Means-End Theory of Lifestyleca Replication in the Uk

Joachim Scholderer, The Aarhus School of Business
Karen Brunso, The Aarhus School of Business
Klaus G. Grunert, The Aarhus School of Business
ABSTRACT - Bruns°, Scholderer and Grunert (in press) reconstruct means-end chain theory and lifestyle within a dual-process framework, incorporating bottom-up and top-down information-processing routes. The bottom-up route of their model is defined as a hierarchical categorization process, and the top-down route as goal-directed action. Lifestyle, then, is seen as a system of individual differences in the habitual use of declarative and procedural knowledge structures that intervene between abstract goal states (personal values) and situation-specific product perceptions and behaviors. Access of the intervening knowledge structures is considered a necessary condition for both information-processing routes to reach their ends, predicting a complete-mediation model. The initial study by Bruns° et al. (in press) was exactly replicated based on survey data gathered in the United Kingdom in 1998, using the list of values as a measure of abstract goal states, the food-related lifestyle instrument as ameasure of intervening knowledge structures, and the food-related behavior list as a measure of the frequency of a broad range of consumption behaviors. Data were analyzed by means of structural equation modeling. Compared against five alternative model structures, the complete-mediation model fitted the data best, thus confirming the predictions derived from the reconstructed theory, and cross-validating the initial model in a different consumer population.
[ to cite ]:
Joachim Scholderer, Karen Brunso, and Klaus G. Grunert (2002) ,"Means-End Theory of Lifestyleca Replication in the Uk", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29, eds. Susan M. Broniarczyk and Kent Nakamoto, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 551-557.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29, 2002     Pages 551-557

MEANS-END THEORY OF LIFESTYLECA REPLICATION IN THE UK

Joachim Scholderer, The Aarhus School of Business

Karen Brunso, The Aarhus School of Business

Klaus G. Grunert, The Aarhus School of Business

ABSTRACT -

Bruns°, Scholderer and Grunert (in press) reconstruct means-end chain theory and lifestyle within a dual-process framework, incorporating bottom-up and top-down information-processing routes. The bottom-up route of their model is defined as a hierarchical categorization process, and the top-down route as goal-directed action. Lifestyle, then, is seen as a system of individual differences in the habitual use of declarative and procedural knowledge structures that intervene between abstract goal states (personal values) and situation-specific product perceptions and behaviors. Access of the intervening knowledge structures is considered a necessary condition for both information-processing routes to reach their ends, predicting a complete-mediation model. The initial study by Bruns° et al. (in press) was exactly replicated based on survey data gathered in the United Kingdom in 1998, using the list of values as a measure of abstract goal states, the food-related lifestyle instrument as ameasure of intervening knowledge structures, and the food-related behavior list as a measure of the frequency of a broad range of consumption behaviors. Data were analyzed by means of structural equation modeling. Compared against five alternative model structures, the complete-mediation model fitted the data best, thus confirming the predictions derived from the reconstructed theory, and cross-validating the initial model in a different consumer population.

INTRODUCTION

Since its introduction into the marketing area by Lazer (1964), the lifestyle concept has attracted many marketing researchers who sought to discover a general "blueprint" underlying consumers’ behavior. Most approaches follow a purely operational definition, measuring lifestyle by large numbers of activities, interests and opinions items (AIO; Wells and Tigert 1970) that are analytically reduced to a small number of dimensions. These dimensions are then used to classify consumers into lifestyle segments. Instruments like RISC, CCA and VALS are good examples for this approach. Although still popular in commercial settings, this type of lifestyle research has been criticized on several grounds, the foremost one being its complete lack of theoretical foundation (e.g., Anderson and Golden 1984; Lastovicka 1982; Roos 1986).

