A Theoretical and Empirical Substructure of Consumer Motivation and Behavior


Richard C. Maddock (1995) ,"A Theoretical and Empirical Substructure of Consumer Motivation and Behavior", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2, eds. Flemming Hansen, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 29-37.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2, 1995      Pages 29-37


Richard C. Maddock, Accudata, Inc.


A large part of consumer behavior is irrational and emotional. Traditional research methods are unable to describe or explain motives, since consumers themselves don't always understand why they do what they do. This paper describes a research methodology which uses visualization, thereby accessing "right brain" or unconscious motivations. Emphasis is placed upon the ten motivations that have arisen from this research in over 200 product categories, conducted over a fifteen year period. Examples are given. These ten motives are believed to be inclusive. This approach does not discredit or discount the importance of rational motives (price, value, convenience) or behavior modification (coupons, rewards or positioning) but instead complements them and adds another dimension to consumer behavior and research.


Consumers in particular and people in general have a difficult time discussing their own motivations. This is why this part of the mind is referred to as the unconscious or subconscious. But although consumers don't think about their motives, they do feel them and they do act upon them.

The motivational groups that will be discussed in this paper are believed to be basic and primary to all human behavior. But since consumers don't actively "think" about their motives, it is difficult to ask directly about them. For this reason, traditional market research is not designed to study or uncover emotions. Instead, other methods of discovering these motives have been devised and combined with traditional research methods. These methods will be discussed as well as a complete restructuring of the unconscious in this paper.

Advertisers, salespersons and marketers need to understand motivation in order to be effective. They especially need to understand the motivation that relates to their product(s) and services.

The four major motivational groups that have been found in the unconscious are:

1. The Orientation Motives (Person, Place, Time & Circumstances)

2. The Survival Motives (Spiritual, Physical, Sexual and Territorial)

3. The Adaptation Motive

4. The Expectation motive

These four motivational groups apply to all consumer behavior and, for that matter, to all human behavior. This motivational structure applies not only to consumers, but to criminals, suspects, people being interviewed for jobs, deponents (in legal depositions) or just about anyone in any situation. The discussion here is limited to advertising and marketing, because this is where the theory has been devised, and also where the need is the greatest.

A major assumption is that consumers cannot give motivational information. This is because they don't "think" about it. They do "feel" it, but often can't describe the way that it feels.


Another major point is that the unconscious quadrant of the mind is very simple and does not rely on complex logical structures to do its thinking. One way in which the unconscious works is in terms of visualization, or pictures. A research methodology has been devised and used over the last fifteen years which has emphasized visualization over verbalization. Individual, one-on-one interviews are conducted in which consumers are introduced to their "photographic" mind, and then led forward or backward in time to experiences that they have had (or expect to have) with various products and services. These interviews, conducted with over 2000 consumers, have yielded the ten motivations that are described in this paper.

The methodology was devised in a clinical psychiatric setting, where patients were often asked to uncover remote memories. Although sodium amytal, sodium pentothal and other methods had been used, it was found that the remote memories could be just as effectively recovered by getting the respondent or patient to close their eyes and allow them to "visualize" the scene. In fact, this method was regularly used by the author in law enforcement situations, where officials were attempting to recover lost evidence or to piece together a witness' memory of a crime scene or accident.

This same method, when applied to consumers, asked respondents to go back to particular encounters with the product that was under investigation. For example, a respondent, in a one-on-one interview, would be asked to close his/her eyes and go back to:

* Their first encounter with the product/service

* The time when the decision was first made to use the product/service

* The last time they used the product/service

These interviews are conducted in a quiet, relaxing atmosphere and there are three elements of the interview that are essential:

* Visualization

The entire interview is conducted with the respondent's eyes closed, where he/she is asked to visualize the situation and not to think about it.

* Relaxation

The respondent is as relaxed as possible. It is important that the interviewer be trained to keep the respondent relaxed

* Repetition

Questions are presented in a repetitious manner, in the same way that an attorney would work in a deposition. For example, if the respondent says that they chose Cheer over Tide (detergent) because Cheer is better, the interviewer would follow through with some of the following questions, repetitiously:

What about Cheer makes it better than Tide?

