CONSUMER BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS AND SOCIAL MARKETING: THE CASE OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

Behavior and Social Issues, 15, 101-124 (2006). © Gordon R. Foxall, Jorge M. Oliveira-
Castro, Victoria K. James, M. Mirella Yani-de-Soriano, Valdimar Sigurdsson. Readers of this
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101

CONSUMER BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS AND SOCIAL MARKETING:
THE CASE OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

Gordon R. Foxall
Cardiff University, United Kingdom
Jorge M. Oliveira-Castro
University of Brasília, Brazil
Victoria K. James
M. Mirella Yani-de-Soriano
Valdimar Sigurdsson
Cardiff University, United Kingdom


ABSTRACT: Consumer behavior analysis represents one development within the behavioranalytic
tradition of interpreting complex behavior, in which a specific conceptual framework has
been proposed (i.e., the Behavioral Perspective Model). According to this model, consumer
behavior occurs at the intersection of a consumer-behavior setting and an individual’s learning
history of consumption and is a function of utilitarian (mediated by the product) and informational
(mediated by other persons) consequences. The model has been useful in analyses of consumers’
brand choice and reactions to different settings. In the present paper, the model was applied to the
interpretation of environmental deleterious behaviors (use of private transportation, consumption
of domestic energy, waste disposal, and domestic consumption of water). This application pointed
to specific marketing strategies that should be adopted to modify each of these operant classes.
1 Jorge M. Oliveira-Castro thanks the Brazilian institutions, CAPES (Ministry of Education),
CNPq (Ministry of Science and Technology), and FINATEC (Fundação de Empreendimentos
Científicos e Tecnológicos Brasília, DF) for financial support. Gordon R. Foxall thanks The
Nuffield Foundation, London, for financial support (SGS/LB/0431/A and SGS/00493/G/S1).
Some parts of the ideas presented here concerning the application of applied behavior analysis to
environmental behavior have appeared in Foxall, G.R. (2002), Social Marketing for
Environmental Conservation, In G. R. Foxall (Ed.), Consumer Behaviour Analysis: Critical
perspectives on business and management: Vol 3. Marketing: a behavioural perspective (pp. 460
– 486), London and New York: Routledge. Correspondence concerning this article should be
addressed to Jorge M. Oliveira-Castro, Instituto de Psicologia, Universidade de Brasília, Campus
Universitário – Asa Norte, Brasília, DF 70910-900, Brasil, Telephone: +55 61 33072625, FAX
number: +55 61 32738259, E-mail: jocastro@unb.br or Gordon R. Foxall, Cardiff Business
School, Cardiff University, Aberconway Building, Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10 3EU, Wales, UK,
Telephone: +44 29 20 87 42 75, FAX number: +44 2920 874419, E-mail: FoxallG@cf.ac.uk.
FOXALL, OLIVEIRA-CASTRO ET AL.
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KEYWORDS: consumer behavior, environmental conservation, social marketing, behavioral
interpretation
Radical behaviorist interpretation of complex behavior—that which is not
amenable directly to an experimental analysis—has taken two forms. The first,
which we may call “top-down,” is perhaps the more frequently encountered, and
is the mainstay of Skinner’s (1953) interpretations of economic, political and
religious life—among other areas of application. It consists in suggesting
surrogates of the elements of the three- or four-term contingency that might
comprise responses of the kind controlled in the laboratory and the stimuli that
would control them in such a closed setting. The behavior under interpretation,
which typically occurs in a much more open setting, is then described as though it
was predictable and controllable from a knowledge of the elements of the
situation that have been labeled establishing operations, discriminative stimuli,
reinforcers and punishers.
This broad-brush mode of interpretation lacks the detailed knowledge of the
world that is to be interpreted, which is shown in the second kind of interpretive
approach, “bottom-up.” This is the mode of interpretation more likely be devised
by persons whose initial training and expertise lies not in behavior analysis but in
another sphere to which the concepts and, to some degree, the methods of
behavioral science are subsequently applied. Economists, political scientists,
philosophers and—for the purposes of this paper—marketing scientists might all
look to behavior analysis to provide a plausible interpretation of their subject
matter after they have mastered it, perhaps in terms of a theory quite distinct from
that of radical behaviorism. We do not know for sure how common this mode is
compared with top-down interpretation, but it is the method that brought
consumer behavior analysis into being and that which we describe in this paper.
The aim must often be, through sensitivity to the realities of the subject
matter, to introduce complexities of interpretation which could not have been
anticipated by an experimentally-based analysis of behavior. The categories and
definitions of variables used in experimental research may be insufficient to
account for the complexities of real-world behavior; this is a world the
practitioners of the disciplines who study it centrally know better than the
experimentalists whose focus is entirely to be found within the lab. The extension
of behavioral science concepts in this way is neither a deviation from nor a
corruption of behavior analysis; it is a means of enhancing both it and its
relevance to the world of social issues.
In this paper, we show a conceptual framework that can be used to interpret
consumer behavior that harms the environment and discuss its empirical
confirmation in the sphere of consumer behavior generally. We will also indicate
CONSUMER BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS AND SOCIAL MARKETING
103
how it may be applied to and actively employed in social marketing programs
aimed at the conservation of natural resources.
CONSUMER BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS AND THE BPM
Consumer behavior analysis has the agenda of applying basic behavioral laws
and principles to real life consumer behavior. In doing this consumer behavior
analysis models should be more able to accurately describe, predict and affect
consumers. However, adding in the real life effects of consumer behavior will
certainly make the resulting models more complicated.
