Consumer Decision Processes: a Futuristic View

Franco M. Nicosia, University of California at Berkeley
[ to cite ]:
Franco M. Nicosia (1982) ,"Consumer Decision Processes: a Futuristic View", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 09, eds. Andrew Mitchell, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 17-19.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 9, 1982      Pages 17-19


Franco M. Nicosia, University of California at Berkeley

[AUTHOR'S NOTE. For deriving maximum enjoyment from this paper, the following is recommended. First, this paper must be read aloud. To read it silently would activate only a very small part of the left hemisphere of the fore-brain and thus deprive the reader of the acoustic, melodious. and wholistic (wholesome) pleasures of the human voice as it activates the right hemisphere. Second, the reader should try to discern the two structures that underlie the paper's messages: (a) the popular cognitive algebra, and (b) the long-forgotten primitive nonalgebraic syntax of feelings, especially those feelings that ordinary people call ethics. Third, to experience the latter, one may imagine having received a request for all the raw data and documentation that produced the findings of the last famous publication, and then, try to remember: the questionnaire; the name of the company that did the interviewing, keypunching and coding; the faces of the people (from research assistants to programmers and machine operators: who produced the voluminous computer outputs (it was definitely an advanced computer system, though); the places where those outputs may or may not be (the original disks/tapes have been sold or recycled to satisfy the need to be ecologically rational); and whether it was Evelyn or Paul who very carefully proofread the galleys. Amen.]

Our chairperson knows that a system of differential equations models the dynamic properties of consumer behavior; accordingly, she has asked me to look at the "roots" of the behavior of our research on and about so-called consumer(s). Being one of the two living modelers of consumer dynamics (the other is B. L.), I was glad to accept her recognition of my unique but unknown skills. Thus, I reread everything I have written for two reasons: one, I have a very short memory for the irrelevant, and two, nobody else reads what I write.

The roots of the dynamic model I have developed for describing/explaining/predicting our future and that of our subjects point to behavior in imaginary spaces (Nicosia, 1978, circa and infra; note that Nicosia, 1966, treated only the real space case because the Dean told him that that was more than enough for promotion, even though B. L. had already raised the issue in 1965 - but everyone knows that B. L. could afford it simply because at that time he was a practitioner). The model has generated two time-path characteristics: the first lists new opportunities, and the second, the potential of current opportunities. For those readers who do not trust differential equations or need the security blanket of statistical inference, I can report that the following list of X new ar current opportunities has an error of + (X - 1), at the 9' percent level of hopeful confidence of being wrong.

1. Seriousness of Purpose

This is more than a prediction, it is a Kantian imperative: we must continue to take ourselves and the consumer seriously. Taking ourselves seriously is going to be increasingly necessary because, with the return of our society t its Judaic-Christian (especially Protestant) ethics, eves one will become a worker and it will be difficult for us to find consumers. As a consolation, however, I heard the U.S. funding agencies will allow purchase of a few Diogenes lanterns.

With the reappearance of old moralities and the appearance of new moralities as well, the acceptance for publication of our theoretical and empirical endeavors will decrease asymptotically. However, we are seriously preparing ourselves to think, and possibly, feel, that rejections of our papers will give us the opportunity to experience the experience of growth. I to recognize two minor deviant market segments of feelings in this regard. Some people do not want to grow anymore, and, in fact, others even want to shrink and return to the womb. If the latter segment happens to believe that humans are the expression of stochastic processes, then it will be difficult to return to the womb because, at least in the context of Markov processes, it has been shown, without using the negative binomial, that Vokram processes are a logical/cognitive impossibility. (For a more complete prediction about what to do with time, see point 7 below, especially point 7.2.)

2. Reference Groups

Recalling that consumer behavior is multivariate, we will strengthen our sense of community by conceiving each paper with more than one reference group in mind. A balanced set (minestrone) of reference groups is: one part of our endeavors (from proposal writing to article submission) is addressed to the needs of the editors of the Journal of Mathematical Psychology, another part, to the editors of the Psychometrika, another, to the editors of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and so on, including the needs of print, broadcast, and electronic media.

