The Five Factor Model and Market Mavenism

Todd A. Mooradian, The College of William and Mary
ABSTRACT - Personality research has recently approached an important consensus regarding the broadest structure of individual differences, converging on five robust factors. These global traits organize diverse findings and networks of theory on individual differences. Meanwhile, consumer researchers have profited from the inclusion of narrow, domain-specific traits. One such focused trait is Market Mavenism, the propensity to provide marketplace and shopping information. This research relates Market Mavenism to the Five Factor Model, initiating integration of consumption-relevant traits with that recent consensus and clarifying the content and meaning of Market Mavenism by identifying relationships with both social and conscientious dispositions.
[ to cite ]:
Todd A. Mooradian (1996) ,"The Five Factor Model and Market Mavenism", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23, eds. Kim P. Corfman and John G. Lynch Jr., Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 260-263.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23, 1996      Pages 260-263

THE FIVE FACTOR MODEL AND MARKET MAVENISM

Todd A. Mooradian, The College of William and Mary

ABSTRACT -

Personality research has recently approached an important consensus regarding the broadest structure of individual differences, converging on five robust factors. These global traits organize diverse findings and networks of theory on individual differences. Meanwhile, consumer researchers have profited from the inclusion of narrow, domain-specific traits. One such focused trait is Market Mavenism, the propensity to provide marketplace and shopping information. This research relates Market Mavenism to the Five Factor Model, initiating integration of consumption-relevant traits with that recent consensus and clarifying the content and meaning of Market Mavenism by identifying relationships with both social and conscientious dispositions.

Personality psychology has recently approached consensus regarding the fundamental structure of individual differences, recognizing five global traits which are "real, pervasive, universal and biologically based" (Costa and McCrae 1992a) and which explain much of the variance across the literally thousands of traits and taxonomies proposed in the discipline's extended history (see, e.g., McCrae and John 1992). One of the most important values of this consensus is its potential to serve as an integrative framework organizing the diverse and often disconnected findings and theory on human differences. McCrae and John assert that "Instead of the interminable disputes among competing systems that so long paralyzed the field [of personality psychology], we could see cooperative research and cumulative findings... And instead of the lost insights that a haphazard selection of personality variables is likely to produce, we could see a complete and systematic pursuit of personality correlates" (1992, p. 177). It is important that focused, domain-specific consumer differences and marketing relevant traits be included in such a synthesis. It will also inform our understandings of those narrow and focused traits to relate them to the higher-order global traits. This note relates one significant consumer difference, the Market Maven trait, with the "Five Factor Model."

PERSONALITY, CONSUMER RESEARCH AND FOCUSED TRAITS

Although early efforts to relate enduring personality differences with consumer behavior were generally disappointing and the findings "equivocal" (e.g., Kassarjian and Sheffet 1991), recent research has been more encouraging (see, e.g., Haugtvedt, Petty and Cacioppo 1992; Foxall and Goldsmith 1988). Much of the progress in this area may be attributed to improved theoretical and methodological precision. One important shift has been toward the identification and adoption of narrower, domain-specific individual differences. Kassarjian and Sheffet criticized the use of "gross personality characteristics such as sociability, emotional stability, introversion, or neuroticism" to predict specific consumer behaviors and asserted that "...if unequivocal results are to emerge, consumer behavior researchers must develop their own definitions and design their own instruments to measure the personality variables that go into the purchase decision..." (Kassarjian and Sheffet 1991, page 292). These concerns have a corollary in the `principle of compatibility' in attitude theory (e.g., Ajzen and Fishbein 1977): just as broad attitudes are poor predictors of specific, narrowly defined and measured behaviors, broad personality traits cannot be expected to directly predict specific consumer behaviors. Over the past several decades personality psychology shared a corresponding concentration on narrow and even "esoteric" traits (see, e.g., Funder 1991), but has more recently begun to reexamine global traits and broader patterns of behavior (see discussion of the Five Factor Model, below).

The adoption of focused, domain-specific traits has improved the recognition of and the understanding of individual differences in consumer behavior. Researchers have, for example, recognized enduring differences in information processing (i.e., the Need for Cognition; Cacioppo and Petty 1982; Haugtvedt, Petty and Cacioppo 1992), in the tendency to reference attitudes and actions to social and situational cues (i.e., Self-Monitoring; e.g., Snyder and DeBono 1985; Foxall and Goldsmith 1988), and in the belief that goods and their possession are means to happiness (i.e., materialism; e.g, Richins and Dawson 1992). One important focused individual difference in the area of interpersonal influence is the propensity to provide marketplace and shopping information, which distinguishes "market mavens" from other consumers (Feick and Price 1987).