What about Tide makes it worse?

Take me back to the time that you found out (or decided) that Cheer was better.

What makes you decide that?

What does Cheer do that Tide doesn't do (to clothing that is being laundered)?



These individual interviews are conducted by trained interviewers and take about one hour. They are very repetitious and therefore tiring to observe (and to conduct). However, they yield a volume of consumer motivational information that is reliable and valid. Respondents are reimbursed for their time. Note that the question WHY is never asked.


These interviews may typically be conducted on very small samples. This is because the unconscious is simple and straightforward (not complex or devious) and has a limited number of motives. Individual differences are not an issue in the unconscious, and although they exist, they do not have the impact that they do at the conscious level. The term "individual differences" refers to the differences that exist between people, such as differences in intelligence, achievement, height, weight, eye color, etc. Conversely, the properties of the unconscious are universal, and therefore shared by all. The four motivational groups that follow are shared by the entire population and vary only in intensity and direction.

1.The Orientation Motives

Everyone has the need to remain oriented to external reality and people have a mechanism within them that keeps them oriented, much like the "compass" that keeps a migratory bird on course.

There are four motivational sub-groups within the Orientation motive group:

Orientation to Person (OR: Person)

Orientation to Place (OR: Place)

Orientation to Time (OR: Time)

Orientation to Circumstances (OR: Circumstances)

2.Survival Motives

The Survival Motives are the strongest of all of the motives. Like the Orientation motive, Survival is unnoticed in the unconscious, unless it becomes threatened by some external force.

The four sub-sets of survival are:

Spiritual Survival

Physical Survival

Territorial Survival

Sexual Survival

3.Adaptation Motive

There is a strong motive to adapt to one's climate, culture, group, beliefs, etc. If it is "trendy" to smoke cigarettes, then people will smoke, irrespective of how it effects their Physical Survival and their health. This motive is stronger than the Physical Survival motive and is the most firmly established of all of the motives.

4.Expectation Motive

The Expectation Motive relates to the element of hope and trust and the way that people view the future. There is an overall faith and belief that the future will work itself out in a positive way. This is not false optimism or idealism, but simply a trust that one day will follow the other. It is, in a way, a form of adaptation which deals with the future. The Adaptation motive deals with the past and present and the Expectation Motive with the future.


Although people are not aware of the motive to remain oriented to reality, this motive is well established and functional in the unconscious. It is often referred to tangentially and when under stress. They will say: "I don't want to lose it," or "I don't want to come unglued." Conversely, on the positive side, they might say "I want to hold it together." They are referring, obliquely, to the personal orientation motives: Orientation to Person, Place, Time and Circumstances.

Examples of people who have lost their orientation are the victims of Alzheimer's or senile dementia. When someone encounters a relative or friend who has lost their orientation, it impacts them in a very negative way because it acts as a warning or an admonition as to how fragile and tenuous personal orientation really is. Upon encountering a person in this position, some will say, "Gee, I hope I don't live that long" or "I hope I pass away before I get like that." Loss of orientation (permanent) can also occur with chronic and prolonged drug abuse, alcohol abuse (Korsakoff's Syndrome) or head injury. When personal orientation is lost, confusion sets in.


OR: Person is the strongest of the Orientation Motives. It keeps a person on target as to who they are and what they stand for. Even in nocturnal activity (dreams) where orientation may be temporarily lost, the OR: Person motive generally remains intact. Other people in dreams may be seen in a different light, but usually the self is seen in much the same way that it appears in real life. The fact that OR: Person holds up in dreams testifies to the strength of this motive. This is extremely important in understanding consumer behavior, purchasing, recreational activities and many other aspects of human behavior.



When orientation is lost, OR: Place is the next to the last orientation motive to disappear. Therefore, it is next to the strongest of the personal orientation motives.

Everyone has experienced temporary disorientation to place. It is usually very brief and transient. For example, a quick flight to Europe or Asia, overnight, may result in temporary disorientation to place, when the traveler arrives at the destination after a long flight through several time zones.

