Consumer Psychology

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Psych 141
Tuesday & Thursday 10:00-11:45am
Fall 2003 Merrill Academic 130
Anthony R. Pratkanis
Office: 365 Social Science II
Office Hours: Tuesday & Thursday 12:00-1:00 pm
Messages: 459-5085

On any given day, you interact more frequently with Procter & Gamble (through their advertising and products) than you do with even your closest friends and relatives. Consumer Psychology is a course designed to help you live in this world. It is a lecture and discussion course for upper level undergraduates interested in the advanced study of how and why we buy things. The course describes the basic social psychological principles of consuming (demographics, psychographics, decision-making, attitudes, influence, human factors, etc.) and then discusses how these principles are used in new product development, sales, advertising, and the marketplace. A special emphasis of the course is to understand the role of consumerism in a person's life.

At the end of the course, the student should master these objectives:

(a) apply core psychological concepts to understanding the behavior of consumers in the marketplace
(b) understand the institutions of marketing (how they work and operate) and their impact on consumers
(c) be prepared to participate in the marketplace as a savvy and wise consumer.

Required Textbooks

Michael R. Solomon (2004). Consumer Behavior (6th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Son.

Donald A. Norman (1989). The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Doubleday.

Erich Fromm (1976). To have or to be? New York: Harper & Row.

Course Format

The course consists of lectures and class discussions plus assigned readings. (Assigned text should be read in conjunction with the lecture). The course evaluation will be based on: (1) six homework assignments, (2) textbook summaries, (3) a major poster project, (4) class exercises involving discussion of projects, and (5) participation in class discussions plus any additional comments that the instructor considers appropriate. Narratives will consist of a short summary of the student’s performance in the course. Note: if the course is taken for Pass/No Pass, then a grade of "Good (C)" or better must be earned to obtain course credit. If taken for a letter grade, a grade of “marginal pass (D),” will give you credit for the course but not towards your degree requirements.

Homework Assignments

The purpose of the homework assignments is to (a) reinforce core concepts from the text and readings and (b) allow the student to develop these concepts in real world settings. Each assignment should be completed as noted on the course calendar. In completing the assignment, students will be given a problem or set of consumer psychology problems to be solved. Homework assignments should be typed, well-written (see below), and as brief as possible. Please turn in a hardcopy of the paper on the due date (no email papers).

The homework assignments will look at:

1. The institutions of marketing and the jobs available using consumer psychology
2. The role of demographics and psychographics in consumer behavior
3. Consumer shopping behavior in stores and other consumption channels
4. The use of human factors in new product design
5. The development of a brand image
6. The place of consumerism in society and in one's self.

Textbook Summaries

The purpose of the textbook summaries is to insure that students read the text and are familiar with the concepts in their book. For each chapter assigned in the course, students will be asked to summarize key points and concepts.

Poster Projects

The purpose of the poster project is to provide an opportunity to apply the critical information of the course to an area of particular interest to the student. Topics must be approved by the instructor. Some suitable ideas include: (a) a company analysis -- select a company and look at how it markets its goods and services, (b) a market analysis -- select a product category and investigate the nature of consumer behavior within that market, (c) a consumer culture analysis -- select some aspect of consumer culture (credit card, the Marlboro man, Internet market) and describe its history and underlying consumer psychology, (d) consulting analysis -- apply principles of consumer psychology to solve a practical problem of relevance to either marketers or consumers, (e) develop a marketing plan for a product you wish to market (with special emphasis on the consumer behavior involved), (f) consumer psychology influence analysis-- observe and describe some aspect of consumer behavior in terms of the perspectives of the course, (g) consumer protection project -- select some aspect of economic fraud and develop a means of consumer protection (you can even get involved with groups set up to do such things), (h) literature review-- choose a general topic in consumer psychology and review the recent literature or select a theoretical question of interest and answer it, and (i) research design -- select a research problem in consumer psychology and design and conduct research to address it.

The class project should be ambitious and challenging in scope. Students should attempt to attack a problem of substance and importance and should view this project as if it were being submitted to an audience outside of this class and UCSC (i.e. an article for publication or a project report for an employer). In order to accomplish this goal, students will work in groups of 3 class members. In work groups, students should be able to accomplish such projects as designing and executing consumer psychology research, conducting a comprehensive literature review on a difficult topic, or developing a new consumer protection policy. Evaluations will be equally shared among all group members.

The poster project requires the following: First, find a group and a topic. (See calendar for dates for submitting a preliminary statement of group members and topic). Second, develop your poster idea. As part of this development, submit a statement of intent, which includes your topic, the names of the group members, and an overview of tasks to be performed. Note: submission of this statement of intent should be done early in the term. (See course calendar for due date). Third, do the research. Fourth, prepare a poster describing what your research has shown (see next paragraph) along with a copy of the written materials for submission to the instructor. (The written copy is due at the Poster Session. This can be a short summary of the poster or a copy of the text of the poster). Fifth, display your poster at the end-of-term Poster Session. During this session, one group member must stay with the poster at all times to answer questions. Students not presenting posters will mix freely around the posters to discuss research content and provide feedback to the presenters.