Bruns° and Grunert (1995, 1998) have proposed a lifestyle definition that clearly breaks with the AIO tradition. Their framework is consistent with the means-end approach to consumer behavior (Olson and Reynolds 1983), especially in its hierarchical cognitive-structure formulation (Grunert and Grunert 1995; Gutman 1982). On the top level of their hierarchy, personal values are defined as abstract, trans-situationally aggregated cognitive categories. On the bottom level, product perceptions are defined as situation-specific input to a categorization process. Lifestyle is then defined as an intervening system of cognitive structures that link situation-specific product perceptions to increasingly abstract cognitive categories and finally to personal values.

Means-End Theory of Lifestyle

Bruns°, Scholderer and Grunert (in press) have elaborated the basic theory in a dual-process framework. The "hardware" of the system consists of declarative knowledge structures (categories, concepts, associative networks) and procedural knowledge structures (scripts and skills) that enable information processing on bottom-up as well as top-down routes. On the bottom-up route, these knowledge structures direct a hierarchical categorization process. Declarative knowledge attaches meaning to an incoming product sensation, and procedural knowledge provides behavioral routines to act upon the mental representation of a product (Barsalou 1982, 1985; Cohen 2000; Rosch, Mervis, Gray, Johnson and Boyes-Braem 1976; Ross and Murphy 1999; Schank and Abelson 1976).

On the top-down-route, the knowledge structures guide goal-directed action. Personal values are top-level goals that are situationally unspecific and not instantiated with respect to a certain object (Rokeach 1968). Declarative knowledge, when activated, yields specific goal instantiations on the level of a certain product category (Austin and Vancouver 1996; Barsalou 1991; Emmons 1997; Pieters, Baumgartner and Allen 1995). Procedural knowledge, when activated, provides behavioral routines for acting upon these instantiations so that a behavioral intention can be formed, adapted to situational constraints, and finally be acted upon (Byrne 1977; Gollwitzer 1999; Goschke and Kuhl 1993; Kuhl 1985; Lichtenstein and Brewer 1980; Schank and Abelson 1977).

At a first glance, the lifestyle model proposed by Bruns° et al. (in press) does not seem to add much to the general means-end approach. On closer inspection, however, three important differences becme apparent. The first one is conceptual: the general means-end approach presupposes a certain structure in the subjective "meaning" of product. Due to a lack of theoretical rigor, however, it is not quite clear whether "meaning" is to be understood in a semantic or in a motivational sense (for a detailed discussion, see Grunert and Grunert 1995). The present approach assumes that semantic aspects are predominant when a means-end chain is primed from the bottom end (initiating a categorization process), but that motivational aspects are predominant when a means-end chain is primed from the top end (initiating goal-directed action).

Second, means-end theory of lifestyle extends the general means-end approach by including procedural knowledge. Scripts and skills add a pragmatic dimension, linking the mere mental representation of a product or a consumption goal to certain behavioral routines so that the model also predicts goal-directed behavior.

Thirdly, means-end theory of lifestyle assumes that lifestyle is a strict mediator of the relationship between values and behavior. As Grunert and Grunert (1995) show, the general means-end approach takes quite a liberal stance on the particular mode of mediationBit is just not clear whether direct links from product perceptions to values are consistent with the theory or not. In contrast to this, the Bruns° et al. (2000) model makes explicit predictions that are empirically testable.

In the following, we will review existing evidence for the validity of means-end theory of lifestyle. Although it can in principle be applied to any domain of consumption behavior, the chosen area must still be specific enough for the knowledge structures to be relevant to the specific products and behaviors under consideration. We will restrict our attention to the area of foods and food-related behaviors because in that particular area, measurement instruments and procedures are already available.

Evidence for the Bottom-up Route

Both information-processing routes in means-end theory of lifestyle are formulated on the individual level, and both imply a particular sequence of activation. The bottom-up route is driven by external input (product perception) which is thought to trigger a hierarchical categorization process (activating declarative and procedural knowledge structures) that finally results in the activation of the most abstract conceptual level (personal values). Hence, a valid test of the assumed hierarchy would have to manipulate appropriate stimulus characteristics in an experimental design, and assess whether the observed sequence of activation is consistent with the predicted sequence of activation. Cognitive psychologists have indeed investigated conceptual hierarchies of this form (for a review, see Cohen 2000). Due to the limited possibilities of experimental manipulation, however, relatively few studies employed natural categories such as animals and plants, and even fewer included category-like representations of procedural knowledge.