What is the relationship of OR: Place, or any of the other OR motives to consumer behavior? Consider for the moment what one of the world's greatest marketers, Henry Ford, said about Orientation to Place. It was this motive that led him into the automobile business. He had been seriously considering entering the watch business. But at the last moment he changed his mind and went into automobiles. When asked why, he said "because everybody wants to get where they ain't, and then when they get there they want to get back home again." In other words, they want to change their Orientation to Place.


Everyone has known elderly persons who lose their personal Orientation to Time. In nursing homes, large clocks are often placed in their rooms to assist them with this orientation motive, but they rarely help. This is because the OR: Time device, that internal clock has been destroyed or impaired by the process of progressive brain disease that is related to the process of aging.

OR: Time refers to the fact that a person knows the approximate day, date and time. This orientation may be lost, temporarily, as in the case of a person who gets so immersed in their work that they completely lose track of time going by. In dreams, this Orientation Motive is often obscured when the past is confused with the present, as in a dream where a conversation is taking place in familiar surroundings with someone who has been dead for many years.

In consumer activities such as theme parks, casinos, restaurants and recreational activities, the marketer does his/her best to remove the constraints of time because this is what the consumer wants. As in all of the Orientation Motives, everyone wants to change their orientation (temporarily) but no one wants to change it permanently. Simply refer back to the second half of Henry Ford's statement, " . . . and then they want to get back home again."

Many consumer motives can be understood when the personal Orientation Motives are analyzed, and then integrated into the context of everyday behavior. Consumers don't think about personal orientation, but they do act upon it every day!


For most people, knowing the day and the date (OR: Time) is not enough. Everyone needs to "know" if they are having a good day or a bad day. They need to be able to predict what is going to happen within a reasonable period of time. Circumstances take into account income, health, the family and domestic situation and a lot of other variables related to the present. Because of the abstract nature of OR: Circumstances, it is the weakest of the Orientation Motives and the very first to disappear when a person begins losing their personal orientation.

Alcohol ingestion will result in a temporary loss of personal orientation, and frequently that is the purpose of drinking. It will usually alter the OR: Circumstances motive first. Many people, even those who are not heavy drinkers, will agree that a drink or two will "wipe out the circumstances of the day." Some even rationalize that a stiff drink is "just what the doctor ordered."


It is important to understand how the orientation motive group affects consumer behavior in many different categories, based upon the findings that have been derived from visualization research over the past fifteen years.

For the present, and in a very general way, although people don't want to lose their orientation, they do want to change it temporarily, for various reasons. Consumer activities, especially within the recreational and discretionary spending categories, provide this opportunity for temporary reorientation (Table 1).

A theme park with thrill rides will offer temporary disorientation with rides that descend, ascend, whirl, drop, submerge and immerse into water and darkness. This changes the OR: Person motive, temporarily. Most thrill seekers are teenagers, and this is the group that is most confused about their personal identity, which relates directly to OR: Person. They are going through an age-related identity confusion crisis, and therefore rides that disorient and reorient in terms of person will be popular in this group. This particular group is referred to demographically as "thrill seekers."

A theme park with an old time ambiance, crafts and entertainment will provide a temporary change in the OR: Place and OR: Time motives, as the visitor goes back in time and moves away from the present and back to the past. This also changes OR: Circumstances, at least for the duration of the visit while the mind is focused on life the way that it was lived 100 years ago, rather than on the realities of the present day.

A visit to a fine-dining establishment allows a temporary change in OR: Person, since the staff (waiters and waitresses) are usually trained to treat the consumer as if he/she were special, uncommon and unique. They are attentive and usually very solicitous. This is effective when the customer has had a trying day and is attempting to re-orient in terms of who they are. OR: Place is also affected by the ambiance and theme of the fine dining establishment, and the stronger the theme, the more the OR: Place is changed. Hence, the more fulfilling the dining experience. Because some restaurants understand the need for a temporary change in OR: Person or OR: Place, they do much better than restaurants that don't understand it. This assumes, of course, that the menu, food and service (rational elements) are the same or close to the same in the two restaurants that are being compared.

