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The making of consumer decisions: revisiting the notions of evaluation and choice by reconstructing consumer habits through subject evidence based ethnography

Gobbo, Andrea (2014) The making of consumer decisions: revisiting the notions of evaluation and choice by reconstructing consumer habits through subject evidence based ethnography. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.fx293vef0k7f


This research is concerned with processes of choice in consumers and models of consumer behaviour. It also envisages a broader contribution towards economics in general to clarify how preferences in economic agents arise and change. The research question is: “are the models and factors of evaluation predicted by experts applicable to real cases?” Factors of value and evaluation processes will be observed in real world participants and in everyday behaviour. The results will be compared to models found in the consumer research literature. The fieldwork will focus on a single activity carried out by a sample of consumers: shoe buying behaviour. The first set of data is drawn from 11+11 open ended interviews of participants chosen in the two complementary groups of experts and consumers for the purpose of construal identification. The second stream of data relies on an ethnographic approach that involves recording first-person experiences by use of a miniature camera applied at eye-level, or “subcam” (17 participants). The recordings are analysed in order to reconstruct the choice processes through content analysis of events. The third stream of data in the research is produced by means of replay interviews conducted on those same participants who produced the subjective recordings (selection of 12 participants). Using a first-person ethnographic method allowed: (i) A more exact tracking of the actions involved in the choice process versus standard participant observation or in-shop surveillance cameras, (ii) intersubjective post-hoc account of the recorded activity and, (iii) elicitation of reflective rationalization from the participants in narrative form. The material collected at this step underwent a special kind of process analysis involving memory registers. Findings suggest the need to re-rank factors typically considered for choice in consumer behaviour. A fundamental rebalancing of weight must be attributed to habits versus rational evaluation as long-term factor of choice. Equally short-term factors, like emotions and attitudes, acquire distinctive significance in connection with environmental cues that are susceptible to trigger their repetition in future shopping episodes. The contribution to methodology is twofold. The empirical component extends the use of firstperson ethnographic methods to self-reporting of consumer activities in addition to introspective and survey methods. Activity reconstruction led to amending consumer behaviour models by including the influence of social environment found in installation theory.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Andrea Gobbo
Uncontrolled Keywords: activity theory; consumer behaviour; consumer psychology; episodic memory; first person ethnography; paratelic; repisode; replay interview; confrontation interview; SEBE; subcam
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Sets: Departments > Psychological and Behavioural Science
Supervisor: Lahlou, Saadi

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