One peculiar characteristic of consumer behavior is the fact it is usually
simultaneously “reinforced” and “punished.” It can be reinforced by the benefits
obtained from products and services or by social approval, but it is simultaneously
punished because the consumer has to surrender generalized conditioned
reinforcers, such as money and rights, and to spend time and effort in the
purchasing process (cf. Alhadeff, 1982). The Behavioral Perspective Model
(BPM) is an operant framework for the interpretation of consumer behavior that
takes into account this peculiarity by describing consumer behavior as a function
of its consequences. The model proposes that consumer behavior is jointly
determined by the consumer-behavior setting and an individual’s learning history
of consumption. The setting contains events in the consumption environment that
signal the different consequences for different consumer responses. These events
in the setting may be physical (e.g., alternative brands, point-of-sale
advertisement), social (e.g., other shoppers, store staff members), temporal (e.g.,
store opening hours, short-term promotions), and regulatory (e.g., rules
concerning shopping). They function as stimuli that signal to the consumer, based
on his or her past learning history, the kind of consequences that are likely to
follow each type of response, such as buying, postponing the purchase,
accelerating the purchase, searching, and saving. One of the important dimensions
of a consumer behavior setting is its scope, which can vary from relatively closed,
presenting few alternatives to the consumer, to relatively open, presenting the
consumer with many alternatives.
The model proposes that consumer behavior produces both utilitarian and
informational consequences, both of which can be reinforcing or punishing.
Utilitarian consequences are functional results of buying and using products and
services: they derive from the practical application of the product itself in some
consumption situation. They therefore reflect the value-in-use of a product or
service, the economic, pragmatic or material consequences derived from
acquiring, owning, and using it. For instance, the utilitarian reinforcers of an
extended holiday in an exotic location may be related to the rest, relaxation and
FOXALL, OLIVEIRA-CASTRO ET AL.
104
recuperation it provides. This type of holiday may also generate some punishing
utilitarian consequences, such as having to face a long and tiring trip and spending
a lot of money.2 As another example, one of the main utilitarian reinforcing
consequences of owning a car is to be able to get door-to-door transportation,
which any car can offer. Owning a car can also produce some punishing utilitarian
consequences such as having to deal with its eventual breakdowns.
Informational consequences, however, are socially-derived and symbolic,
depending above all on the actions and reactions of other people. They may
consist of feedback on the performance of the individual as a consumer. They are
verbal (or social) in the sense of being mediated by other persons (Skinner, 1957)
and involve communication in the sense that behavior of one organism generates
a stimulus that affects the behavior of another organism (Baum, 2005). Thus,
while utilitarian consequences are related to the technical functions of products or
services, informational consequences are related to social functions of acquiring
and using products or services, such as social status and prestige associated to
certain consumer behavior patterns.
An extended holiday on an exotic location may generate informational
reinforcers such as the prestige and sense of accomplishment conferred by
knowing that one can afford this kind of recreation and communicating the fact to
one’s friends, who might make admiring comments over the fact. This type of
consumption may also produce informational punishers such as derisive
comments from others that consider it to be excessively expensive, snobbish or
culturally meaningless. Owning a car may also generate reinforcing informational
consequences, such as the prestige associated to premium brands (e.g., buying a
Bentley), or punishers, such as ecological reprimands for having bought a highconsumption
sport utility vehicle.
The model proposes that every consumer behavior produces both
informational and utilitarian consequences in variable levels. Keeping to the car
example, driving a Bentley or a Mercedes may offer its owner prestige and social
status, in addition to door-to-door transportation. Owning a car itself,
independently of its make, might give its owner some social status, the degree of
which will depend, primarily, upon the cultural and economic context in which
the individual lives. But, in that same context, owning a Bentley will probably
give its owner more social status than simply owing a common car. By the same
2 Although the distinction between positive and negative reinforcement (and punishment) can be
found in the literature to refer to presentation or removal of reinforcers (and punishers),
respectively, the identification of such differences is not always easy and indisputable (cf. Catania,
1998). Moreover, considering that the present paper deals primarily with behavior occurring in
natural, as opposed to experimental, settings, this distinction is not emphasized here.
CONSUMER BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS AND SOCIAL MARKETING
105
Figure 1. Schematic representation of the Behavioral Perspective Model (BPM).
token, a Bentley and a Mercedes will probably offer more utilitarian benefits (e.g.,
security items, longer warranty) than less prestigious makes, but even a Mercedes
may be acquired with more or fewer utilitarian reinforcers (e.g., air-conditioning,
leather seats).
The contact with behavioral consequences forms the consumer’s learning
history of reinforcement and punishment in a given situation, which interacts with
the consumer behavior setting influencing the likelihood of a behavior taking
place in the same or similar situations in future occasions. Figure 1 shows a basic
schematic representation of the BPM and will be returned to later.
THE USEFULNESS OF THE BPM IN INTERPRETING CONSUMER BEHAVIOR
In all the examples of informational and utilitarian reinforcers and punishers
given so far, we referred to events that usually have reinforcing and punishing
functions for most people. This does not imply these functions should not be
empirically tested for “the only way to tell whether or not a given event is
reinforcing to a given organism under given conditions is to make a direct test.
We observe the frequency of a selected response, then make an event contingent
upon it and observe any change in frequency. If there is a change, we classify the
event as reinforcing to the organism under the existing conditions” (Skinner,
1953, p. 72-73).
When dealing with consumer behavior, however, research and managerial
interests frequently lie in identifying what functions as reinforcement to large
groups of people and, in the large majority of cases, this has to be done on the
basis of observational, rather than experimental data. This may increase some
FOXALL, OLIVEIRA-CASTRO ET AL.
106
already existing ambiguities in defining different types of reinforcement. As there
can be ambiguity in analyzing reinforcement as positive and negative (e.g.,
Catania, 1998) or as primary and secondary (e.g., Baum, 2005), there can also be
ambiguity in evaluating with precision the utilitarian and informational effects on
consumer behavior and their possible interactions. As applies to the terms of
positive/negative and primary/secondary, the differentiation of utilitarian and
informational consequences should be used as long as it gives the researcher or
practitioner economical and comprehensible descriptions of consumer behavior
(cf. Baum, 2005). In what follows, we describe some research projects on
consumer behavior analysis that may illustrate the usefulness of distinguishing
between utilitarian and informational consequences and of analyzing the scope of
consumer behavior setting.