For a woman, the application of cosmetics in the morning in a fashion that is consistent with her special formula or "mix" allows her to become the 'person that she wants to be', or at least the one that she wants to present to the public (OR: Person).

As in cosmetics, women's fashions also allow a change in OR: Person. This is why there are so many different styles and choices of fashions. It is not unusual, particularly for women who are depressed, to go out and buy several outfits, in an effort to achieve a change in OR: Person. In a way, she "get's rid of " the depressed person inside of her and finds someone new, and often finds this new person (temporarily) in the way that she dresses and in what she is wearing. She "feels like" a different person.


Like the Orientation Motives, the Survival Motives operate unconsciously on the unconscious and outside of the realm of consumers' awareness. Also, like the Personal Orientation Motives, they become visible and obvious only when they are threatened by some outside source.

There are many products that are marketed either directly to the Survival Motives or indirectly via rationalizations and the left side of the brain. Some of the more obvious are health care products and services (Physical Survival); fitness (Physical Survival); sports and office products (Territorial Survival); fragrances and fashions (Sexual Survival). These are just a few. One way to note the power of marketing to the Survival Motives is by adding the gross revenue from each of these products and calculating it as a percentage of the GNP. Health care alone accounts for 14% in the United States!!


If Spiritual Survival as a motive is compared to Maslow's concept of Self Actualization (Maslow, 1959) there are some parallels. However, one very important and crucial difference must be considered. For Maslow, Self-Actualization was attained after all of the other basic needs were met: food, air, water, shelter, etc. In this theory Spiritual Survival is the basic need and all the other motives come afterward, or build upon it. For our purposes, Spiritual Survival must be satisfied first. Consumers attempt to fulfill this need in many different ways by exercising their purchasing power in hundreds of different product categories.

Spiritual Survival is difficult to describe, because it is an abstract concept. But the fact that it is understood even by children should help to illustrate its power and its simplicity.

In visualization exercises (similar to those described earlier) that were carried out in clinical research it was found that almost everyone has, before the age of seven, had some kind of an experience with death and dying. It may be a close relative, a distant relative, a friend or perhaps even an animal. But the important point is that early experiences with death have substantial impact and remain in the unconscious mind on a permanent basis. Even though these experiences may be forgotten at the conscious level, they are readily recalled at the unconscious level through visualization. Being raised up to a casket and viewing a lifeless body, the commitment of a person to the grave or a dead animal lying on the ground; these are the most impactful experiences of childhood. And they remain imbedded in the unconscious quadrant of the mind.

What is especially important is the conclusion that children draw from these experiences with death. They conclude that life itself is not permanent or durable but there is something else that is: the life of the spirit. Spiritual death comes more to be feared than physical death, and at the same time, more revered and respected. Children, in their typical denial, spend considerable time making fun of physical death (spooks, ghosts, goblins, etc.). Another way of saying this is that, when children learn that life is temporary and not enduring, they also quickly come to see and understand that the only thing that does endure in life is the spirit. These childhood beliefs do not go away with maturation; they just become "layered over" with more logical and rational thinking.

This belief in Spiritual Survival may or may not be shared in the conscious, rational mind. However, it is imbedded in the unconscious, even when it is consciously and logically rejected. Loss of life may be frightening, but it is not feared nearly as much as loss of the spirit. People can be trained to accept loss of life (e.g., Marine Corps Boot Camp) as long as that loss of life is in the service of Spiritual Survival (e.g., patriotism).

There are hundreds of examples in every community of people who choose physical death rather than spiritual death. The most common example is the depressed person who is dying spiritually because of guilt and subsequent depression. They often choose suicide as a way out. If they don't actually choose it, they do seriously consider it. This is how it is known that Spiritual Survival is more basic and more motivating than Physical Survival; i.e., in the fact that a person is willing to take their own life in order to preserve something greater. Maslow's hierarchy is misleading, since this was not true. For Maslow, physical needs were more basic than spiritual needs, or what he calls self actualization.

