it and give it meaning - such as a brand's price, its packaging, label, name, logo, and image.

Extrinsic motivation

The tendency to take action and pursue a goal (motivation) because the outcome and achievement itself will be beneficial.

Family branding

A branding structure in which the brand focus is on the company name which appears on all the products (services) offered by that company. The association between products and corporate entity are strong and visible.

Family lifecycle

The family lifecycle represents the various stages we pass through from early adulthood to retirement. At each stage of the lifecycle consumer preferences are defined by different needs and wants and influenced by different forces.

Fast fashion

A term that describes the quick process of events that take place when fashion items go from the "catwalk" to retail outlets that mainly market to, and serve, mainstream consumers. Fast fashion has negative consequences on disposal and is an unsustainable process that leads to a high volume of waste as well as concerns about the ethical practices in clothing production.

Five Factor Model of Personality

This model identifies five fundamental personality trait dimensions (characteristics) that are believed to be stable across time, cross-culturally shared, and an explanation for most human behaviour. Those five traits are: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

Freudian theory

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), an Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, engaged in research and work that has shaped and influenced our contemporary understanding of personality and psychology. Freudian theory states that our behaviours are predetermined by our unconscious motivations.

Full/extended decision making process

Consumer purchases made when a (new) need is identified and a consumer engages in a more rigorous evaluation, research, and alternative assessment process before satisfying the unmet need.


People who have the power and ability to determine what information gets shared, what stories get told, what movies get made, and what television shows get produced. Gatekeepers control access to information and the dissemination of that information to the public.


A social and historical construct resulting in a set of culturally invented expectations of a 'role' (often male or female) one may assume, learn, and perform.


A goal represents how we would like things to turn out, also known as a desired end state.

Green marketing

The design, development, and promotion of products that serve to minimize negative and harmful effects on the environment. Green marketing is most visibly evident through packaging design, labeling, and messaging (e.g. "green dish soap").


A term used to describe an act of hypocrisy whereby a company proclaims to engage in "green" business (marketing) practices, but is actually engaging in harmful and devastating impacts on the environment. Those impacts may be hidden, disguised, or purposely misrepresented to consumers (and broader group of stakeholders) so the company can win favour with conscientious consumers.

Guerilla or Experiential Marketing

A type of experiential advertising that is highly engaging, unanticipated, unique, unconventional, innovative, and designed with the intent to be memorable and become viral.

Halo effect

When we experience one positive trait about a person we may assume other positive features or traits as well.

Hedonic needs

Needs that are considered luxurious and highly desirable.

Hedonic shopping experience

The family lifecycle represents the various stages we pass through from early adulthood to retirement. At each stage of the lifecycle consumer preferences are defined by different needs and wants and influenced by different forces.


Also known as "mental shortcuts" or "rules of thumb", heuristics help consumers by simplifying the decision-making process.

High culture

A term used to describe cultural experiences, symbols, and attitudes that are often associated with wealthy of 'high class' members of society.

High involvement

High involvement decision making typically reflects when a consumer who has a high degree of interest and attachment to an item. These items may be relatively expensive, pose a high risk to the consumer (can't be exchanged or refunded easily or at all), and require some degree of research or comparison shopping.


A term used to describe a natural (and harmonious) state of our body's systems. Homeostasis is achieved when a need or goal is satisfied (e.g. when we're hungry we eat; when we're tired we sleep).


Hype is a form of intense publicity and promotion that helps drive up the value of consumer goods and services. Consumers and resellers use social media platforms to exchange information and discuss products that are rare and sought-after are "hyping up" a good, which often results in a higher resale price.

Id, ego, superego

Freud believed the mind was divided into three main components: the "Id" (the part that forms our impulsive behaviour); the "Superego" (the part that forms our consciousness and sense of morality); and, the "Ego" (the part that forms our sense of reality and balances the Id and Superego).

Ideal self

An idealized version of ourselves that is based on several factors including our experiences, the expectations we feel society has of us, and the traits we admire in others.

