The Psychology of Consumerism

On the marketing and behavioral aspects of consumerism and the advantages and disadvantages of consumerism

Consumerism is in a way the more human aspect of business and companies and businesses consider consumers along with their employees as the essential ‘people elements’ of their endeavor. Yet consumerism can have its other meanings and represent a culture of buying, highlight the virtues and vices of a materialistic society and emphasize on the importance of globalized business environment. Companies have to keep their consumers happy and develop and sell new products based on consumer needs. The needs of the consumers and the needs of businesses however seem to be circular as companies create needs of consumers and consumers also project their needs to businesses suggesting an interdependent relationship. When I say, companies create consumer needs, we can consider the example of Apple iPhone. Apple successfully created a need in consumers to possess a product that would successfully integrate the phone and the iPod. Of course Apple must have also done the initial survey to find out what consumer needs or demands are and then finally expanded and focused on these consumer needs to come up with the new products, including the iPhone. A good company is the one that can provide realistic and well defined frameworks for initial vague consumer needs. The needs of the consumers are initially not well defined or clear as consumers tend to have some idea about what they want but are not too sure about what they actually want. So through surveys and discussions with consumers and in house technical or product development advisers, companies are able to develop on these initial consumer ideas and vague consumer needs and provide shape to their future product plans.

Yet we could first try to define consumerism and understand why consumerism is such an important aspect of business and marketing. The term consumerism seems to have both positive and negative connotations as consumerism could mean a culture of possessions and glorification of materialism. Consumerism could however also mean progressively more consumption of goods and products that could benefit the economy and the markets with a heightened buying culture among people although consumerism could also mean the entire gamut of marketing and business activities that finally lead to the buying of products by consumers.

Consumerism thus has a broad definition and can include a range of buying and business behaviors, so finally consumerism is a ‘kind of behavior’ and that is how it is important to psychology and psychologists. Consumerism is about individuals or groups and how they select or buy secure and use or dispose products and services so that they can satisfy their needs of consumption and the practice of consumerism would also have a significant effect on society. The study of consumer behavior in a systematic and even a scientific manner would be the basis of the psychology of consumers and consumerism. The psychology of consumerism could be considered from two different aspects – one from a marketing or the business viewpoint in which consumerism is seen as essential since it helps maintain companies and businesses so the psychology would be based on how to attract consumers whereas the other viewpoint is the behavioral aspect of consumerism or why consumers buy or consume products and services, and what are the reasons of a buying culture and how this could be justified with normal or abnormal behavioral analysis.

The latter part of this discussion can help us answer several issues about consumerism.

Consumer Psychology from a Marketing Aspect –

Consumers buy according to their personal needs and what they feel is necessary and also according to social needs as they follow trends and thus become interested in certain products and services. Certain products appear more important, essential or attractive to consumers and these products tend to have certain value which makes it easier for companies to sell these products. Businesses and companies are capable of attracting more consumers by using the psychological principles of marketing and consumer behaviour and the key is to create want or the requirement for a product. Businesses and companies understand initial consumer needs through surveys and then they develop new products to attract consumers. Once products are developed, brand image and advertisements help in providing an association between products and companies and when consumers develop an element of familiarity with this association between brand name and product features, they tend to even want the product. In keeping with the demands of competition and consumerism, companies tend to give promotional offers, discounts, sales and low priced products with the aim of attracting more consumers. Considering the marketing perspective, consumerism is advantageous as more consumers and increased buying behavior would mean more sales of products although the disadvantages of increased consumer spending would be minimal except that increased consumerism would also signal increased competition from other manufacturers.

Thus the most essential features of consumer psychology from a marketing point of view are – creating the need for consumerism or for a specific product by advertising specific and unusual features of the product, developing the association between brands and products and offering attractive options such as discounts and sales to attract not just more consumers but also more sales.