Consumer Brand Choice
The marketing literature suggests that, when purchasing fast moving
consumer goods (fmcgs), consumers have a repertoire of two to four brands in
each product category from which they select, as if randomly, on each shopping
occasion (cf. Ehrenberg, Uncles & Goodhardt, 2004). Early consumer behavior
analysis work studied the issue of repertoire buying through the development of
methodologies based on behavioral economics, specifically matching,
maximization and demand processes (see for example Foxall & James, 2001;
Foxall & Schrezenmaier, 2003). In summary, the results suggested that consumers
will buy the cheapest brand within their repertoire although this is not always the
cheapest of all the brands available. This indicates that brands within a given
product category are not all functionally substitutable. One possible source of
non-substitutability among brand may be based on the level of utilitarian and
informational reinforcement (as discussed previously) they offer to consumers
(Foxall, 1999).
Brand Choice: Informational and Utilitarian Reinforcement
Based on this distinction between utilitarian and informational reinforcement,
which suggests different types of reinforcers influence consumer choices, Foxall,
Oliveira-Castro and Schrezenmaier (2004) examined whether consumers’ brand
repertoires (patterns of repertoire buying as discussed above) are related to the
levels of utilitarian and informational reinforcement offered by the brands. The
authors based their analyses on purchase data from a sample of 80 consumers
buying nine products (i.e., baked beans, cookies, breakfast cereals, butter, cheese,
fruit juice, instant coffee, margarine, and tea) during a period of 16 weeks. This
CONSUMER BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS AND SOCIAL MARKETING
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80-consumer sample was randomly selected from a national (UK) consumer panel
(TNS Superpanel).3
In order to investigate possible effects of informational and utilitarian
reinforcement values on brand choice, the brands bought by the sample during the
16-week period in each product category were classified according to the level of
informational and utilitarian reinforcement they offered. Brands and product
characteristics found within supermarket product categories were interpreted as
sets of programmed contingencies of reinforcement, which specify what
responses (e.g., how much one has to pay) are followed by what consequences
(e.g., product characteristics). Most marketing activities, according to this
interpretation, are related to planning and programming reinforcement
contingencies for the behavior of consumers. Considering programmed
contingencies may not work as planned, empirical research is usually conducted
to evaluate the actual effects of planned contingencies.
As there are no general units to measure utilitarian and informational
reinforcement levels, a forced ranking system was adopted in which three
informational and two utilitarian levels were ascribed to each product category.
Utilitarian levels were identified based on additional attributes (e.g., plain baked
beans vs. baked beans with sausage) and/or differentiated types of products (e.g.,
digestive cookies4 vs. chocolate chip cookies). In the case of differentiated
product types, several general brands usually offer the different product
formulations, charging different prices for them (e.g., digestive cookies are
cheaper than chocolate chip cookies for all brands examined).
The ranking of informational reinforcement level was based on the idea that
this is closely associated to brand differentiation, which in turn is usually also
related to price differentiation. If one compares the level of brand differentiation
of, for instance, Asda (Wal-Mart) Smart Price© and Kellogg’s©, as brands
producing breakfast cereals, Kellogg’s© is clearly a better known, more
differentiated cereal brand. It also offers a more expensive product. This kind of
difference among brands was interpreted as differences in informational
reinforcement level.
3 Consumer panels consist of groups of volunteers that record their purchases and consumption of
certain product categories (e.g., supermarket products) and report such information to market
research firms, who sell the data to retailers, producers and researchers. These panels are usually
maintained for several years and include representative samples of the target population (e.g., UK
consumers). Most current panels use automated recording systems (e.g., home scanner devices
attached to a computer).
4 Digestive cookies are semi-sweet biscuits made of wholemeal flour common in the UK.
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The ranking of informational reinforcement level was based on the following
general criteria: 1) increases in prices across brands for the same product type
(e.g., plain baked beans or plain cornflakes) were considered to be indicative of
differences in informational levels; 2) the cheapest own brands5 (e.g., Asda Smart
Price©, Tesco Value©, Sainsbury Economy©) were considered to represent the
lowest informational level (Level 1); 3) own brands that do not mention good
value for money or economy (e.g., Asda©, Tesco©, Sainsbury©) and cheapest
specialized brands were usually considered to represent the medium informational
level (Level 2); and 4) specialized brands, with higher prices (e.g., Heinz©,
Nescafe©), were considered to represent the highest informational level (Level 3).
The authors classified all brands according to these criteria and asked two
independent judges to do the same. The level of reliability of this classification
was satisfactory (more than 70% of brands across all products and the two judges
were classified under the same utilitarian/informational level) (cf. Oliveira-Castro,
Foxall & Schrezenmaier, 2005). Based on this classification, Foxall et al. (2004)
observed the majority of consumers made 70% or more of their purchases in each
product category within brands belonging to the same informational level. The
authors reported similar findings for utilitarian level of reinforcement, where, for
most consumers (with the exception of cookies), 70% or more of purchases were
concentrated within brands at the same level of utilitarian reinforcement. These
results suggest that consumers’ brand repertoires are chosen, at least in part, on
the basis of the level of informational and utilitarian reinforcement programmed
by the brands.
When consumers were classified in six different groups according to the
utilitarian and informational level of the brands they bought mostly (Group 1:
Informational Level 1 and Utilitarian Level 1 to Group 6: Informational Level 3
and Utilitarian Level 2), Foxall et al. (2004) discovered that consumer groups
differed with respect to their price demand elasticity. That is, they differed with
respect to how much they changed the quantity they bought as a function of
changes in brand price. The group of consumers that bought mostly brands
belonging to the lowest level of utilitarian and informational reinforcement
(Group 1) and the group that bought mostly brands belonging to the highest level
of utilitarian and informational reinforcement (Group 6) showed the lowest
demand elasticities, that is, they showed the smallest decreases in quantity bought
as a function of increases in brand price. Group 2 (Informational Level 1 and
5 An own brand is a product manufactured specially for a retailer and bearing the retailer’s name.
They are not available in any competing retail outlet unlike large brands, for example Heinz,
which is available in most retailers. The equivalent in the US is a private brand (rather than a
national brand).
CONSUMER BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS AND SOCIAL MARKETING
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Utilitarian Level 2) showed the highest demand elasticity, which decreased
systematically as the group number increased (from 2 to 6).