Physically, each group will have roughly 8 feet of wall space to display their research. Typically, a poster consists of a series of pages or panels describing the research. For example, one page may outline the research hypothesis. Another page may list the methods, followed by results, and then discussion. Given the nature of posters, print must be large and text kept to simple sentences and phrases. Students should not feel limited to just text material and can include graphs, slides, audio-visuals, and models. It is the responsibility of the group to bring materials for setting up the poster and attaching it to the wall, as well as, securing any additional materials need for presentation. Note: please use pushpins or other devices that will not damage walls when securing your posters. A copy of the written text of the poster plus any supporting materials must be turned-in to the instructor at the Poster Session.

A good poster project has the following attributes: (1) integrative of course material, (2) original and creative, (3) informative and instructional (provides a learning experience for both reader and writer), and (4) readable. The format of the paper must follow American Psychological Association guidelines as much as possible.

Some tactics for improving the style of your poster include: (1) use tables, figures, charts, and headings to improve organization, (2) get to the point quickly, (3) use simple words and sentences, (4) type it, (5) don't hand in a first draft (revise to get the lard out), (6) use proper footnote and reference formats, and (7) make it short (don't waste anybody's time, more than 10 pages is probably too long). Further hints on writing can be found in Strunk and White's Elements of Style, J.D. Lester's Writing Research Papers, Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations, and Soden's Looking Good on Paper.

Some tactics for improving content include: (1) select a topic related to the course, (2) use information related to the course, (3) collect your own data (e.g., interviews, write companies, locate articles in academic journals), (4) back up your statements with references to published works or other data, and (5) draw your own inferences that go beyond mere repetition of those of your references.

One final note: Working in groups is often challenging, but it is a skill that is required in various settings. First, you should be prepared to work with your group at times outside of class to be scheduled by your group. Second, to facilitate group work, it may be helpful to develop a written list of responsibilities assigned to each group member. This list should detail exactly what is expected of each member (e.g., listing all anticipated tasks and describing each member's responsibilities including who will coordinate group activities). This will help everyone in the group to know what is expected. Third, you should be aware of your group's process at all times. It is the responsibility of group members, not that of the instructor, to ensure the performance of each member.

To facilitate your work in groups, before beginning the project you should go to the following web site:

Go to the link at the bottom of the page that says “Grp” for groups.

This web site has information on the following: basic information on working in teams, managing tasks, managing members, managing interactions and meetings, managing the team context, along with links to other resources.

In addition, you may also want to set up a Yahoo Group to allow you to monitor your group’s progress. Yahoo Groups allows you to keep a calendar, upload files, set up an email distribution list, and other useful things. You may use this group to upload files, keep project files, keep information accessible to all members, and so forth. To set up a Yahoo group, go to the Yahoo groups web page and follow the instructions for setting up a group (see the extensive Yahoo help files if you need help). Be sure to make the group private so that only members can join. Invite all the members of the group to join (you do this by sending an email message to them). Be sure to invite the TA to join and give him full access to the group.

Web Sites

You may find the following web sites of value in searching for information about jobs in consumer psychology and for information helpful in class assignments: (marketing news including career information) (information about media and advertising) (direct marketing including career information) (links to ad agencies, research, & news) (consumer protection information) (latest consumer flim-flam) (web site for Advertising Age) (information about the latest consumer trends) (information source for Internet marketing and advertising) (Claritas -- a marketing segmentation company) (CACI Marketing Systems – a marketing segmentation company) (Ad Council that creates public service announcements) (bad product designs for redesign) (web site to the Gallup Poll) (guide to careers in social psychology) (guide to APA style)

Class Participation

Students should be active participants in class discussions and lectures. There will be in-class exercises involving active student participation. Participation is particularly important during the discussion of homework projects (asking questions, providing feedback) and the poster session. If you miss class, it is the student's responsibility to cover missed materials. (It is not the instructor's responsibility to provide lecture notes, repeat lectures, etc.)


An employer once informed me that educators do a major disservice by accepting late assignments. In her world, missing a deadline means a lost account. Therefore tardiness will not be tolerated. It is unfair to other students who emit course related behavior in timely fashion, unfair to the instructor who must rearrange work schedules, and most importantly represents a pattern of behavior that is unprofitable in the real world. Given that many of the assignments involve class projects, late work will not be accepted.