It will become absolutely necessary to our ego growth that we enter into the data bases of the future electronic media. Then, and only then, will we be able to read each other's manuscripts without the censorship of journals' editors, and as simply as turning on the video. Then, "I and Thou" will share a one-to-one communality, and so "I will be relevant to one 'real' person."

3. Relevance

The item of relevance has haunted us for decades, even though we all know that the ACR founding fathers, maybe by now grandfathers (sorry Jim, Bob, Bob Jr., and a couple of you others I now don't remember), really wanted us to be in basic research. Orthogonally, obliquely, or otherwise, the loading of the relevance item is always high, especially in its operational formulation "relevance to whom?" But this loading will decrease, and relevance will become irrelevant. This is confirmed by recent applications of spectral (ghost) analysis and free-from-polynomial multivariate time-series analysis.

Gone will be the need for relevance to the Dean, to colleagues to the Department of Psychology, the alumni, or the taxpayer. As for the IRS, we have become and will continue to be irrelevant (there are benefits in the avocation of research oops, I meant teaching).

There are also unmistakable signs that we do not need to be relevant to the research project Director who, we all know, reports to the Director of Marketing Research, who reports to the V.P. in charge of Marketing Services, who is occasionally greeted by the Sales Manager in the elevator, who (the Sales Mgr.) is not sure who the Members of the Board are, but who has subliminally used specialty advertising on a secretary who told him that the Chair of the Board - rationally aware of the firm's oligopoly power (another ghost) - has decided to sell the U.S. car-making facilities to a co-op formed by Galbraith, Nader, and Choate, who have great experience in meeting payrolls at the end of each week and, thus, are not going to tell the Japanese to stop introducing new models every three months or so. (After all, only Detroit owns oligopoly power; that of the British car makers has been gradually consumed by what seemed to be TB but. in fact. is a "foreign Legionnaire" epidemiology.)

Nor will we need to be relevant to our students (except as needed for experiments), for we have control of subliminal advertising in ice cubes and elsewhere - in the earphones when we jog or in the background of classical music: while we read the funnies.

We shall master the art of the subliminal by agreeing that subliminal does not refer to the manner of administering a stimulus relative to the physical limit of sensory neurons or organs. Rather, let us continue to believe that subliminal refers to mental states inside the skin of humans, e.g., subconscious, unconscious, unaware, hypnotic, and so on. Since such states have never been measured, a new set of axioms produces a theory that reveals that such states must exist. Accordingly, by 1984, we believers in the subliminal force shall control not only the behavior of consumers but also that of the shrinking market segment called the student mind.

4. Behavior

The study of behavior no longer offers an opportunity, strategically and tactically. First, during the recently ended era of Fishbanization, we learned that we do not need to worry about behavior, for a verbally stated intention can do as well (especially because we all knew that we were dealing only with a definitional equation). Further, by focusing on information processing, we have recently learned beyond any statistical doubt that we can attribute behavior to any consumer. The only intellectual challenge left is to attribute behavior to information processes; to be interested in the act of purchase is to project a materialistic Weltanschauung which our society has long left behind.

Above all, we should assure that future archaeologists will know that we knew that the act of behavior does not exist-that it is only an accounting convention and a legal construct. Behavior is a fugitive instant in our climb up the popularized version of the ladder of motives. In the interim, we should do our best to rely on those models of man that were not related at all to the original thoughts of D. K. in 1957 (yes, indeed, that far back in history).

By leaving behavior behind, we shall help consumers reach the blissful static-static satisfaction of ethical and aesthetic needs (this is an old prediction of mine coming true for nonscholarly reasons, see Nicosia, 1966, Ch. 1). Without doubt consumers will be satisfied when they reach various paradises or nirvanas. And I can foresee how we will help the private and public sectors to find ways to skip all those material steps that live consumers usually take to reach the complete satisfaction of the grave. (Our editor knows that this is printable, for the current administration has managed its first true budget-cutting victory by closing the U.S. Speech Safety Commission--the other federal commissions will close in 2,001--the year of the victory of subliminal advertising.)

