Toward a Renaissance of Goals in Consumer Research on Attitudes and Decision Making

Hans Baumgartner, Pennsylvania State University
[ to cite ]:
Hans Baumgartner (1994) ,"Toward a Renaissance of Goals in Consumer Research on Attitudes and Decision Making", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21, eds. Chris T. Allen and Deborah Roedder John, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 138.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21, 1994      Page 138


Hans Baumgartner, Pennsylvania State University

In spite of the importance of the notion of goal-directed action for understanding consumer behavior, surprisingly little consumer research has been devoted to the study of goals. The purpose of this special session was to bring together a number of researchers with interest in goals in an effort to stimulate work in this area. Three papers were presented which covered a broad range of issues in the areas of attitudes and decision making but which were tied together by a common focus on the goal construct.

In the first paper, Pieters, Baumgartner, and Allen dealt with the issue of modeling goal structures, and they also investigated the effects of goals and their structure on involvement and behavioral intentions. It is often assumed that goals are organized in a hierarchical fashion, with lower-level, subordinate goals serving as means to attain higher-level, superordinate goals as ends (e.g., Bettman 1979), but very little empirical research has tried to model explicitly the presumed hierarchical structure of goals. In his presentation of the paper, Rik Pieters proposed a methodology for eliciting and analyzing sequences of linked subordinate and superordinate goals, and he illustrated the method with an exploratory study of the goals underlying consumers' weight loss behaviors. In addition, he presented some preliminary evidence on the usefulness of taking a structural perspective on goals by showing that the linkages between goals contain important information about consumers' involvement with weight loss and their behavioral intentions to engage in specific weight loss behaviors.

In the second paper, Rick Bagozzi addressed the issue of self-regulation in goal-pursuit and in particular discussed the role of self-schemas and action control in the self-regulation of goal-directed behavior (cf. Markus 1977; Kuhl 1985). In the context of a study dealing with exercising, he hypothesized that self-schemas would moderate the attitude-intention, subjective norm-intention, and action control-behavior relations. Specifically, he argued that people with strong exercise self-schemas would activate intentions in response to subjective norms and behavior in response to action control urges. People with weak exercise self-schemas, on the other hand, were hypothesized to activate intentions in response to attitudes. The results of a longitudinal study supported these conjectures.

The third paper by Therese Louie dealt with the implications of the motivated tactician view of consumers for research on judgmental heuristics and biases (cf. Fiske and Taylor 1990). One well-known judgmental bias is the so-called hindsight phenomenon, wherein people feel that they would have been able to predict future outcomes better than they actually could have (e.g., Fischhoff and Beyth 1975). Past research seems to suggest that motivational factors do not have a significant influence on the occurrence of the bias, but this might be due to the lack of personal relevance of the tasks used in most judgmental contexts. In a study set in an investment context, Louie looked at hindsight bias as a function of (a) how involved consumers were in the event for which they made predictions and (b) whether their goals were met or not. The results of the study showed that in goal-related settings the occurrence of the hindsight bias was influenced by motivational mechanisms which are triggered depending on whether or not a goal objective has been attained.

Fred van Raaij served as the discussant for the session and pointed out several fruitful avenues for future research. Given the paucity of work on motivational phenomena, the study of consumers' goals seems to offer great potential for consumer behavior research, and it is hoped that this session will contribute to a renaissance of goal concepts in work on attitudes and decision making.

[References available on request]