Special Session Summary Aparadigms Regained@: Humanities Theory and Empirical Research

Barbara Stern, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Cristel Russell, San Diego State University
[ to cite ]:
Barbara Stern and Cristel Russell (2001) ,"Special Session Summary Aparadigms Regained@: Humanities Theory and Empirical Research", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, eds. Mary C. Gilly and Joan Meyers-Levy, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 177.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, 2001     Page 177



Barbara Stern, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Cristel Russell, San Diego State University

There is no reason that the conceptualizations of interpretive knowledge cannot be submitted to sophisticated falsificationist methodology; they may, in fact, be a good source of scientifically testable hypotheses. (Calder and Tybout 1987, p. 139).

This session aimed at demonstrating (rather than discussing) the role of the humanities as a source of theory and testable hypotheses. Three presentations provided instances of knowledge transfer from arts theory (literature, theology, painting) to consumer research and the reverse.

The papers’ core assumption is that pluralistic research projects drawing from different paradigmatic strengths (Kuhn 1962; Laudan 1984) contribute to knowledge exchange (Lakatos 1978). The "show us the money" presentations provided evidence of value added to consumer research by means of synergy between humanities theory and scientific method (Geertz 1988; Holbrook 1987). Synergy was achieved in the presentations by the strategic decision to maximize the long suit of each knowledge domain. That is, arts theory was invoked in analysis of stimulus objects (art products) and scientific methods in the measurement of responses(human reactions to objects).

Russell and Stern’s presentation, "From Art to Science: Literary Theory in the Laboratory," was content-oriented, using literary theory to generate testable hypotheses and laboratory experimentation to test them. They analyzed consumer responses to product placement in a television sitcom by means of hypotheses derived from literary theory (genre, persona, male/female reading styles) and tested them using traditional experimental procedures. The results support the turn to literary theory to generate more finely tuned hypotheses derived from the stimulus side.

Iacobucci’s presentation investigated several issues within theological texts. She demonstrated hypothesis testing on words and paragraphs embedded in modern day scripture. Texts are qualitative, but their study is illuminated through the use of techniques that are analogous to statistical (quantitative) methods. She closed with a substantive conclusion (regarding the study of the Sacred in consumer behavior) and a philosophical one, namely, that we should consider the relationship between different paradigmatic data (quantitative vs. qualitative) and research philosophies (positivist/postmodern) as independent.

Apostolova-Blossom and Wallendorf’s presentation, "The Role of Marketing Research in Consumer-Market Relationships: A Case Study of "The People’s Choice" Exhibit by Komar and Melamid," was epistemologically oriented, discussing the use of techniques from market research to produce an art exhibit. They critiqued the marketing/consumer research methods used to create the paintings, as well as the paintings that were the product of this process. More broadly, they addressed the application of social science methods to creating art as well as a wider range of aesthetic products. Their paper examined the cultural priority granted to scientific research in producing market-driven products in late capitalism, and evaluated the knowledge that artists and other product-producers gain by using marketing research techniques to determine product attributes and features that consumers will favor.

The session’s goal was the practical one of showing how the development of better questions can lead to better answers. Its justification was that the process of generating sophisticated and theoretically grounded hypotheses and of testing them empirically is likely to yield findings that are valid, reliable, and acceptable to the consumer research community.


Calder, Bobby J. and Tybout, Alice M. (1987), "What Consumer Research Is..." Journal of Consumer Research, 14 (June), 136-140.

Geertz, Clifford (1988), Work and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author, Stanford, California, Stanford University Press.

Holbrook, Morris B. (1987), "What Is Consumer Research?" Journal of Consumer Research, 14 (June), 128-132.

Kuhn, Thomas S. (1962), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lakatos, Imre (1978), The Methodology of Scientific Research Programs, Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Laudan, Larry (1984), Science and Values, Berkeley: University of California Press.