Market Mavens

Market mavens are "individuals who have information about many kinds of products, places to shop, and other facets of markets, and initiate discussions with consumers and respond to requests from consumers for market information" (Feick and Price 1987, p. 85). In specifying the Market Maven construct, Feick and Price emphasize at least two possible motives for developing such general market knowledge. It is useful, particularly in the context of this research, to explicitly distinguish these two elements of the construct: Market mavens may be responding to felt obligations to be knowledgeable about product- and shopping-relevant information (i.e., to be `good shoppers') and they may be anticipating that such knowledge will serve to facilitate social exchanges and conversations (see Feick and Price 1987, p. 85).

Feick and Price (1987) developed the Market Maven Scale, a unidimensional, six-item Likert-type measure. Although usually referred to by the label for the high pole ("market mavens"), this construct and its measure are, in fact, continuous (therefore, perhaps better labeled "Market Mavenism;" e.g., Lichtenstein and Burton 1990). Most studies have trichotomized consumer samples into low, medium and high market maven categories but some analyses have included scale scores as continuous variables in correlation and regression analyses (e.g., Feick and Price 1987; Price, Feick and Guskey-Federouch 1988). Feick and Price demonstrated discriminant validity between Market Mavenism and two other influencer traits, Opinion Leadership and Innovativeness, and related Market Mavenism with awareness of new products, interpersonal information provision (word-of-mouth), general market information seeking (including readership of Consumer Reports and the use of diverse sources of market information) and general market interest (including enjoyment of shopping, attention to advertising, and coupon usage; Feick and Price 1987). Slama and Williams showed that these effects generalize across a wide variety of goods, services and marketplace characteristics (1990). In a robust and growing body of literature, Market Mavenism has been linked to: budgeting of groceries, planning of shopping (i.e., the use of lists) and coupon usage (i.e., percentage of trips using coupons, number of coupons used and value of coupons used; Price, Feick and Guskey-Federouch 1988); brand categorization (e.g., the number of brands held in salient, aware, trial and hold sets; Elliott and Warfield 1993); and, attitudes toward direct mail information (Schreiber and Rodgers 1993). The more managerial literature has also noted the importance of Market Mavens: "By targeting market mavens, communicators can diffuse information about marketing changes, messages spanning multiple-product classes and messages about products that may not have much inherent consumer interest. ...[Market mavens] are an important but previously unknown influencer group that needs to be taken into account when new product communication is planned" (Public Relations Journal 1988, p. 18-19).

The Five Factor Model

At the same time that psychology and consumer researchers have profited from the use of narrow and specific traits, an important consensus has emerged in personality psychology regarding the broadest structure of personality. Five fundamental traits have consistently been found to underlie myriad personality taxonomies and questionnaires and have emerged in factor analyses of comprehensive natural language trait lexicons (John 1990; Goldberg 1993). Those traits include (with brief descriptions from Costa and McCrae 1992b, p 14-16):

Neuroticism. "The general tendency to experience negative affects such as fear, sadness, embarrassment, anger, guilt, and disgust..."

Extraversion. "In addition to liking people and preferring large groups and gatherings, Extroverts are also assertive, active and talkative. They like excitement and stimulation and tend to be cheerful in disposition. They are upbeat, energetic, and optimistic."

Openness to Experience. "...active imagination, aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, preference for variety, intellectual curiosity, and independence of judgment..."

Conscientiousness. "...a more active process of planning, organizing, and carrying out tasks... The conscientious individual is purposeful, strong-willed, and determined... scrupulous, punctual, and reliable."

Agreeableness. "...primarily a dimension of interpersonal tendencies. The agreeable person is fundamentally altruistic ...sympathetic to others and eager to help them, and believes that others will be equally helpful in return."

These global traits are stable across extended time periods of as long as thirty years (see, e.g., McCrae 1993). They have been related to diverse behavioral, cognitive and affective processes (see, e.g., Digman 1990; John 1990), to genetic determination (e.g., Bergeman, et al. 1993; Heath, Cloninger and Martin 1994) and to underlying physiological systems (e.g., Bullock and Gilliiland 1993; Gray 1987). It is important to note that the recent consensus is not without exception; Cloninger has proposed a three dimensional model of personality based on underlying biological and genetic systems (see, e.g., Heath, Cloninger and Martin 1994). See Digman (1990), John (1990) and Goldberg (1993) for reviews of this Five Factor Model and its background. See Block (1995) for a thorough review of criticisms of the five factor model.