The authors also decomposed overall group elasticities into intra-brand
elasticity (buying larger quantities of Brand A when Brand A is cheaper), interbrand-
utilitarian elasticity (buying smaller quantities of Brand B, which is more
expensive than Brand A and offers more utilitarian reinforcement), and interbrand-
informational elasticity (buying smaller quantities of Brand C, which is
more expensive than Brand A and offers more informational reinforcement).
Taken together, the results suggested the occurrence of at least three different
patterns of brand choice across groups: 1) minimizing costs by choosing
predominantly the cheapest brands independently of informational and utilitarian
levels (Group 1), 2) maximizing utilitarian reinforcement within each level of
informational reinforcement (Groups 2, 4 and 6), and 3) maximizing
informational reinforcement (Groups 2 to 6, increasingly) (cf. Foxall et al., 2004).
Further analyses of decomposed demand elasticity of all consumers also showed
that, for the nine supermarket food products investigated, intra-brand elasticity
was higher than utilitarian elasticity, which, in turn, was higher than informational
elasticity (Oliveira-Castro et al., 2005). These results suggest that, for fast-moving
consumer goods of the type investigated here, consumers’ brand choices are
influenced by price, utilitarian reinforcement and informational reinforcement, in
that order of importance. Knowledge of the events that function as reinforcers for
consumers allows researchers and managers to make predictions about their
behavior.
Another method of measuring informational reinforcement level of brands
was developed by Oliveira-Castro, Pohl and Dias (2006). The authors elaborated
a simple questionnaire which asked consumers to rate, based on a four-point
scale, the levels of popularity and quality of each brand within product categories.
By averaging the scores for popularity and quality, obtained across samples of
more than 120 consumers, the method ascribed a single score, ranging from 0 to
3, to each brand. This final score has been interpreted as a measure of
informational reinforcement level of each brand, as perceived by consumers.
After this, the authors examined the possible relations among brand market share,
price, and informational level for nine different supermarket products (i.e., fabric
softener, laundry powder, coffee, margarine, canned corn, soy bean oil, chocolate
milk, black beans, and washing-up liquid).
For seven products, results showed significant, positively accelerated
increases in market share as a function of increases in informational level, and
non-significant decreases in market share with increases in prices (brand with
higher informational levels tended to have higher prices). Thus, for these seven
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products, increases in informational level were associated with positively
accelerated increases in total brand revenue. For two other products (black beans
and canned corn), neither market share nor prices were significantly related to
informational level. In other words, these two products behaved as primary
commodities, whose reinforcing value for the consumer does not increase with
increases in informational level (or brand differentiation). These results illustrate,
once more, the usefulness of the distinction between utilitarian and informational
reinforcement proposed by the BPM, a model that provides a consistent
conceptual framework for the interpretation of consumer behavior in general and
the identification of events that function as reinforcers for different groups of
people under different conditions.
The Scope of the Consumer Behavior Setting
Alongside informational and utilitarian reinforcement, the scope of the
behavior setting is an important variable in the BPM. According to the BPM,
behavior is a function of the consumer situation. From the work of Schwartz and
Lacey (1988) it has been proposed that purchase and consumption activities occur
in a continuum which ranges between relatively open to relatively closed
consumer behavior settings.
A relatively closed setting is such as the post office in which the purchase of
government-issued postage stamps is the only means available to the consumer
for sending a written communication. On the other hand, a department store is
more characteristic of a relatively open setting where the consumer has a great
range of products to choose from. In the relatively closed setting, persons other
than the consumer arrange the discriminative stimuli that compose the setting in a
way that compels conformity to the desired behavior, and this is achieved by
making reinforcement contingent on such conformity. In this case, the consumer
is acting according to the rules or instructions devised and presented by others in
order to avoid or escape the aversive consequences she might face otherwise.
Conversely, the relatively open setting does not constrain the consumer, who,
thus, has greater choices. Therefore, in this case, the consumer is acting on selfinstructions,
under the control of positive reinforcement (feeling of freedom, a
sense of being in personal control of his behavior) and in which his approach
behavior is difficult to predict (Skinner 1971). Also difficult in this environment
is to isolate the positive reinforcers that might be the exact causes of the
consumer’s current behavior.
Studies testing the importance of scope in behavior settings (as well as levels
of utilitarian and informational reinforcement) have employed Mehrabian and
Russell’s (1974) pleasure, arousal and dominance (PAD) scales. The dominance
CONSUMER BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS AND SOCIAL MARKETING
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(dominance-submissiveness) dimension ranges from extreme feelings of lack of
control or influence upon one’s surroundings to feelings of being influential and
powerful, or in control. Empirical studies have shown the significantly high
power of the dominance dimension in discriminating between open/closed
consumer behavior settings (Foxall & Greenley, 1998, 1999, 2000; Foxall &
Yani-de-Soriano, 2005; Soriano, Foxall & Pearson, 2002).
In addition, the notion that in a relatively open consumer behavior setting,
the individual is relatively free to determine his own choices finds support in
recent consumer research. In their study of control and empowerment, Wathieu et
al. (2002) challenged the traditional economic view which assumes that “a larger
choice set would constitute an improvement of a consumer’s situation” and their
findings showed that certain kinds of choice set expansions may cause aversive
behavior in consumers, which is explained by self-control, regret and overload
mechanisms. Finally, in a relatively open consumer behavior setting the
consumer feels more autonomous and his subjective perception of control has a
positive impact on his long-term well-being (Langer and Rodin, 1976; Langer,
1983).
A BEHAVIORAL CLASSIFICATION OF CONSUMER CHOICE
Working with the proposed bifurcation of utilitarian and informational
reinforcement already described, the BPM suggests that four operant classes of
consumer behavior can be described according to the pattern of reinforcement
(i.e., high/low utilitarian and high/low informational) which maintains it. These
are shown in Table 1. Behaviors classed as accomplishment are maintained by
high levels of both utilitarian and informational reinforcement and may include
conspicuous consumption behaviors such as buying status cars.
Behaviors classed as hedonism are characterized by high levels of utilitarian
reinforcement and are usually reinforced by entertainment—for example,
watching popular TV programs might be placed in this category. Behaviors
reinforced negatively by the removal of a utilitarian aversive stimulus, such as
taking an aspirin for a headache may be included here.