And we shall succeed not only in ignoring behavior but also in ignoring my repeated invitations (since 1968) to study behaviors such as storing, maintenance, repair, and disposal. These behaviors are only relevant to current corporate managers and public policy-makers in coping with the two-headed monsters of pollution and management of natural resources. All this is irrelevant because by the logical law of internal consistency (especially that based on the empirical applications of structural "econometric" specifications), we shall, in a few years, agree with the Relevance item above, that is, our right to be relevant only to one video screen located somewhere on this Mother, oops Father Earth.

5. The Inside of the Consumer Skin

The preceding predictions have outlined two opportunities: (a) since the consumer's environment is all subliminal, the relevant states are those inside the skin, such as the subconscious, unconscious, unaware, hypnotic, and other states reflecting lack of social duties and responsibilities; and (b) with the exception of the search for the complete satisfaction of all wants, dreams, aspirations, wishes, and other forces (whose unsatisfaction keeps consumers alive), everything else left alive consists of the processing of information in the attributive made

But I know of two other opportunities, one related to the skin and the other related to the inside of the skin. Our historical choice of which of the two opportunities should be exploited is being made right now.

The opportunity of studying what is inside the consumer' skin will not be followed up. We shall not inquire:

* whether the midbrain is the locus of feelings (and emotions and motivations) and that the forebrain is at best the warehouse of "thinking" rules learned from the environment (after all, Freud had already affirmed this by creating the mental state of the superego, right?),

* whether the morphology of the nervous system of the forebrain in males and females is different at the moment of birth,

* whether the physiology of the brain, i.e., its functioning, depends on the time rate of release of certain hormones rather than others, and

* whether all of this comes from such space science groups as the Psycho-Neuro-Endocrinological International Society and other such conspiracies.

The other opportunity has higher yields (which are nontaxable under the metaphysics of supply-side economics which has made the heroic assumption that consumers will work more).

This other opportunity will be exploited instead. First, it is eminently just and socially kind to ourselves. All there is to study inside the skin has already been discovered by Freud, information processes, and attribution.

In addition, the study of the skin is eminently practical for a number of reasons. First, this study has a long tradition of survival since Pavlov and Watson. Its main commandment is to study only the skin or the pupil or the air we exhale (which is as dirty as the air we inhale, for reasons that are the domain of the sociology of consumption-which by definition belongs to another departmental slicing of humans, and we shall respect such boundaries, for to do otherwise would violate the American principle of specialization which is curvilinearly associated - i.e., no causality implied--with the time rate and magnitude of American Productivity).

The practicality of studying the skin only is also demonstrated by centuries of medieval practice. By analogy, take the temperature of a human:

* If it is normal, send the guy back to work so that he can pay the bill (it is of course possible that the guy is dying of leprosis or some other bug that does not create body temperature above normal - but there are always exceptions in any professional practice). Or

* If the temperature is above normal, give the guy some castor oil. This has worked very well for doctors in countless wars: millions of soldiers went into battles on either side and managed to kill each other in spite of, or because of, castor oil. here too there are exceptions: the guy may have a perforated appendix, but he would die anyway - and this proves (a) the behavioral intention of doctors to administer death peacefully 9 and (b) my intention to attribute to doctors such intention.

Now, if someone were to object that the above shows that "physical" measurements are at least asymmetrical and that they are not measures of "physiological" processes, then must note that doctors are dealing with sick people where we deal either with healthy, rational, normal consumers, with stochastic consumers (maybe Bass meant "as if," maybe

By studying the skin, we can measure all sorts of physical events with very inexpensive instruments that is practice even for the Dean.

In addition, by documenting that we should address our me: sages also to the right hemisphere, we will be even more practical. Proof:

* Buy more TV sets; this means more income for Japanese workers; and that brings blissful satisfaction to the populace's inner guilt for having dropped the A bomb:

* By teaching via TV, we need only one preparation per lifetime; our lectures will always be organized; and the students and the Dean will be completely and eternally satisfied.

6. Studying the Outside of the Skin

Some of us may want to remain irrelevant by studying the outside of the consumer skin. To these diehards, we shall graciously point to the earlier prediction that by 1984 a] of the environment will be subliminal. And we shall also point out a few examples of why the consumer environment i empty.