Love is another important part of the Spiritual Survival motive, and the loss of love can often lead to the fear of the loss of the spirit and loss of the desire to live any longer (Physical Survival) without that love. Love, in all of its various facets, is the most important aspect of Spiritual Survival. These aspects include love of country (patriotism), love of family, brotherly love (philia), sexual love, love of those less fortunate, etc.

Spiritual Survival is attained by doing the right thing. But the "right thing" can often be distorted and twisted. Since "right" is often equated with words like "clean," "pure," "organized, " etc., some unusual stories have surfaced about how people will sometimes try to achieve Spiritual Survival, especially when morality is equated in the unconscious mind with cleanliness. One former product manager at Procter and Gamble gave two outstanding examples of this:

(1) Women regularly wrote letters to Procter and Gamble acknowledging that they ate Ivory soap. This was related to the Ivory soap signature, "Ninety-nine and forty four one hundreds percent pure."

(2) Procter and Gamble was often named in lawsuits by women who would "practice chemistry" in their home with various cleaning products. No single product would get their home clean enough, and so they mixed separate products together, sometimes causing explosions.

Obviously these two examples represent the extreme and not the ideal! Other aspects of Spiritual Survival include the need to be right, to approach perfection, to acquire knowledge, to speak the truth, to be seen as consistent, etc. Passion, which can be directed either in a positive or negative direction, is an extreme emotion, and as such is associated with Spiritual Survival. In fact, any excessive and fanatical behavior, positive or negative, is associated with Spiritual Survival; often with the element that Fleischman (1990) refers to as "Calling."

As the most basic survival motive, Spiritual Survival is the strongest in terms of driving motivation. Although not tied to religion, the whole concept of Spiritual Survival is derived from an unconscious universal belief in the survival and durability of the spirit beyond the survival of the body, and what has to be done in order to achieve it. This particular belief was derived from early experiences with death, which are universal and have been shared by everyone, usually before the age of seven. This belief is not in the realm of a person's awareness. It lies within the unconscious mind, labeled in Figure 1 as "Unknown to self - Unknown to others." The Spiritual Survival Motive has been immortalized in the timeless (never changing) message of DeBeers: "a diamond is forever." Diamonds and other precious stones are marketed exclusively within the boundaries of Spiritual Survival.


Michelin doesn't promote the features and benefits of tires, but instead they talk about what is riding on your tires. This is an excellent example of an approach at the level of Spiritual Survival. Family values, love, concern, and parental responsibility are what the consumer is purchasing; not just tires. After all, tires are for sale at most service stations on just about every street corner.

Cadillac doesn't talk about the features and benefits of an automobile; they talk about creating a higher standard. This is Spiritual Survival: perfectionism, standards, achievement, excellence, flawlessness and superiority. Many generations of buyers have always understood, intuitively that when one purchases a Cadillac, they are not just purchasing an automobile. Cadillac has maintained this position, over the years, by positioning the product at the level of Spiritual Survival and leaving it there.

McDonald's, unlike Burger King, Wendy's, Arby's etc. doesn't sell fast food. They sell family values, standards, precepts and principles. Taking the family to McDonald's is the right thing to do. By marketing directly to children and letting the children market to the parents, the product is automatically positioned at the Spiritual level.

Similarly, DeBeers doesn't just sell diamonds; they sell the abiding, timeless and perpetual love that is symbolized by the diamond. A diamond is forever. Note that a spiritual position such as this doesn't change from month to month, but remains timeless itself.


Next to Spiritual Survival and Adaptation, the Physical Survival motive is a very strong motivator in consumer behavior. The Physical Survival motive involves all of the basic processes or elements that contribute to life: food, air, water, freedom from illness and the basic life sustaining elements.

The operation of all of these motives is "silent" until they are threatened. In the last few years, the Physical Survival motive has been seriously threatened by an exponential increase in crime and criminal behavior in the United States. Alarms and security systems have reached new heights in sales.