Behaviors classed as accumulation are principally reinforced by
informational reinforcement and may include collecting trading stamps or points
in a loyalty program (for a supermarket) or being involved in a token economy
(where the environment is more closed).
Behaviors classed as maintenance are routine behaviors necessary to sustain
one’s physiological being (eating, sleeping) and to function as a member of a
social group, or a citizen in society (paying taxes for inescapable consumption or
getting a passport). In maintenance, levels of utilitarian and informational reinFOXALL,
OLIVEIRA-CASTRO ET AL.
112
TABLE 1. OPERANT CLASSES BASED ON THE LEVELS OF UTILITARIAN AND
INFORMATIONAL REINFORCEMENT.
High Utilitarian
Reinforcement
Low Utilitarian
Reinforcement
High Informational
Reinforcement
ACCOMPLISHMENT ACCUMULATION
Low Informational
Reinforcement
HEDONISM MAINTENANCE
forcement are substantially lower than for the other classes of behavior, but are far
from unimportant and may be controlled negatively by the removal of a threat. A
more detailed discussion and interpretation of the four operant classes can be
found in Foxall (1990, 1993, 1994).
These operant classes can be operationalized alongside the scope of the
setting to produce eight separate contingency categories to analyze a broad range
of behaviors. These categories are summarized in Table 2.
BEHAVIOR ANALYTIC RELEVANCE TO ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION
So far this paper has presented a behavioral analytic approach to complex
behavior and how this has been utilized in consumer choice situations. A
bifurcation of reinforcement has been described, taking into account the more
complex nature of human reinforcement; and this approach has been applied to
current behavioral research in consumer choice environments. The importance of
the scope of the behavior setting has also been explored.
Environmental problems and detrimental consumer choices resulting from
patterns of consumerism, encouraged by mass advertising, such as atmospheric
pollution, waste disposal and resource depletion have multiple causes and require
composite responses (van Raaij, 1988). Because of this, solutions lie beyond the
scope of any single discipline. Modern marketing thought fully supports the
CONSUMER BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS AND SOCIAL MARKETING
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TABLE 2. CONTINGENCIES CATEGORIES BASED ON THE BPM
(ADAPTED FROM FOXALL, 1998, P. 104).
relatively open BEHAVIOR SETTING relatively closed BEHAVIOR SETTING
ACCOMPLISHMENT
Contingency Category 1- Extended consumer
behavior, e.g, search and evaluation for status
symbols (innovations, luxuries)
High informational reinforcement
High utilitarian reinforcement
ACCOMPLISHMENT
Contingency Category 2- Excitement and
fulfillment, e.g, casino gambling, personal
development training
High informational reinforcement
High utilitarian reinforcement
HEDONISM
Contingency Category 3- Popular
entertainment, e.g, listening to popular music,
watching TV game show/variety show
Low informational reinforcement
High utilitarian reinforcement
HEDONISM
Contingency Category 4- Inescapable
Entertainment/Alleviation of Personal pain,
e.g, watching in-flight movie, taking
headache remedy
Low informational reinforcement
High utilitarian reinforcement
ACCUMULATION
Contingency Category 5- Collecting, e.g,
installment buying, Christmas club saving
High informational reinforcement
Low utilitarian reinforcement
ACCUMULATION
Contingency Category 6- Token Economy
based buying, e.g, accumulation of ‘air miles’
High informational reinforcement
Low utilitarian Reinforcement
MAINTENANCE
Contingency Category 7- Routine Purchasing
of Socialized Economic Necessities, e.g,
supermarket grocery shopping, having a
dental check-up
Low informational reinforcement
Low utilitarian reinforcement
MAINTENANCE
Contingency Category 8- Regular Mandatory
Purchase/Consumption, e.g, paying taxes,
buying TV license or passport
Low informational reinforcement
Low utilitarian reinforcement
FOXALL, OLIVEIRA-CASTRO ET AL.
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application of marketing mix6 elements to areas of social and political resource
allocation (Bloom & Novelli, 1981; Fox & Kotler, 1980; Kotler & Zaltman,
1972). When marketing is directly responsible for abuses of the environment,
social marketing or de-marketing may provide ways of reversing their effects.
However any marketing/de-marketing strategy undertaken to affect environmental
behavior must link with both the micro level aspects of consumer choice and the
activities of marketing firms with the macro level of public policy and regulation.
Social marketing issues in isolation are unlikely to provide the required
integrative framework for understanding the ways in which consumer behavior
impacts deleteriously on the environment and for suggesting remedial action. This
is firstly because commercial marketing is generally a short-term activity unlike
environmental problems which have a long-term duration and effect. Largely
there has been an over reliance on textbook marketing principles which have in
the main been developed with fast moving consumer goods and are therefore not
appropriate in this context. For example the behavior change needed to buy a
different brand of soap is not huge whereas the modification of environmentimpacting
consumer behavior imposes major costs and must overcome
considerable obstacles to change.
Social-marketing programs have also been critiqued on the grounds they do
not generally use the fully integrated marketing mix but rely to a disproportionate
extent on social advertising. Secondly, there has been an over reliance on
cognitive theoretical perspectives, which have generally failed because of a lack
of attitudinal-behavioral consistency. For example, although consumers know in
detail about the ecologically deleterious effect of much of modern consumption
and are generally relatively knowledgeable, they do not, on the whole, bring this
behavior in line with the more rational patterns advocated by conservationists
(Constanzo, Archer, Aronson, & Pettigrew, 1986). Lehman and Geller (2004)
note that although there has been continued interest in the behavior basis of
environmental conservation, the peak of this type of research was in the 1970s,
when the first Earth Day served as an activator. Consequently environmental
attitudes research at this time flourished. The behavior analytical models
discussed above are likely to provide a better basis from which environmental
behavior can be promoted and maintained.
6 Jobber (2004, 912) defines the marketing mix as “a framework for the tactical management of
the customer relationship, including product [attributes, packaging etc], place [distribution, for
example through retail stores or the internet], price and promotion [advertising, public relations
etc] (the 4-Ps)”. He also suggests that in the case of service marketing three other elements should
be included: process, people and physical evidence.