Ross and Murphy (1999) report a series of ingenious experiments investigating category structure and categorization processes in the domain of foods. In Experiment 4, they tested the degree to which categories of three hierarchical levels were automatically activated upon presentation of food names. Hierarchical levels were (a) taxonomic categories, e.g. "dairy foods" and "fruits", (b) script categories, e.g. "lunch foods" and "snack foods", and (c) ad-hoc-categories, e.g. "foods that go bad quickly if unrefrigerated". To measure category activation, they used Barsalou’s (1983) similarity-rating procedure. For each of the three hierarchical levels, six categories with two pairs of instances were used, respectively. Subjects were asked to judge the similarity of instances from a category with and without presentation of the category name. The rationale behind this procedure is that if the instances themselves activated the categories, then providing the names should not influence subjects’ similarity judgments. If the instances did not spontaneously activate the categories, on the other hand, then providing the category names should influence subjects’ similarity judgments. The results showed that taxonomic categories were activated most spontaneously, followed by script categories, and finally by ad-hoc categories.

In Experiment 5, Ross and Murphy (1999) had their subjects make speeded judgments to category verification questions (e.g., about whether a bagel is a breakfast food) for taxonomic, script, and ad-hoc categories. Preceding the judgment, subjects read a sentence that either primed the target category for the particular food (e.g., ##The bagel was what he had when he woke up’’) or was neutral with respect to that category (e.g., ##The bagels were in the last aisle in the store’’). Consistent with the hypotheses, the taxonomic categories showed little effect of priming and the ad hoc categories showed large effects of priming on both reaction time and accuracy. The script categories showed intermediate levels of priming.

In Experiment 6, Ross and Murphy (1999) tested the effects of category membership on evaluative inference with regard to a number of quality attributes such as price and vitamin content. For approximately 80% of the evaluative inference questions (both in the taxonomic and in the script category condition), category membership had a significant effect on the probability with which subjects believed a particular food to have the respective quality attribute.

Taken together, the results of the Ross and Murphy (1999) experiments suggest that people do spontaneously activate declarative knowledge (taxonomic categories) as well as procedural knowledge (script categories) when confronted with a given food item, and that the degree of activation follows a distinct pattern (taxonomic categories more or equal to script categories, and both more than ad-hoc categories) that is consistent with the pattern predicted by the bottom-up route in the model proposed by Bruns° et al. (in press). It is still an open question if the spontaneous activation process extends to abstract goal states such as personal values. Further experimental research is needed to test these predictions. In the following section, we will discuss existing evidence for the predicted sequence when the direction of priming is turned around.

Evidence for the Top-down Route

The top-down route in the Bruns° et al. (in press) model is driven by stable individual differences in personal values. Stable individual differences in such superordinate goals imply stable individual differences in the activation of subordinate goals and behavior routines that are instrumental in achieving them. Finally, frequent activation of particular subordinate goals and behavior routines implies a higher frequency of observable behaviors that are instrumental in achieving these goals as compared to behaviors that are not instrumental in achieving them.

Unlike the bottom-up route (which is driven by external input), the top-down route implies stable individual differences, and can thus be tested by means of survey methods. A valid test would have to establish that lifestyle, as defined above, completely mediates the relation between personal values and the frequency of instrumental behaviors. In a path model, this would imply that values predict lifestyle, and lifestyle predicts behavior, but that there is no direct effect of values on behavior when lifestyle is included in the model (cf. Baron and Kenny 1986; Judd and Kenny 1981).

Bruns° et al. (in press) have tested these predictions on the basis of a survey of N=1000 French consumers. Consumers’ personal values were measured by the list of values (Kahle 1983), lifestyle was measured by the food-related lifestyle instrument (Bruns° and Grunert 1995, 1998), and behavior was measured by a behavioral self-report list measuring broad classes of food-related consumption behaviors.