Impulse buying

A type of purchase that is made with no previous planning or thought.


A cultural orientation that emphasizes personal freedom, self-expression, and individual decision-making.

Inept set

The brands a consumer would not pay any attention to during the evaluation of alternatives process.

Inert set

The brands a consumer is aware of but indifferent to, when evaluating alternatives in the consumer decision making process. The consumer may deem these brands irrelevant and will therefore exclude them from any extensive evaluation or consideration.


Purchasing decisions made out of habit.


An influencer is characterized as someone who is well-connected; has influence on consumers' decision making; has both reach and impact; and is identified as a trendsetter.

Information search

The second stage of the Consumer Decision Making Process, information search takes place when a consumer seeks relative information that will help them identify and evaluate alternatives before deciding on the final purchase decision.

Informational social influence

When we change change our opinions and behaviours in order to conform to the people closest to us, we use the term "informational social influence". We justify our changed opinions because we believe those people have accurate and reliable information that also serves our contexts.


Following exposure and attention, Interpretation is the third part of the perceptual process and occurs when we give meaning to information and messages that have gained our attention.

Intrinsic brand attributes

These are the functional features and characteristics of a brand - such as its shape, performance, and capacity.

Intrinsic motivation

The tendency to take action and pursue a goal (motivation) because the process itself will be beneficial and fulfilling.

Lateral cycling

A feature of product disposal that involves selling, donating, or giving away unwanted items in an effort to keep them from ending up as waste in landfills. Lateral cycling is a more sustainable act of disposal than just throwing something away.

Layout (store layout)

An interior variable, the layout refers to the design of the space inside a store as well as the placement of displays and other items customers come in contact with.


A branding strategy that involves the licensing of a brand name (to other companies) outside of its own product offering in order to bring more exposure to the brand.

Lifestyle marketing

Marketing campaigns designed to influence, persuade, and appeal to a consumer's "AIO's", values, worldviews, and personality identity.


A threshold (like an invisible line) that separates what one can perceive and what one can't perceive: stimuli (sounds, sights) that fall below the limen are considered "subliminal" (not detectable, or below our own awareness level) and stimuli above the limen we detect and are aware of.

Limited problem solving

Consumers engage in limited problem solving when they have some information about an item, but continue to gather more information to inform their purchasing decision. This falls between "low" and "high" involvement on the involvement continuum.


Store location is a situational factor/influence on decision making. Retailers who are located where consumers expect and want them to be, such as in high pedestrian traffic zones, tend to enjoy a higher volume of customers.

Long-term memory

The "LTM" is a system that enables us to store information for a longer period of time.

Looking glass self

Sometimes our self-concept is formed through our interactions with others and in these interactions we come to see, describe, and evaluate ourselves based on their reaction's to us.

Low involvement

Low involvement decision making typically reflects when a consumer who has a low level of interest and attachment to an item. These items may be relatively inexpensive, pose low risk (can be exchanged, returned, or replaced easily), and not require research or comparison shopping.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs" (1943) is a motivational theory that places 5 needs in a hierarchical structure. It begins with basic (physiological) needs; safety needs; social needs; ego needs; and ends with self-actualization needs. Maslow's theory was based on the belief that lower-level needs should be attended to before upper-level needs could be.

Match-up hypothesis

The degree to which a source and a brand are objectively perceived as a "good match" because the source's image and the brand's position are a good fit and logically aligned.


The prioritization of possessions (material possessions), money, and the consumer purchases above and beyond relationships, spirituality, and personal well-being.

Memory decay

The fading of memories over the passage of time.

Mere exposure

This term describes our preference to like things that we have seen more often, or more frequently. Increased and frequent exposure to a product may result in our developing a preference for the product that we wouldn't otherwise have.


Related to observational learning (cognitive learning theory), modeling involves imitating the behaviour of others.


A situational factor/influence on decision making, a consumer's mood expresses a temporary state of mind and feeling at a particular moment. It can also be expressed as the predominant emotion we are feeling.


