Naïve theories about marketing and consumption in consumer inference

Authored by: Hélène Deval , Maria L. Cronley , Susan Powell Mantel , Frank R. Kardes

Routledge International Handbook of Consumer Psychology

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138846494
eBook ISBN: 9781315727448
Adobe ISBN: 9781317539940


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Consumers frequently have to evaluate products and make decisions based on limited or incomplete information. In fact, in today’s world, consumers rarely have complete information regarding products about which they form judgements and make decisions. Second-hand sources like advertising or word-of-mouth communications typically provide some information about product attributes and benefits, but it is rarely exhaustive. Consumers could search out additional information through product websites, or public product evaluation sources (e.g., Consumer Reports), but they do not often invest the time or effort for all but the most important purchase decisions. Instead, consumers use a variety of inferential strategies to fill the gaps in their product knowledge prior to making judgements and choices (Gunasti & Ross, 2009; Kardes, Posavac, & Cronley, 2004). For example, consumers will often infer the level of a missing attribute (Dick, Chakravarti, & Biehal, 1990), or infer a product’s overall quality (Kardes et al., 2004) or even the social signalling potential of a product (Berger & Heath, 2007) and use these inferences to make a purchase decision. In certain cases, these inference rules can be used even when more detailed information is available. Sometimes, for example, consumers do not necessarily lack information, but do not have the time, energy and/or motivation to process all that is available and, therefore, resort to making an inference from easily accessible cues to form a judgement.

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