The food-related lifestyle instrument (FRL) consists of altogether 23 scales (69 items) that measure lifestyle in terms of the means-end model outlined above. The purchasing motives domain of the FRL (3 subscales) measures individual differences in the importance attached to food-specific instantiations of personal values. The importance of quality aspects domain (6 subscales) measures a generalized schema for the evaluation of product attributes. The ways of shopping (6 subscales), cooking methods (6 subscales) and consumption situations (2 subscales) domains measure individual differences in the habitual use of scripts and skills.

In that particular study, six alternative models of the values-lifestyle-behavior relationship were specified a priori: four models where values and lifestyle were independent predictors of behavior (a no-effects model, a value-effects-only model, a lifestyle-effects-only model, and an additive-effects model), and two models where lifestyle completely or incompletely mediated the effects of values on behavior (an indirect-effects-only model, and a total-effects model). To test the hypothesis that each FRL domain would completely mediate the relationship between values and behavior, all models were estimated five times with the respective domain-specific FRL factors included as lifestyle constructs. In each case, the indirect-effects-only model outperformed all others, suggesting that the predictions of the theory are indeed valid in the consumer population/consumption domain under study.

Aims of the Study

The empirical relation between personal values and behavior is generally low (Munson 1984). A number of studies have tried to bridge the gap with different mediating constructs (e.g., Goldsmith, Freiden and Henderson 1997; Homer and Kahle 1988; van Raaij and Verhallen 1994; Valette-Florence and Jolibert 1990), intending to show that there is in fact a link from values to behavior, even if it may not be a direct one. In contrast to this, the theory outlined above predicts the absence of a direct value-to-behavior link, assuming that abstract personal values have to be transformed into specific goals and linked to behavioral routines before they can initiate goal-directed action.

Bruns° et al. (in press) could confirm the predictions for the domain of food-related lifestyle in a French consumer population. The aim of the present study is to replicate their study in a British consumer population. We will test whether lifestyle, as defined above, is a strict mediator of the value-to-behavior relation, or whether other model structures fit the data better. Altogether, six models will compete against each other:

$ A "no-effects" model, assuming that values and lifestyle are independent, and that neither affect behavior at all,

$ A "value-effects" model, again assuming that values and lifestyle are independent, that values influence behavior directly, but lifestyle does not influence behavior at all,

$ A "lifestyle-effects" model, still assuming that values and lifestyle are independent, and that lifestyle influences behavior directly, but values do not influence behavior at all,

$ An "additive-effects" model, assuming that values and lifestyle are independent, and that both influence behavior directly,

$ An "indirect-effects" model, assuming that values influence lifestyle, and lifestyle influences behavior, but that there is no direct effect of values on behavior (complete mediation), and

$ A "total-effects" model, assuming that values influence lifestyle, and lifestyle influences behavior, but that there are also direct effects o values on behavior (partial mediation).

METHOD

Data Collection

A sample of N=1000 consumers was drawn in the United Kingdom in 1998. Households were selected by means of a random-route procedure with a quota imposed on region. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with the person mainly responsible for food shopping and cooking in the household. The mean age of the respondents was 44.10 years (SD=14.91), 87 per cent were female.

Measures

Three instruments were used in this study. The list of values (LOV; Kahle 1983) consists of nine items measuring sense of belonging, fun and enjoyment, warm relationships with others, self-fulfillment, excitement, being well respected, security, sense of accomplishment, and self-respect. All items were answered on nine-point scales ranging from "not at all important" (1) to "very important" (9). Previous analyses suggest a three-factorial structure for the LOV (Homer and Kahle, 1988; Grunert, Grunert and Kristensen 1993; Grunert and Scherhorn 1990).

The food-related lifestyle instrument (FRL; Bruns° and Grunert 1995, 1998) is a 69-item questionnaire measuring 23 lifestyle dimensions in five domains:

$ Ways of shopping, including the subscales importance of product information, attitudes to advertising, enjoyment from shopping, specialty shops, price criteria, and shopping list.