The psychological energy, or driving force, that pushes us to pursue our goal(s).

Motivational conflicts

In a marketing context, these different types of conflicts exist when consumers are faced with making a choice between purchasing decisions that bring on different outcomes -- positive and/or negative. The three motivational conflicts are approach-approach; approach-avoidance; and, avoidance-avoidance.

Multi-attribute attitude model

This model provides a framework that can be used to measure consumers' attitudes towards specific products or services. The model identifies how consumer attitudes are informed by measuring and evaluating the attitudes of a product; the beliefs about those attributes; and the relative importance we give those attributes.


The existence of multiple ethnic groups living together in a mixed-ethnic society.


A story with symbolic elements that represent a culture's ideals.

Need recognition

The first stage of the Consumer Decision Making Process, need recognition takes place when a consumer identifies an unmet need.


A basic deficiency (lacking of) an essential item, such as food, water, and shelter.

Neo-Freudian theories

Neo-Freudian theories were developed by psychologist and psychoanalysis -- many of whom were students of Freud's. They all developed their own theories on personality which either built on Freud's work or challenged it completely. Erik Erikson, Carl Jung, and Karen Horney are three of those people.


This term describes situations where an individual (or group of individuals) reject or fail to go along with the rules, laws, and social norms of a larger group or society.

Normative social influence

This term best describes situations in which we express opinions or take on behaviours that enable us to be accepted by others and avoid rejection or social isolation.


Norms can be considered unspoken rules that members of a society follow because they represent what is good and/or right and they inform us on how we should behave.


An emotion that describes a longing for the past and often a romanticized version of what the past was actually like.

Observational learning

Related to cognitive learning, this type of learning occurs when people observe the behaviour, responses, and actions of others.

Operant/Instrumental conditioning

A type of behavioural learning theory that involves reinforcements.

Opinion leaders

These are people who have the ability to influence others; they often set trends and norms that others conform to.

Own-group preference

The tendency to favour members of our own group (or "in-group") over others who belong to different groups.


A term used to describe the process we undergo when we organize and interpret the sensations we experience. Perception gives us the ability to interpret meaning of what our sensory receptors are experiencing.

Perceptual defense

In a marketing context, this occurs when consumers distort or ignore advertising messages that we may feel are personally threatening, uncomfortable, or even culturally unacceptable.

Perceptual filters

When we take new information in, we organize and interpret it based on our prior experiences as well as our cultural norms. Perceptual filters help us make sense of new information and reduce anxiety when faced with the unknown (uncertainties).

Perceptual mapping

A visual and graphic display (e.g. often a grid) that illustrates the perceptions customers have of a group of competing brands.

Perceptual process

A process that begins when our sensory receptors (eyes, ears, tongue, nose, and skin) come in contact with sensory stimuli (sight, sounds, tastes, odours, and textiles) followed by the degree to which we pay attention to these stimuli and the meaning we draw from them (interpretation).

Perceptual system

A system informed by our senses and sensory memories that help us interpret and understand the environment around us.

Perceptual vigilance

In a marketing context, this occurs when consumers pay more attention (committed focus) to advertising messages that are relevant to our current state of being and/or meet our current unmet needs and wants.

Peripheral route to persuasion

This aspect of the Elaboration Likelihood Model identifies that messages requiring minimal mental processing result in short-term attitude changes, especially with an audience who is not motivated and has low involvement with the subject/topic.

Person-situation debate

This concept supports the belief that our personalities are not consistent from one situation to the next. The belief here is that our personalities (and subsequent behaviours) are shaped by situational factors (e.g. what is happening in the environment around us).


Carl Jung (1875-1961) proposed the idea of a persona, which he explained as a sort of "mask" that we adopt that represents compromise between our "true self" and the person society expects us to be.


A way to describe the various human characteristics that make us all different from one another.

Personality traits

Personality traits refer to the basic dimensions that make us all different from one another.