Consumer Psychology from a Behavioral Aspect –

From a behavioral perspective, it would be interesting to engage in an analysis of buying behavior and we can try to understand why consumers buy in the first place. There could be several reasons for buying that arise from social and personal needs, from emotional and financial needs and some of these needs are healthy and positive and in fact essential in our daily life. However, buying behavior as in ‘shopaholics’ would be unpredictable, random, and even unhealthy, from a psychological point of view as excessive buying or consumerism cold indicate bipolar illness or a kind of addiction. However consumerism and specific focus on luxury brands could highlight the almost unhealthy addiction to fashion trends and status symbols in modern times and globalization seems to be encouraging this. Companies and businesses create choices in consumers so consumers already have a ‘need’ when they engage in buying behavior. Although this need could be personal and social, the need could also perfectly an emotional need to possess.

From a psychological viewpoint consumerism is about fulfilling our inherent need to control and possess certain objects which could well replace or substitute other possessions. For example, a woman undergoing divorce proceedings may suddenly develop the irresistible need to buy things continually because the need for possessiveness towards a partner has been diverted to other directions.

From a more clinical point of view consumerism could be explained with abnormal psychology and the role of depression, the need to satisfy excessive possessiveness and also the blind faith or dependence on fashion trends and all these are seen as negative aspects of consumer psychology. If consumerism is considered as a positive phenomenon, the advantages of consumerism would be the application of psychological principles in understanding buying behavior.

Consumerism and the study of consumerism helps us to understand and recognize not just consumer needs and how these needs are created or fulfilled but also the behavior and attitudes of consumers towards products and the business directions or endeavors to understand marketing from a behavioral perspective. The psychology of consumerism is thus about creating needs and associations so consumers develop certain familiarity with the product ideas even before buying them.

Consumerism could be both positive and negative and represent not just a global and globalized culture but also highlight the superficial trends and deeper necessities of individuals across societies and communities.

Four Tips for Multi-Team Early Childhood Assessments

School Psychology professionals and clinicians are often asked to complete multi-team assessments for early childhood and pre-kindergarten children. Here are four tips that may help professionals involved in multi-team early childhood assessments.

Tip One: A multi-team assessment can take many forms. Some school districts have the child go around to different clinician's offices and they are tested or interviewed individually by the school psychologist, speech therapist, school nurse, special education teacher, general education teacher and other professionals if needed (such as the occupational therapist, physical therapist or vision and hearing specialist.). The clinicians then consult with each other after the family leaves the assessment offices. Other school districts may use a more play-based assessment system where the child is playing with other children and all the clinicians are watching the child at the same time. The clinicians can quickly share information and make determinations as to whether the child continues in the assessment and needs no further assessment, a screener or a full assessment.

Tip Two: Seek outside assistance if needed. Some clinicians just need more information than they get from a one time assessment. It may be necessary to obtain consent from the parent to contact outside agencies or organizations. This may include obtaining additional medical information, contacting preschools or day care programs the child is attending and social service or foster care agencies to get a better picture of the child. It may be necessary for the school psychologists and clinicians to make additional observations of the child as he or she interacts with the same age peers in preschool. This outside assistance can help get a broader picture of how the child appears in different settings and situations.

Tip Three: Seek Parent or Guardian Input in the Multi-Team Assessment. Parents or guardians often know their young children best so it makes practical sense to collect as much information as possible from parents and caregivers. It is important to note that guardians can also have different perspectives about the child. The clinician or school psychologist can find similar factors that a parent or guardian reports, but the clinician can also note differences in reporting the results. Parents or guardians may not view the child in the same way so clinicians may have to share some unique or overlooked characteristics the child is presenting with in the assessment process.

Tip Four: Write Recommendations to Reflect Possible Changes in the Child. The clinicians and school psychologist may want to consider broad recommendations to understand the child may be making changes. Sometimes recommendations may include areas of the assessment where the child was inconsistent with task completion. It could be the child needs more practice to fully master a task or needs directions repeated to fully understand how to do an activity. There may also be inconsistencies in characteristics the child presents like limited eye contact that may need to be monitored or observed more as the child attends pre-school or participates in play activities.