Special Session Summary Dialogues With Visually Impaired and Color Blind Consumers: Psychological, Socio-Cultural, and Social Policy Perspectives on an Emerging Issue in Consumer Research

Stacey Menzel Baker, Bowling Green State University
Carol Kaufman-Scarborough, Rutgers University, Camden
Stephen Gould, Baruch College, The City University of New York
[ to cite ]:
Stacey Menzel Baker, Carol Kaufman-Scarborough, and Stephen Gould (1999) ,"Special Session Summary Dialogues With Visually Impaired and Color Blind Consumers: Psychological, Socio-Cultural, and Social Policy Perspectives on an Emerging Issue in Consumer Research", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, eds. Eric J. Arnould and Linda M. Scott, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 412-413.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, 1999      Pages 412-413

SPECIAL SESSION SUMMARY

DIALOGUES WITH VISUALLY IMPAIRED AND COLOR BLIND CONSUMERS: PSYCHOLOGICAL, SOCIO-CULTURAL, AND SOCIAL POLICY PERSPECTIVES ON AN EMERGING ISSUE IN CONSUMER RESEARCH

Stacey Menzel Baker, Bowling Green State University

Carol Kaufman-Scarborough, Rutgers University, Camden

Stephen Gould, Baruch College, The City University of New York

OVERVIEW

This special session investigated how consumers with color vision deficiencies and visual impairments experience the marketplace. While studies on responses to the environment generally assume an average visual sensory capacity among individual consumers, such an assumption is not realistic to make. Vital and health statistics indicate that over 9 million people in the United States have visual impairments (Statistical Abstracts of the U.S. 1995, p. 141). This statistic indicates only those consumers who are "legally blind" and have no-vision to low-vision, but does not reflect the number of persons with color-vision deficiencies which occur in about 1 of 12 males and 1 of 200 females in Europe and North America (Salmans 1996).

The theoretical significance and contribution from the session came from exploring the extent to which a group of consumers with a physical difference apply different meanings, create different lifestyles, and otherwise apply alternative modes and ways of consuming. In other words, we examned how "non-typical" consumers can inform or help us understand more about consumer behavior by using adaptation processes or consumer learning as an analytical framework.

To describe how these processes of adaptation occur, we reported on a series of interviews, observations, and interactions of and with consumers who are color blind or blind. This dialogue allowed others to "hear" the voices of consumers with disabilities, who are often absent from our samples, but whose presence in the market is real (See Gould 1997 and Kaufman-Scarborough 1995 for exceptions).

The three papers in the session all explored how consumers learn or adapt differently than what has been traditionally expected. The first paper by Carol Kaufman-Scarborough discussed how consumers with color vision deficiencies process information in making consumption decisions. The second paper by Stacey Menzel Baker explored how visually impaired consumers adapt to the marketplace so that they may remain in control of their behaviors, decisions, and emotions. The final paper by Stephen Gould examined how society and research should adapt to visual impairments by exploring the question of whether visual impairment, or any kind of impairment, should be considered as a major variable of theoretical distinction.

 

"INTEGRATING CONSUMER DISABILITIES INTO MODELS OF INFORMATION PROCESSING: COLOR-VISION CAPACITY LIMITATIONS AND THEIR EFFECTS ON CONSUMER CHOICE"

Carol Kaufman-Scarborough, Rutgers University, Camden

When individual consumers are confronted with a set of stimuli to interpret, they generally draw on their sensory abilities to assist them. Kahneman (1973) explains that "attention tasks are classified according to what they require the subject to select: inputs (or stimuli) from a particular source; targets of a particular type; a particular attribute of objects; outputs (or responses) in a particular category (p.3)." Based upon the demands of the specific task, an appropriate store of resources is utilized to process the information. If sensory resources are limited, consumers are expected to adapt their information processing in order to gain meaningful information.

To understand how color deficient consumers process information, interviews with 30 color-blind individuals, five parents of color-blind children, families and numerous friends, two eye care professional, and five color design professionals were conducted. The semi-structured interviews considered a common set of questions about consumer information and problems. In addition, the informants were asked to describe their experiences and to report on their use of or knowledge of adaptation processes.

The interpretation indicates that the informants appear to have a common set of information-processing adaptive behaviors, which allow them to make decisions under difficult conditions, similar to that discussed by Payne, Bettman, and Johnson (1988). The findings indicate that informants use adaptive strategies to aid in gaining access to the information they need as consumers. Strategies included translations of color, use of "surrogate" colors, reliance on scent, use of learned patterns of color matching, maximizing existing capacities, and using surrogates to gain information. For example, parents of color-blind children have creative adaptations which translate color for their children such as using a colored marker or raised markings on clothing tags to enable their children to match their own clothes. In addition, informants with color-vision deficiencies often obtain assistance from their spouses to help select colors and do clothing shopping.