Personalization (individualization)

A marketing strategy used to increase involvement and engagement levels with consumers, personalization involves tailoring a product (or service) to meet the unique needs & wants of a specific consumer.


In marketing, persuasion is seen a process of creating messages that will change the beliefs, attitudes, and/or behaviours of a target audience (e.g. consumers).


Similar in spirit to "greenwashing", this term is used to describe an act of hypocrisy whereby a company aligns itself with a breast cancer fundraising endeavour (e.g. pink ribbon campaign) all the while producing products that are associated with the very causes of (breast) cancer itself. Brands that engage in pinkwashing may disguise or purposely misrepresent the (dangerous) ingredients in their products or the (unsafe and hazardous) working conditions used to bring the products to market in order to win favour with consumers who idealize the significance of the pink ribbon symbol.

Planned obsolescence

A deliberate act marketers and businesses take in designing, producing, and marketing products that become obsolete quickly, therefore triggering consumers to buy the "next version" as a replacement. Planned obsolescence has negative consequences on disposal and the environment when products aren't designed with sustainable disposal in mind. It is also an unsustainable practice that prioritizes profit over consumer and environmental well-being.

Popular (Pop) culture

A term used to describe cultural experiences, symbols, and attitudes that are often associated with members of mainstream society.


A strategy developed by marketers to help influence how their target market (consumers) perceives a brand compared to the competition.

Positioning statement

The positioning statement reflects everything you’ve learned up to that point about how your product, service, or brand can best reach your target segment. As a statement, it explains exactly how you plan to provide value to those target customers.

Positive/Negative reinforcement

Related to operant (instrumental) conditioning, positive reinforcement involves providing rewards to encourage a particular type of behaviour. Negative reinforcement involves removing something in order to encourage a particular type of behaviour or action.


A type of emotional bias inflicted upon members outside of one's own social group.

Prevention orientation

A self-regulatory orientation we use emphasizes goals as things we should be doing as well as things we should be avoiding. This orientation focuses on safety, responsibility, and security needs as well as avoiding problems, dangers, and potential threats.

Principle of attitude consistency

This theory comes into effect when there is strong alignment among the ABC's of attitude: the relationship between what we feel (A), think (C), and how we act (B) are consistent and in close relation to one another.

Private acceptance

This is the result of conformity and is described as a real change in an individual's opinions.

Product line extensions

A branding and product strategy that occurs when marketers add new products to an existing brand in order to capitalize on the positive and popular brand equity already established within the market place.

Profane consumption

Consumer purchases that are comprised of 'every day' items that do not hold any sort of special or symbolic status.

Promotion orientation

A self-regulatory orientation we use emphasizes goals as things we are hopeful about as well as things that bring accomplishment and advancement to our needs. This orientation focuses on things that we want to do that will bring us pleasure and positive outcomes.


The term describes the extent to which someone or something else is near to us.

Psychographic segmentation

A marketing activity that involves the profiling of a market segment based on characteristics such as AIO's, personality, traits, lifestyle, and values. Psychographic segmentation undergoes a detailed and close examination of consumers with respect to their motivations, values, and media consumption habits.


Race is a social construct that defines different groups of humans based on arbitrary characteristics that can be related to physical and/or biological traits. These traits then are used to distinguish groups of humans from one another.


Recycling involves the repurposing and transformation of discarded/disposed products (that would otherwise be thrown away) into something that has a different purpose. Recycling turns waste into reusable materials.

Reference group

A group of people that is often made up on opinion leaders who have influence on the attitudes, opinions, and behaviours of others.

Reference groups

The groups of people in our lives that we use for social comparisons. Reference groups are used in social comparison theory.


This process involves changing the positioning of a brand so that the target market perceives the brand differently than before and anticipates different expectations and experiences compared to the competition.


The process of recalling or reactivating memories that have been stored away.

Rite(s) of passage

A culturally-significant event or ritual that (often) marks an important time, or transition, in one's life.