$ Importance of quality aspects, including the subscales health, price/quality relation, novelty, organic products, taste, and freshness.

$ Cooking methods, including the subscales interest in cooking, looking for new ways, convenience, whole family, planning, and woman’s task.

$ Consumption situations, including the subscales snacks versus meals, and social event.

$ Purchasing motives, including the subscales self-fulfillment in food, security, and social relationships.

Each subscale consists of three items, to be answered on seven-point scales ranging from "completely disagree" (1) to "completely agree" (7). The construct validity of the FRL dimensions has been extensively tested (Grunert, Bruns° and Bisp 1997; Scholderer, Bruns°, Bredahl and Grunert, in press), indicating that the factor structures of the subscales in each FRL domain conform to simple-structure models that are stable across cultures and over time.

The food-related behavior list (FR-BEH; Bruns° et al., in press) measures the self-reported frequency of a broad range of shopping, cooking, and eating behaviors. It consists of altogether 37 behavioral frequency items, to be answered on seven-point scales with scale points "never" (1), "less frequent" (2), "1-5 times every six months" (3), "1-3 times a month" (4), "1-2 times a week" (5), "3-4 times a week" (6), and "every day or almost every day" (7). Preliminary analyses suggest that 30 of the FR-BEH items can be reliably represented by a six-factor simple-structure model (Scholderer, Bruns° and Grunert, in preparation). The rest of the items will be excluded from the present analysis.

RESULTS

To check whether the distributional assumptions of maximum likelihood estimation were met, multivariate skewness and kurtosis statistics were computed for the joint distribution of the 108 observed variables. The distribution departed significantly from normality. To account for the violation of assumptions, all observed variables were normalized using Tukey’s proportion estimation formula.

Measurement Models

Measurement models were specified separately for the list of values (MM.1), the FRL domains ways of shopping (MM.2), cooking methods (MM.3), importance of quality aspects (MM.4), consumption situations (MM.5), and purchasing motives (MM.6), and the food-related behavior list (MM.7). Apart from the measurement model for the list of values (MM.1) where two additional non-salient factor loadings had to be introduced, exactly the same factor patterns were specified as in the Bruns° et al. (2000) study in a French consumer population.

All models were estimated by means of maximum likelihood using LISREL 8.30 (J÷reskog and S÷rbom 1996). Goodness-of-fit statistics are presented in Table 1. The RMSEA values remained within conventional acceptance limits (RMSEA<.080) for all models. The AGFI values were within conventional acceptance limits for models MM.1, MM.2, MM.5 and MM.6, and were only slightly outside for models MM.3, MM.4 and MM.7. Taken together, all measurement models showed acceptable fit.

TABLE 1

GOODNESS-OF-FIT STATISTICS FOR MEASUREMENT MODELS

Structural Models

Six alternative structures were specified for the relationship between values, lifestyle, and behavior (Figure 1). In Models 1 through 4, values and lifestyle are exogenous constructs, influencing behavior independently. Value factors, lifestyle factors, and equation errors in the behavior factors were allowed to correlate within their domain boundaries, but not across. In Models 5 and 6, lifestyle is endogenous, assumed to moderate the value-behavior relation.

To maintain a comparable error structure, correlations were allowed among value factors, among equation errors in lifestyle factors, and among equation errors in behavior factors, but not across their domain boundaries. All models were specified separately for each of the five FRL domains, providing a test of the hypothesis that each lifestyle domain is a necessary mediator of the value-to-behavior relation. The specifications were exact replications of the ones used by Bruns° et al. (2000).

Again, all models were estimated by means of maximum likelihood using LISREL 8.30. Results are presented in Table 2. The RMSEA indicates acceptable fit for all models and is therefore of limited use here. Since the models are not completely nested either, the usual chi-square difference tests cannot be applied so that information-theoretic measures have to be used instead. The consistent Akaike information criterion (CAIC) is a maximum-entropy measure (Bozdogan 1987). In situations where several competing models are specified a priori, the one yielding the lowest CAIC is to be selected. The CAIC puts a moderate penalty on model complexity.