 

"AN EXISTENTIAL-PHENOMENOLOGICAL DESCRIPTION OF SERVICE EXPERIENCES FOR CONSUMERS WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENTS: TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE MEANING OF PERCEIVED CONTROL"

Stacey Menzel Baker, Bowling Green State University

This presentation explored what it is like to experience the marketplace and how one adapts to the marketplace when one has a visual impairment. Because most of the consumer research literature, and probably many of our own experiences, limit our understanding of the "lived" experience of visually impaired consumers, an in-depth understanding of marketplace experiences for consumers with sight impairments, from their perspective, was sought.

Guided by an existential-phenomenological philosophy (Thompson, Locander, and Pollio 1989; Valle and King 1978), interviews were conducted by the author, a sighted person, with twenty-one no-vision to low-vision individuals. A diary of the researcher’s reactions and experiences while "working" at a center for visual impairment and while shopping or eating in a restaurant with the informants supplemented the interview data.

Theories of control (e.g., Averill 1973) were used as an explanatory framework in interpreting the data. Though many experiences in the marketplace are positive, some may be interpreted as negative when the informants feel like they do not have control over their interactions. Consistent with the control literature (e.g., Averill 1973), violations of control came from behavioral (e.g., being grabbed or steered), decisional (others making one’s decisions), and cognitive (e.g., feeling stigmatized) sources. The informants indicated they used specific adaptation strategies to maintain or regain control over marketplace interactions. For example, in order to cope, or adapt, the informants gathered detailed information before shopping trips (a behavioral coping strategy) and viewed themselves as educators when they perceived others were fascinated with their behavior (a cogntive/emotional coping strategy).

The presentation concluded by offering a gestalt portrayal via a conceptual model of the learning process for consumers with visual impairments. Key to understanding this learning process is understanding the role that perceived control has in one’s motivation to adapt or cope.

 

"TOWARD A RECONSTRUCTION OF THE MEANINGS, PROCESSES, AND CULTURE OF CONSUMER RESEARCH: VALORIZING THE CULTURE OF VISUAL IMPAIRMENT AS SALIENT AND INFORMING"

Stephen J. Gould, Baruch College, The City University of New York

Consumers who are visually impaired comprise an alternative (sub)culture interacting with the larger culture (Gould 1990, 1997). As with everything in postmodernity, the alternative cultures of visual impairment are being problematized. Through observing this transvaluation, five enduring/emergent themes are unmasked: (1) physicality as a major but not unsung determinant of consumption, (2) mainstream/hybridized consumption, (3) equity issues, (4) independence as a desirable consumer state, and (5) the radical, reflexive alteration of one’s consumer researcher/human consciousness through studying visual impairment. The main implication is that consumer research, itself, and its theoretical perspectives can be dramatically transformed by recognizing that any construct or signification may be deconstructed by the inclusion of visually impaired consumers in our work.

For a more detailed description of this work, please refer to Stephen’s paper, which is printed in these proceedings.

DISCUSSION

The session concluded with audience members considering what different types of impairments are/would be like from their perspectives. In addition, audience members also shared how consumer adaptation processes are, or could be, informing in their own work. As one audience member pointed out, these adaptation processes are especially important to consider in terms of how one copes with a life trnsition, such as when one loses his/her color-vision capacity or visual senses at some point in his/her life.

REFERENCES

Averill, James R. (1973), "Personal Control over Aversive Stimuli and Its Relationship to Stress," Psychological Bulletin, 80 (4), 286-303.

Gould, Stephen J. (1990), "Applying a Cultural Framework of Health and Healing in the AIDS Context," in Research in Consumer Behavior, Elizabeth Hirschman (Ed.), Greenwich, CT: JAI, 4, 85-114.

Gould, Stephen J. (1997), "Leveling the Playing Field for Visually Impaired Consumers: A Public Policy and Research Agenda," in 1997 AMA Winter Educators’ Conference: Marketing Theory and Applications, Debbie Thorne LeClair and Michael Hartline (Eds.), Chicago, IL: American Marketing Association, 8, 142-148.

Kahneman, Daniel (1973), Attention and Effort, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Kaufman, Carol Felker (1995), "Shop #Til You Drop: Tales from the Physically Challenged Shopper," Journal of Consumer Marketing, 12 (3), 51-67.

Payne, John W., James R. Bettman, and Eric J. Johnson (1988), "Adaptive Strategy Selection in Decision Making," Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 14 (3), 534-552.

Salmans, Sandra (1996), Your Eyes: Questions You HaveAnswers You Need, Allentown, PA: People’s Medical Society.

Statistical Abstracts of the United States (1995), Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census.

Thompson, Craig J., William B. Locander, and Howard R. Pollio (1989), "Putting Consumer Experience Back into Consumer Research: The Philosophy of Existential-Phenomenology," Journal of Consumer Research, 16 (September), 133-146.

Valle, Ronald and Mark King (1978), "An Introduction to Existential-Phenomenological Thought in Psychology," in Existential-Phenomenological Alternatives for Psychology, Ronald Valle and Mark King (Eds.), New York: Oxford University Press, 6-17.

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