Example one: there are no cultural values. The diehards have not realized that marketing scholars have each read a different book by Faulkner, and, by a strict Gedanken sampling procedure, each has derived a different and colorful unordered set of words called cultural values. Yes, I have heard of the new cultural value "commitment." In this case, the survey did not observe what we are committed to, for we know that we are all committed to do our own thing.

Example two: social institutions are vanishing. Consider the school, and its once-upon-a-time task to prepare citizens. Today, the school's function is to help two other institutions: the working place and the family. As an aid for the working place, schools simply keep people off the employment and unemployment records at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And they help the family by performing the baby-sitting function (in California, we first required kindergarten, and now a bill requires families to give up even the nursing years--Governments can be cruel indeed!) In conclusion. in our environment there are no schools left.

A second example of why the environment has become empty i the family--it does not exist. Over a few decades, the patriarchal family shrank into the nuclear family: two parents, and some children. By 1980, only 17 percent of all possible types of families are nuclear.

Etzioni has computed that, even if the rate of divorce were to stop increasing, by the turn of the century no such thing as the nuclear family will exist. But it does not matter anyway whether Etzioni's computations are wrong! We have all observed that the nuclear components of the nuclear family are the roof and the microwave oven; the human elements are a throughput flow, in and out, with different time-oath characteristics.

In sum, we will not study the environment of the consumer for it is either empty or only relevant to private and public policy-makers.

7. Of Methodology and Methodologies

Our future in studying consumer decision processes is clearly bright, as the above six predictions unequivocally demonstrate. But the past has proven that our real opportunities lie in the direction of methodology and methodologies. This area is so pregnant with opportunities that I shall give only two predictions--the remaining I shall reserve for the second invitation to share my thoughts and feelings with the Association I helped to found.

7.1. The Dynamics of Consumer Behavior

Systems of differential equations were invented to describe, explain, and predict the dynamics of a physical phenomenon. But it has been categorically stated in print that when systems of differential equations are used to describe consumer behavior. such systems or models are static.

This is correct for a number of reasons. First of all, as proven by the preceding predictions, consumers are not physical phenomena. And if they are, then the achieving of satisfaction via the steps of the motives ladder will make them ethereal, anyway. Second, without cultural values and social institutions, there is no space (environment) for consumers to move through. Third, from the prediction that only the skin is worth studying, it follows that there is no need to observe the dynamics of what goes on inside the skin. The empirical proof is clear. Beginning with the Fishbanization era, none of the studies of information processes that I have seen differentiate any variable with respect to time. In addition, since there is no motivation for consumers to process information to begin with, time is only relevant for computing the cost of processing of information by the CPU and peripheral equipment.

7.2. Time

The only other opportunity I want to mention has already produced awesome results. Recall that the statistical method was born three hundred years after the scientific method. Statistical methodologies were constructed only as an aid, another tool to help scientific methodology.

Now, since differentiating with respect to time has been defined in print as static modeling, then we have virtually collapsed three hundred years of time (and history) and have eliminated the difference between scientific method and statistical methodologies. Accordingly, the only intellectual challenge left is to prove that statistical methodologies are the scientific method. This will call for a reconsideration of many scientific findings; for example, as for movements of celestial bodies, the work from Copernicus to Brache and Kepler will have to be considered the result of some Monte Carlo process, and, for the movement of earthly bodies, the work of Galileo may be the result of some nonlinear regression analysis--and the work that Newton did to unify the two series of findings will be shown for what it is--a static and fictitious mathematical abstraction, for the world is multivariate, full of unexplained R2, both in the short- and the long-term memory.

Post Scriptum. WARNING. To those sensitive to the primitive nonalgebraic syntax of feelings, the messages above may cause exhilarating feelings; it is thus recommended not to talk about such feelings to those who function only with rational, cognitive, algebraic sentences, for the latter are in command. A maximum recommended dosage is 2 pp. at bedtime. No explicit or implied warranty is intended with or without attribution. Nor is a money-back guarantee provided, unless the writer is caught engaged in subliminal work for the private or public sector.