CONSUMER BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS AND SOCIAL MARKETING
115
APPLIED BEHAVIOR RESEARCH AND ENVIRONMENTAL BEHAVIOR
A behavior analytic approach would suggest that demand for products or
services which have adverse effects on the physical environment is controlled by
the consequences of consumer behavior. Previous reinforcing consequences will
make the behavior more likely to be repeated and similar behavior will be more
probable now and in the future. Punishers reduce the frequency of the behavior
that produced them. Antecedent factors also affect the rate at which behavior
occurs, for they signal the reinforcing (or punishing) consequences likely to
follow the performance of a particular act. At its simplest, a consumer behavior
can be stated as A:B:C, where A=Antecedents, B=Behavior and
C=Consequences. The colons imply that the variables are related probabilistically;
the existence of an antecedent does not automatically lead to the specified
behavior; nor does the reward of that behavior on previous occasions make its
repetition inevitable now (Blackman, 1980).
However, as mentioned previously, consumer behavior is frequently more
complicated than this as it is simultaneously reinforced and punished. For
example, buying a brand can be reinforced by gaining the attributes of the product
and by consumption, but punished by the surrender of money. The loss of which
deprives the buyer of other opportunities (Alhadeff, 1982). In environmentimpacting
behavior, the reinforcers of purchase are usually immediate and private
while the punishments are delayed and public. The unrestricted acquisition of
short-term reinforcers by a limited number of individuals can result in substantial
long-term aversive consequences for all users. Hardin (1968) suggests that, in the
short term, positive components of the situation will outweigh the negative
components for each individual, leading to each of us damaging the environment.
In the long term, the build up of each individual’s actions will result in
devastating environmental damage that affects the whole population.
Previous applied behavior research in environmental behavior has
concentrated on and incorporated three broad types of antecedent and consequent
stimuli. Antecedents have consisted of prompts, such as warnings, reasoned
argument and facts, threats, relating to the deleterious effects of actions that
exploit or pollute the environment which are an attractive intervention due to their
low cost (Lehman & Geller, 2004). These antecedents are designed to act as
discriminative stimuli, signaling the aversive consequences of specific behaviors
that impact on the environment for all.
Consequential stimuli have consisted of feedback, such as specific/personal
information on the actual effects of individuals’ actions (e.g. levels of reduction of
his/her electricity consumption or private car mileage), and incentives, such as
FOXALL, OLIVEIRA-CASTRO ET AL.
116
financial bonuses, praise and encouragement (e.g., reward with additional
consumption goods or the capacity to acquire them for pro-social behaviors).
Generally strong links have been found between conservation behavior and
its consequences, and incentives have commonly the strongest immediate
influence on the behavior, at least in the short term. Incentives used alone have
more effect than feedback used alone. Feedback in the form of education and
information is expected to be more successful as a strategy when it is tailored to
fit a specific situation (Lehman & Geller 2004). In turn, feedback has a more far
reaching effect than does prompting (antecedents). Also it has been found that
prompts have an extremely limited effect if incentives are not presented closely
tied in to the performance of specific conservation behaviors.
Some of the most effective interventions involve the use of incentives and
feedback in combination, supported where feasible by prompts that use rules to
link definite conservation responses to the rewards they will produce for the
individual consumer. For reviews of applied behavior research on consumers’
conservation choices and behavior see Cone and Hayes (1980), Dwyer, Leeming,
Cobern, Porter, and Jackson (1996), and Everett and Watson (1987).
In summary, previous applied behavior analyses have revealed and supported
two types of consequences: incentives and performance feedback. These two
types align well with the two forms of reinforcement discussed earlier: Utilitarian
and Informational Reinforcement. Both utilitarian reinforcement and incentives
are based around more tangible reinforcers and are personal in nature, in the sense
of not depending on other persons. Some authors have argued their capacity to
reinforce behavior lies in the feelings of pleasure, fun, fantasy, amusement,
arousal, sensory gratification, imaginative, appreciation and enjoyment which
they engender directly or indirectly in their recipients (Hirschman & Holbrook,
1982; Holbrook & Hirschman, 1982). Although these terms would not be used in
a typical behavior-analytic interpretation, they seem to stress that utilitarian
reinforcers are mediated by the product or service itself. That is, they depend
upon the relation between the consumer and the product or service rather than on
the behavior of other persons. Both incentives and utilitarian reinforcement are, in
this sense, intrinsically motivating, personal and private.
Performance feedback and informational reinforcement also align well. These
non-utilitarian reinforcers function informationally as feedback on the quality and
quantity of reinforcement; and in the case of consumer behavior, informational
reinforcement may consist of recognition of one’s progress as a consumer and
reflect in the acquisition of symbols of social and economic achievement. Both
feedback and informational reinforcement are a measure of how well the person is
doing and are largely extrinsic. It is generally expected that environmental
CONSUMER BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS AND SOCIAL MARKETING
117
conservation behavior would be influenced primarily by informational
consequences (“doing the right thing,” “being ecologically correct”) without clear
utilitarian gain for consumers and, what makes things worse, they usually involve
some utilitarian loss for them. For example, products that are ecologically correct
(e.g., organic products) are usually more expensive (at least for supermarket
products or fast moving consumer goods) than traditional products resulting in
more financial losses. Considering the results discussed earlier which suggest
consumers’ choices for supermarket products are influenced by price, utilitarian
reinforcers and informational reinforcers in that order, it is not surprising that
informational consequences alone do not always have a substantial effect on
preservation behavior.
Foxall (1994) suggests informational reinforcers may derive their power
ultimately from their association with the utilitarian consequences of behavior,
which may account for the successful synergistic effect of incentives and
feedback in combination. Moreover, the symbolic, verbal reinforcers in
informational feedback are related to the tendency for human behavior to be rulegoverned
as well as shaped by direct consequences (Hayes, 1989; Skinner, 1969).