A pattern of behaviour that is often in a fixed-sequence and repeated regularly and gives added meaning and significance to a particular culture.

Routine response behaviour

This concept describes when consumers make low-involvement decisions that are "automatic" in nature and reflect a limited amount of information the consumer has gathered in the past.


A process that describes when an everyday item takes on a sacred status.


Items that have salience are those that we deem attractive and worthy of our attention.


Also referred to as "mental categories" and patterns of knowledge, schemas provide meaning and structure to the information stored in our memories.


Described as being like "databases" in our memory, the schemata contains stored information based on our past experiences that help us make sense of and interpret new experiences.


A sequence or set of behaviours members of society are expected to follow or adhere to.

Selective attention

A term that describes our focused commitment to only some of the stimuli and senses that we come in contact with, based on what is relevant to our needs and/or interests.

Selective distortion

A term used to describe situations in which people (consumers) interpret messages and information (advertisements/product labeling) in a way that supports their pre-existing beliefs.

Selective exposure

When we deliberately choose to come in contact with information from particular sources (e.g. social media, videos, advertisements, podcasts) we are engaging in selective exposure.

Selective retention

A term used to describe when we forget information, despite it being important for us to retain and interpret (e.g. public service announcements that may help us live a better life, but we do not retain because we are uncomfortable with the idea of confronting our habits and/or behaviours).

Self-affirmation theory

This theory suggests that people will try to reduce any threat to their own self-concept by focusing on (and affirming) their worth in a different and unrelated area.


The degree of cognitive awareness we have about ourselves.


This term explains the range in complexities some selves are compared to others. A more complex self suggests that we have several different ways of thinking about ourselves.


This term describes how we see, understand, describe, and evaluate ourselves.


This term describes the degree of self-awareness we experience when we are in situations that might make us feel uncomfortable (e.g. public judgement)and more aware of our self-concept.

Self-determination theory

This theory examines how our motivations and personality (internalized factors) inform our attitudes and behaviour in the absence of external influences (e.g. subjective norms, which contrasts the theory of planned behaviour).


A person's belief in their own ability to succeed in a particular situation, context, or environment.


This term refers to the positive or negative feelings we have about ourselves. Self-esteem is most often determined by our own performance, appearance, and our relationships with others.


This terms describes how an aging and more complex self-concept becomes organized into different categories of the self.

Semantic meaning

A term used to describe symbolic associations between two objects.


The awareness we experience when our sensory receptors are engaged with the environment around us.

Sensory adaptation

This terms describes a decreased sensity to stimulus (information/messages) after a long period of constant exposure. For consumers, this may be described as a form of (marketing/advertising) fatigue where they tune out (become less sensitive to) the same stimulus (ad) over time.

Sensory marketing

Sensory marketing involves engaging consumers with one or more of their senses (see, touch, taste, smell, hear) with the intention to capture their attention and store the sensory information for future processing.

Sensory memory

Temporary storage of information that we receive from our senses (ears, nose, eyes, tongue, body).

Sensory receptors

A term used to encompass our eyes, ears, tongue, nose, and skin which come into contact with sensory stimuli -- the environment around us -- made up of sights, sounds, tastes, odours, and textiles.


Also referred to as "gender-typed", characterizes the suitability or appropriateness of stereotypical gendered products.

Short-term memory

Also known as "working memory", the "STM" stores small "chunks" of information for only a limited amount of time and has a limited capacity.

Simple/routine decision making process

Consumer purchases made when a need is identified and a habitual ("routine") purchase is made to satisfy that need.

Sleeper effect

A situation in which over time, people develop a changed attitude towards an object, without knowing the original source of the information that might have triggered the start of the change.

Social class

A term used to describe groups of people who have the same socio-economic status within society. Social class may be measured using income, education, and profession; however, classifications can often be incorrect because indicators might be misleading (e.g. someone with high school education can be a high income earner).