Plagiarism is a very serious offense and will not be tolerated. Any paper containing plagiarized material will not be accepted for credit in this course. Plagiarism is defined as any use of another author's words or ideas without appropriately providing credit. Exact quotes from another source should be placed within quotation marks with an appropriate citation including page number. In addition, paraphrases of another author's words may also count as plagiarism; changing around the order of the words or the exact prepositions used does not change the fact that you are using another person's ideas. Submission of another paper (whether a classmates or from an on-line service) is plagiarism. Use your own words to describe the studies and findings that you want to describe in your paper. The campus policy on plagiarism can be found at:

You should consult this website before agreeing to take this course. Enrollment in this course represents acceptance of university rules and guidelines and a commitment to abide by those rules and guidelines. Any questions about this policy can be direct to the instructor.

Enrollment Policy
This course follows the enrollment policy established by the psychology department. These procedures are not negotiable and will be followed to the letter. You may not take this course using the "Credit by Petition" option.

Letters of Recommendation

After the course, students frequently ask the instructor for a letter of recommendation. Writing letters of reference is not a task that is part of the instructor’s job, and the writing of such letters is up to instructor discretion. The first step in this procedure is to ask the instructor if he is willing to write such a letter for you. Do not send unsolicited materials to the instructor. They will be returned. Also, please do not use the instructor as a "reference" (with potential employers, landlords, banks, credit cards companies, etc.) without the approval of the instructor. Given the academic nature of the course, the instructor typically cannot learn the information about you that is required for letters for Education Abroad Program (EAP) and thus cannot write such letters.
Important Notice

Please review the Course Calendar below before agreeing to take this course. All activities are planned; some important activities are performed in groups. Late work will not be accepted. Missed work will receive a no-pass.

Course Calendar

Sept. 23: Introduction to Consumer Psychology
TH Assignment: Solomon Ch. 1
Homework #1 (Getting a Job) Distributed

Sept. 28: The Rise of Consumer Society
TU Assignment: Solomon Chs. 13, 14, & 15

Sept. 30: The Institutions of Marketing
TH The Demographics of Consumers
Assignment: Continue Solomon
Homework #1 (Getting a Job) & Reading Summary Ch 1 Due

Oct 5: Psychographics: How to Predict Behavior
TU Assignment: Solomon Ch. 6
Homework #2 (Demographics) Distributed
Preliminary Poster Idea and Group Due

Oct. 7: Consumer Decision Making
TH Assignment: Solomon Chs 4 (only pages 124-130 on involvement) & 9

Oct.12: What’s Happening in a Grocery Store
TU Assignment: Solomon Ch. 10
Homework #3 (Stores and Shoppers) Distributed
Homework #2 (Demographics) & Reading Summary Chs. 6, 13, 14, & 15 Due

Oct. 14: The Consumption Channel
TH Assignment: Solomon Chs. 11, 12, & 17 (Ch. 16 is optional)
Begin Norman book (if you haven’t already)

Oct. 19: Shopping Behavior
TU Note: Class discussion of Homework #3
Assignment: Continue Solomon Chs. 11, 12, & 17 (Ch. 16 is optional)
Continue Norman book (if you haven’t already)
Poster Group Work Plan Due
Homework #3 (Stores and Shoppers) & Reading Summary Chs. 4 (involvement), 9, 10, 11, 12, & 17 Due
Homework #4 (Human Factors) Distributed

Oct 21: Human Factors in Product Use
TH Assignment: Solomon Chs. 2 & 3; Continue Norman

Oct. 26: Psychology and New Products
TU Note: Class discussion of Homework #4
Assignment: catch up or go ahead on readings; work on posters
Homework #4 (Human Factors) & Reading Summary Chs. 2 & 3 Due

Oct 28: Market Structure and Cognitive Structure
TH Assignment: Solomon Ch. 4 (pages 113- 123 on needs & pages 131-147 on values), 7 & 8
Homework #5 (Brand Image) Distributed

Nov. 2: A History of Advertising
TU Assignment: Solomon Ch. 5

Nov. 4: How Advertising Works
TH Assignment: Continuing reading Solomon and work on Homework #5

Nov. 9: Creating and Producing Advertising
TU Assignment: Continue reading Solomon and work on Homework #5

Nov. 11: Veterans Day
TH University-wide Holiday to honor those who served their nation
No class

Nov. 16: Making the Sale
TH Assignment: Begin Fromm
Homework #6 (To have or to be?) Distributed

Nov. 18: Consumer Protection: Legal and Otherwise
TU Assignment: Continue Fromm
Homework #5 (Brand Image) & Reading Summary Chs. 4 (needs & values), 5, 7 & 8 Due

Nov. 23: Poster work day
No class; meet in poster groups
Assignment: Finish work on your posters for next session

Thanksgiving Holiday

Nov. 30: Poster Session
TU Assignment: Continue Fromm

Dec. 2: Consumer Psychology in Society
TH Assignment: None
Homework #6 (To have or to be?) Due

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