This would account for the ability of specific prompts, acting as instructions for
pro-social behavior, to increase the motivational effect of utilitarian/incentives
and informational/feedback consequences.
REFINING THE PROBLEM
Each operant class of behavior within the BPM framework has so far been
described positively, but each does have a down side. Especially in affluent,
marketing-oriented societies, consumers seek ever-greater accomplishments based
on both intrinsic utilitarian benefits and extrinsic proof of their social status often
resulting in the consumption of scarce and irreplaceable resources. For example,
private-car ownership and use results in depletion of fuel and damage to the
environment. Pleasure seeking (hedonism) may affect the environment through
indulgent energy consumption, and accumulation brings with it the need to
dispose of packaging and surplus materials. Finally, maintenance, consumption of
the basic commodities themselves such as water and fossil fuels, now threatens
further consumption by depleting stocks. These behaviors and their typical
reinforcers and aversive environmental consequences are summarized in Table 3.
In developing strategies and de-marketing to reduce the negative outputs of
these behaviors, marketers must first have an understanding of how the current
behavior is maintained by a combination of utilitarian and informational
consequences (the pattern of reinforcement outlined in Table 4), and how this
affects consumers’ behaviors. Secondly, marketing-mix strategies need to provide
FOXALL, OLIVEIRA-CASTRO ET AL.
118
TABLE 3. CONSEQUENCES OF ENVIRONMENT-IMPACTING CONSUMPTION.
Utilitarian Informational Aversive
Private transportation Control, privacy,
quiet, speed, fun,
safety, protection
Travel time reduction,
cargo capacity,
predictability, status
Traffic congestion,
stress, costs of
purchase,
maintenance
Bus-riding/Public
transport
Social contact,
healthiness, reading
opportunity
Cost savings, fitness,
pro-social
Slowness, fares,
exposure, crowds
inflexibility, lack of
control
Domestic energy use Comfort, convenience Status, level of
warmth
Charges
Waste Disposal Ease of disposal Conspicuous
consumption,
prestige, social status
approval
Social disapproval,
loss of aesthetic
benefits
Domestic Water use Satisfaction, ease,
cleanliness, hygiene
Status, prevention of
disease, social
approval
Taxes, charges,
rationing, pricing,
metering
appropriate levels of informational and utilitarian reinforcement whose order of
importance needs to be determined for groups and situations. For example, if
specific classes of consumer behavior are maintained by defined patterns of high
versus low utilitarian and informational reinforcement, intervention should be
expected to succeed when it maintains current levels of reinforcement or increases
the level of one source of reinforcement without reducing that of the other.
Specific demarketing strategies and marketing-mix strategies can be
developed for each of the classes of operant behavior, each using one example of
a type of problem environmental behavior. These are summarized in Table 4 and
are now discussed further.
Accomplishment: A Problem of Private Transport
Applied behavior analysts have often been concerned with the
environmentally-impacting behavior of the use of private transportation. Previous
CONSUMER BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS AND SOCIAL MARKETING
119
TABLE 4. SUMMARY OF DE-MARKETING STRATEGIES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL
PROBLEMS
Source of
environmental
problem
Class of consumer
behavior
Principal
marketing
mix element
Proposed demarketing strategy
Excess use of private
transportation
Accomplishment Product Provide similar/compensating
product benefits incorporating
both incentives (e.g. faster travel
system) and feedback (e.g. on
costs no longer incurred)
Over-consumption of
domestic energy
Hedonism Promotion Provide detailed and sensitive
feedback on recent/current
energy use levels and costs;
maintain pleasurable effects of
energy use (incentives)
Indiscriminate waste
disposal
Accumulation Place Provide means of dealing with
litter and other waste where
problem arises (incentives), plus
feedback on progress
Over-consumption of
domestic water supply
Maintenance Price Charge directly for water use
(disincentive to excessive use);
meter water consumption to
provide feedback on current
usage levels and costs
research has suggested the behavior is maintained by high levels of both
utilitarian reinforcement: the fun of driving, control of one’s journey; and
informational reinforcement: speed, low and flexible journey times—and can
therefore be categorized as accomplishment behavior. With this knowledge, a
number of demarketing strategies can be developed. With both high levels of
utilitarian and informational reinforcement, any demarketing strategy should
attempt to replace or maintain these.
Effective competition to driving must be made available, for example, by
making buses and other forms of public transportation more popular, comfortable,
socially acceptable and quicker, if possible. General prompts are unlikely to work
alone but rules which link specific behaviors and their outcomes may be effective.
FOXALL, OLIVEIRA-CASTRO ET AL.
120
Such rules should stress the reinforcers for bus riders in terms of the personal
gratification this provides rather than vague predictions of a remote better
environment for all. Any attempt at punishing motorists through taxes and tolls is
likely to be counterproductive, since the high levels of both utilitarian and
informational reinforcement available from driving will compensate for attempts
at punishment.
An appropriate marketing-mix strategy would concentrate on the product
available and the strengthening of the utilitarian and informational reinforcement
available from it. It may be the case that a brand new product is a necessity to
fulfill this. The price of a new product would be important as car purchases are
often driven by conspicuous consumption. Once a new product is established, the
price of the old product could be increased to punish its usage. Until this point is
reached however, such a price rise would have little overall effect on demand for
the product, given the abundant utilitarian and informational reinforcers.
Prompts in the form of promotion are unlikely to have a large effect, although
if coupled with effective consequential stimuli, they may provide a necessary
informative and persuasive role. The factor of place could be used by opening the
behavior settings and making it more open to competition and making any new
product widely and easily available.
Products are already being developed which may help the problem. Hybrid
technology cars are now available which do not harm the environment as much as
cars with traditional engines. These cars provide the normal utilitarian benefits,
such as the fun of driving and control of ones journey, but this may be reduced
slightly due to the often higher initial cost of these vehicles. Informational
reinforcement would also be about the same. However, as these types of vehicles
do still cause damage to the environment, albeit to a much lesser extent, they are
by no means a final solution.