Social comparison

When we compare our opinions to those of the people around us, we are engaging in social comparisons. Informational social influence often follows social comparison.

Social comparison theory

This theory explains how we further define our self-concept by comparing ourselves to other people. The comparisons are based on two dimensions: superiority/inferiority and similarity/difference. We use reference groups for social comparison.

Social identity theory

The tendency to favour one's own 'in-group' over another's 'outgroup'.

Social impact

One of the dimensions of a sustainable business: an examination of a business's practices that relate to labour conditions as well as the entirety of its operations across that the supply chain to ensure those practices reflect social responsibility and ethical behaviour.

Social influence

Social influence occurs when our beliefs and behaviours begin to match those of the people we're closest to. This may be subtle or it may be something we seek out by asking our friends for their opinions.

Social models

These are people who might be considered of higher status or authority compared to the person observing them.

Social norms

These are socially accepted beliefs about what we do or should do in particular social contexts.


In marketing, the source is often depicted as a spokesperson or representative of a brand or company and responsible for communicating messages about the brand to consumers.

Source attractiveness

The perceived social value of the source.

Source credibility

The perceived objectivity and trustworthiness of a source.

Source monitoring

A term used to describe the ability to accurately recall the source of a memory.

Star power

This term speaks to the influence celebrities (and other types of famous people, such as athletes) have on our consumer decision making. A brand that is promoted and represented by a well-known (and adored celebrity), consumers who have a positive attitude towards that celebrity are more likely to believe in the brand as well.


A type of cognitive bias that is presented as a generalized belief about a group of people.


A smell, sound, object or anything else that engages our brain to pay attention and interpret what we have come in contact with in our environment.

Stimulus discrimination

The opposite of stimulus generalization, this concept explains how we respond different to stimuli that may be similar, but not identical.

Stimulus generalization

A term used to describe when people respond to stimuli in a certain way because it reminds them of the original stimulus. In marketing, it is the strategy behind the creation of copy-cat and look-alike brands.


A group of people with common values, beliefs, language, experiences, etc. that exist within a much larger group (culture).

Subjective norms

The belief that you have the support and approval of the people important to you to carry out an action or behave in a particular way.

Subliminal perception/Subliminal advertising

The belief that "hidden messages" in marketing are effectively influencing consumers to engage in specific decision making behaviour (e.g. secret messages telling consumers to buy certain brands).


A cultural symbol can be an object, word, or action that represents a culture, or something else specifically within a culture. Symbols can have cultural meaning and significance and may be used to show affiliation to a (political) party, group, or subculture.

Theory of planned behaviour

This theory suggests that our deep beliefs and values play a pivotal role in creating our attitudes and predicting our behaviour. When we combine a strong attitude with subjective norms and with our belief that we can perform a particular behaviour, these three things will predict our actual behaviour.


A term related to the situational factor/influence on decision making, "time", it conveys a sense of customer urgency to make purchases quickly and efficiently to meet their entire set of needs.

Transition zone

The space immediately inside a retail store where customers pass through before engaging with merchandise and sales representatives. The transition zone serves as a place where customers can orient themselves and plan their route in the store.


A process of product disposal that involves the repurposing of unwanted items that give them a "second life". Upcycling is a transformative process that takes an unwanted item and transforms it into a more functional or even attractive item than it once was. It is a more sustainable act of disposal than just throwing something away.

Utilitarian needs

Needs that are considered practical and useful.


Identifying specific and personal criteria on a need and how it should be fulfilled.

Warm-glow effect

The personal satisfaction we feel in engaging in "good acts" that help others. This effect may explain why some people behave altruistically (in charity of others) but it fails to capture the extent of the impact our actions have on others (e.g. whether or not our actions are meaningful and long-lasting). For this reason, warm-glow may be described as a sort of "selfish pleasure".

Weber's Law

This law states that the differential threshold (the just noticeable difference) is a constant proportion (or ratio) of the original stimulus.


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Introduction to Consumer Behaviour Copyright © by Andrea Niosi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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