Consistent across all five FRL domains, the indirect-effects model yielded the lowest CAIC values (Models WS.5, CM.5, QA.5, CS.5, PM.5). Notably, the total-effects modelBalso assuming direct effects of values on behaviorBdid not further improve the fit to the data, so that the complete-mediation role of lifestyle assumed by the indirect-effects models can be maintained.

DISCUSSION

Bruns° et al. (in press) have made an ambitious attempt to explain the overall organization of consumer behavior in terms of superordinate goals, mediating cognitive structures, and observable behavior. The risk of mere theorizing in such a way is all too often that it can explain everything, but predict nothing. Only when a theory introduces particular restrictions, it becomes amenable to empirical falsification and gains the status of a model. Bruns° et al. (in press) have tested their model in a French consumer population where it outperformed five alternative model structures. The aim of the present paper was to cross-validate the model in a different cultural context, thereby gaining evidence for its generalizability across different consumer populations.

We have related two concepts that have proven of great heuristic value to marketing researchers: means-end chain theory, and consumers’ lifestyle. In the past, both constructs have suffered from problems of unconfirmed validity. In the case of lifestyle, the absence of construct validation studies is easy to explain: AIO and related approaches have never attempted anything close to a theory, let alone a nomological network (Anderson and Golden 1984; Lastovicka 1982; Roos 1986). And construct validation without a properly defined construct would have been a pointless exercise anyway.

In the case of means-end chain theory, the absence of construct validation studies is more difficult to explain. We believe that there are two main reasons (part of them already discussed by Grunert and Grunert 1995). First, means-end chain theory is formulated in vague terms. For example, it is not clear whether a hierarchical value map is to be read from the top (as a motivational process), or from the bottom (as a categorization process). In such a situation, it is indeed difficult to derive hypotheses that could test the fundamental implications of the theory.

Second, the methods employed by means-end researchers impose a presupposed structure on the data. In hard laddering as well as in soft laddering, the interviewing technique forces respondents to elaborate their answers in an increasingly abstract way. A particular sequence is assumed (attributes-consequences-values), but earlier levels of abstraction are apparently not considered necessary for later levels of abstraction to be reached. Moreover, reversed paths are not considered to reflect a different cognitive process. Hence, there is no way data gathered by means of a laddering interview could disconfirm means-end chain theory.

Bruns° et al. (in press) have reconstructed means-end chain theory and lifestyle within a dual-process model, incorporating a bottom-up and a top-down information-processing route. The bottom-up route is defined as a hierarchical categorization process, and the top-down route as goal-directed action. Lifestyle, according to their reconstruction, is then a system of individual differences in the habitual use of certain declarative and procedural knowledge structures that on both routes intervene between abstract goal states (personal values) and situation-specific product perceptions and behaviors. Access of the intervening knowledge structures is considered a necessary condition for both information-processing routes to reach their ends.

FIGURE 1

ALTERNATIVE STRUCTURAL MODELS OF THE VALUES-LIFESTYLE-BEHAVIOR RELATION

This restriction is crucial since it transforms means-end chain theory from a heuristic concept into a falsifiable model. We have cross-validated the model using representative survey data gathered in the United Kingdom in 1998. Using the list of values (Kahle 1983) as a measure of consumers’ superordinate goals, the food-related lifestyle instrument (Bruns° and Grunert 1995) as a measure of intervening knowledge structures, and the food-related behavior list (Bruns° et al., in press) as a measure of a broad range of consumption behaviors, we could establish for five different subsets of intervening knowledge structures that they were strict mediators of the relationship between goals and behaviors. The results of Bruns° et al. (in press) could be exactly replicated. Thus, their claim for the universal validity of the model is further corroborated.

TABLE 2

GOODNESS-OF-FIT STATISTICS FOR ALTERNATIVE VALUE-LIFESTYLE-BEHAVIOR STRUCTURES

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