Hedonism: A Problem of Domestic Energy Consumption
The use of domestic energy is based on consequences which include
convenience and comfort, and so are generally maintained by high levels of
utilitarian reinforcement. While informational reinforcement (or feedback) is less
obvious, it may be important in social situations where visitors are also affected
by usage. In previous research, both incentives and feedback have been used
alone and in combination to reduce domestic energy consumption with an
indication that incentives have the largest effect (cf. Hayes & Cone, 1977; Winett,
Neal & Grier, 1979).
Punishment, as in the case of accomplishment, for example by raising prices,
is unlikely to work because the high utilitarian reinforcement will compensate for
CONSUMER BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS AND SOCIAL MARKETING
121
the rise in price. Any strategy needs to maintain the high levels of utilitarian
reinforcement. It has been suggested, and supported through success in some
studies, that any social demarketing in this area should concentrate on making the
behavior more involving by helping people avoid high bills and encounter selfgratification
behavior at saving energy and reducing pollution.
In terms of a marketing-mix strategy, the principal element would be
promotion entailing effective and informative communication with the consumer.
The required modification of consumer behavior is most likely to be achieved
through the provision of increased, relatively rapid and regular information on
consumption. This should be included as part of the product provided by the
energy companies. In terms of place, consumers should be encouraged to make
personal and domestic arrangements which promote thermal savings (e.g. better
insulation and the elimination of useless energy consumption such as the
illumination of unused rooms).
Accumulation: A Problem of Waste Disposal
Waste disposal is classed as accumulation but the problem is actually
manifested in the opposite of accumulation: disposal. Indiscriminate waste
disposal has relatively few utilitarian reinforcers other than convenience, but its
informational outcomes are extensive if subtle. It confers status through the
assumption that someone else will clear up, and it may also imply conspicuous
consumption. Intervention may take the form of increasing informational
reinforcement by linking the individual’s attempts at recycling or saving resources
and feeding this information back to them.
Showing the pro-social consequences of conformity has also been put
forward as a possible intervention as it increases the personal element. The most
appropriate marketing-mix strategy would concentrate on place. This is because
litter itself is a discriminative stimulus for further littering (Tuso, Witmer &
Geller, 1975) and the provision of bags, bins and other containers that encourage
correct disposal is likely to have a cumulative effect on behavior. Prompts in the
form of promotion can be used to show what to put, where to put and when to put
of disposal (Geller, 1973). Utilitarian reinforcers can be maintained by making
disposal methods convenient, and punishment can be reduced through financial
recompense or lower costs for returning bottles or other recyclable materials.
Maintenance: A Problem of Domestic Water Consumption
In the case of domestic water consumption (classed as maintenance) both
utilitarian and informational reinforcers are low, compared to the other class of
FOXALL, OLIVEIRA-CASTRO ET AL.
122
consumer behavior but are not absent. They are related to the consumer’s state of
deprivation, as domestic water consumption allows us to drink, clean and wash
which are basic human needs. Due to the low levels of both reinforcers it may be
the case that the most successful intervention strategy might be punishment. The
utilitarian and informational positive consequences are not strongly motivational,
so an increase in price would be particularly effective.
A strategy affecting informational consequences in terms of feedback may
also be effective. For example, water metering technology could be installed
providing regular feedback on consumption. In line with these two interventions,
price would be the most effective marketing-mix element, especially as water is
relatively inelastic. This should however be used alongside recommendations of
water conservation methods such as smaller cisterns, use of rainwater and less
purified water.
CONCLUSION
In order to develop efficient strategies of environmental conservation, we
need to identify the variables that influence consumer behaviors that produce
unwanted environmental impact. Within an operant framework this implies,
among other things, examining the consequences that maintain such behaviors.
Only after identifying what events are reinforcing and punishing for individuals
under given conditions, can one, based on an operant framework, make specific
predictions and plan well-grounded interventions concerning the behavior of
individuals. The distinction between informational and utilitarian consequences
proposed by the BPM is a step in the direction of identifying what functions as
reinforcers and punishers for consumers in general. This distinction has been
useful in analyzing consumers’ brand choice and verbal responses to different
consumer settings.
The present paper applied such distinctions to analyses of some relevant
classes of behavior related to environmental conservation, namely, use of private
transportation, consumption of domestic energy, waste disposal, and domestic
consumption of water. Each of these operant classes appears to be maintained by
different levels of informational and utilitarian consequences, which suggests
intervention plans should adopt differentiated and specific marketing strategies to
modify each behavior class.
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sumber :

http://www.bfsr.org/BSI_15_1/15_1Foxa.pdf

 

ANALISIS :

Dalam jurnal tersebut menjelaskan tentang strategi  yang efisien untuk pelestarian lingkungan, kita
perlu mengidentifikasi variabel yang mempengaruhi perilaku konsumen yang menghasilkan
dampak lingkungan yang tidak diinginkan. Dalam kerangka operant ini berarti,
antara lain, memeriksa konsekuensi yang mempertahankan perilaku tersebut.
Hanya setelah mengidentifikasi apa peristiwa yang memperkuat dan menghukum bagi individu
dalam kondisi tertentu, bisa satu, berdasarkan kerangka operant, membuat spesifik
prediksi dan rencana cukup beralasan intervensi mengenai perilaku
individu. Perbedaan antara konsekuensi informasi dan utilitarian
diusulkan oleh BPM merupakan langkah dalam arah mengidentifikasi apa berfungsi sebagai
reinforcers dan punishers bagi konsumen pada umumnya. Perbedaan ini telah
berguna dalam menganalisis pilihan merek konsumen dan tanggapan lisan kepada yang berbeda
pengaturan konsumen.
Makalah ini diterapkan perbedaan tersebut untuk analisis dari beberapa yang relevan
Kelas perilaku yang berkaitan dengan pelestarian lingkungan, yaitu, penggunaan pribadi
transportasi, konsumsi energi dalam negeri, pembuangan limbah, dan domestik
konsumsi air. Masing-masing kelas operan tampaknya dipertahankan oleh
tingkat yang berbeda dari konsekuensi informasi dan utilitarian, yang menunjukkan
rencana intervensi harus mengadopsi strategi pemasaran yang berbeda dan spesifik untuk
memodifikasi perilaku masing-masing kelas.

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