As noted, one of the important values of the identification of this fundamental model is its capacity to integrate a discipline formerly handicapped by multiple labels for the same constructs (and similar labels for different constructs), disconnected findings and competing theories:

"One of the central goals of scientific taxonomies is the definition of overarching domains within which large numbers of specific instances can be understood in a simplified way. In personality psychology, a taxonomy would permit researchers to study specified domains of personality characteristics, instead of examining separately the thousands of particular attributes that make human beings individual and unique" (John 1990, p. 66).

The recognition of these global 'domains' does not reduce the importance of understanding narrow, focused traits. Personality may be organized within a hierarchy in which the five global traits, or domains are made up of combinations of more specific traits, or 'facets,' which reflect combinations of discrete behaviors (Costa and McCrae 1995, 1992). Such facets, including enduring consumer traits, increase precision and clarify the richness of individual differences. Goldberg noted that "When thus viewed hierarchically, it should be clear that proponents of the five-factor model have never intended to reduce the rich tapestry of personality to a mere five traits. Rather, they seek to provide a scientifically compelling framework in which to organize the myriad individual differences that characterize humankind" (1993, p. 27). Although this integrative capacity has been well recognized, no reported research has connected narrow consumer differences to the Five Factor Model.

RESEARCH PROPOSITIONS

As noted, market mavens may be influenced by both a responsiveness to feelings of obligation or responsibility and an anticipation of social exchanges or interactions. These underlying aspects of Market Mavenism suggest relationships with two of the global traits from the Five Factor Model. Extraversion, essentially a positive social trait, should be related directly with the inclination to anticipate and seek social interactions. Conscientiousness, the tendency to be responsible, dependable and organized, should relate to responsiveness to perceived obligations. Accordingly, it is proposed that both Extraversion and Conscientiousness will be directly related with Market Maven Scale scores (Market Mavenism).

STUDY

Subjects were 294 undergraduates at two major American universities. All materials were administered and collected in single class or special session periods. The Five Factor Model was measured with the NEO-FFI, a 60-item inventory comprised of five twelve-item scales for each of the factors or traits (Costa and McCrae 1992a; Widiger 1992). Market Mavenism was measured with the six-item Market Maven Scale (Feick and Price 1987). Cronbach's alphas and correlations are presented in the Table. As shown in the Table, for this sample the Five Factor Model demonstrated considerable inter-trait correlations (cf. Costa and McCrae 1992b, p. 100). As anticipated, the Market Maven Scale correlated significantly with both Extraversion and Openness and was not related with the three other domains. (Although Market Mavenism has usually been operationalized as a categorical variable [i.e., low, medium and high], these market maven scores are distributed normally, supporting these analyses of Market Mavenism scores as a continuous variable [skewness=-.18, standard error of skewness=.14, therefore, skewness z-score=1.29; see, e.g., Tabachnick and Fidell 1983, p. 79]). Regression analysis showed that Extraversion (b=.19; Significance of T=.001) and Conscientiousness (b=.11; Significance of T=.058) predicted Market Maven scores with an adjusted R2 of .054.

CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH

As suggested by the social and the 'good-shopper' aspects of the Market Maven trait, this study identified relationships between it and both Extraversion and Conscientiousness. Both of these higher-order global traits have been linked to theory and networks of personality findings via the recent five factor consensus. For example, Extraversion has been closely linked with underlying physiological arousal systems (e.g., Bullock and Gilliiland 1993) and as much as 60 percent of variance in Extraversion (Heath, Cloninger and Martin 1994, p. 773) and 29 percent of variance in Conscientiousness (Bergeman, et al. 1993) has been linked to genetics and heritability.

TABLE 1

CORRELATIONS OF THE FIVE FACTOR MODEL AND THE MARKET MAVEN SCALE

The identified relationships were, however, not as strong as anticipated, explaining only about five percent of the variance in Market Mavenism. Apparently, this domain-specific characteristic, which has been strongly linked with interpersonal communication and other marketplace behaviors, captures unique differences across consumers. Market Mavenism may be more environmentally determined than the global traits in the Five Factor Model. Nonetheless, this study does contribute to the body of knowledge emerging around the Five Factor Model by linking it to narrow traits in the area of consumer psychology and by identifying differences apparently not well explained by its five broad domains. These findings also clarify the content of Market Mavenism by supporting the proposition that it is determined in part by at least two underlying characteristics, preference for social interaction (in this case related to products and markets) and responsiveness to obligations (in this case toward responsible and informed consumption). Future research may extend these findings to broader populations and should, especially, extend the integration of consumption-specific individual differences to other traits, including, for example, the Need for Cognition, Self-Monitoring, and Materialism.

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