Crime is the number one national issue in America, because of the threat that it presents to Physical Survival. Since law enforcement agencies and the courts cannot keep up with this explosion of crime, threats to Physical Survival are imminent. This normally silent motive is now highly visible, as people demand that Congress provide the funds for their protection. This is an example of how a threat from the outside to the unconscious will cause that motive to emerge and come out into the open, where it has to be dealt with.

Alarms, security services and devices that protect Physical Survival are not necessarily restricted to marketing strategies at the level of Physical Survival. For example, an alarm company could choose to market at the level of Spiritual Survival. This would be accomplished by re-positioning the product from one which protects from physical harm and injury (Physical Survival) to one that protects loved ones, family and friends (Spiritual Survival). In doing this, the alarm marketer accomplishes two things:

(1) Achieves distance from competitors and creates a special category in the marketing of alarm systems.

(2) Moves to a deeper and more passionate level of motivation (Spiritual Survival) thereby adding impact to the message, getting more attention and increasing sales.

Healthcare services are usually marketed to the level of Physical Survival. This motive, along with the Expectation Motive, are vitally important in the marketing of health care and other professional services, where the consumer does not have the background or knowledge to make intelligent decisions or choices.


Territorial Survival involves the emotions which surround career, assets, income, achievement and position. Even though businesses and careers are supposedly devoid of emotional content, emotion is at the core of all business activities.

The wide appeal of sports and sporting events is organized around the motive of Territorial Survival. Children learn early the value of teamwork in protecting their territory. For many, however, sporting events are much more than Territorial Survival; they are elevated to the level of Spiritual Survival. Organized professional and college sports are an excellent example of how an activity can be shifted from the Territorial to the Spiritual level of motivation.

During the 1994 Winter Olympics from Norway, more people watched the Figure Skating championships than any other broadcasted television event in history. The reason was because of the much published Harding-Kerrigan match up. It had become an intensified issue of right vs. wrong or good vs. bad, which shifted the whole contest from the Territorial level to the highest level of Spiritual Survival.


The Sexual Survival motive, which is the least dominant of the Survival group of motives, consists of three sub-categories: sexual gender, sexual impulse and sexual inhibition.

Many consumer products are marketed to the gender issues of masculinity and femininity. Examples of masculine gender products would be pickup trucks, guns, cowboy boots, cowboy hats and miscellaneous cowboy gear, after shave and some articles of clothing.

Examples of feminine (gender) products are fragrances, cosmetics, wearing apparel, shampoo and other hair treatments, nail treatments, flowers and cosmetic jewelry, etc.

In considering the other two aspects of Sexual Survival - impulse and inhibition - it is customary for women's products to be marketed to inhibition and for men's products to be marketed to impulse. In the late 60's, Ford marketed the Mustang directly to impulse when they said, "We made it hot, you make it scream." Automobiles are frequently marketed at the impulse level, particularly if the target audience is male. Picturing a male standing by a car with a provocative and seductive female is another way of marketing to impulse at this level of Sexual Survival.

Marketing to sexual inhibition is more commonly seen in women's products. What this means is that, when marketing to women at the level of Sexual Survival, the customary avenue is through inhibition. One fragrance - Jontue - says, "Sensual . . . . but not too far from innocence." The word "but" negates sexual (impulse) and "not too far from innocence" is directed toward inhibition. Similarly, Maybelline recently addressed impulse by presenting an alternative: "Maybe she's born with it. . . . . Maybe it's Maybelline."

Products that are typically marketed at the level of Sexual Survival are for women: fragrance, some cosmetics, some fashions, some hair treatments, weight loss programs, shoes and costume jewelry. Most of these are marketed to sexual inhibition. An exception is lingerie (nightwear) which is marketed to women directly at the level of sexual impulse, and diamonds which are always marketed to the level of Spiritual Survival.

Although it is "culturally improper" to emphasize the differences in men and women today, within the unconscious mind these differences still exist and are very real. Some of these differences are cultural and will change as the culture changes, just as they did within the Territorial Survival motive over the last few years as many women replaced men in fields of management. In many instances, they were found to make better managers because they are more attentive to detail.


The motives that have been discussed - the Survival and Orientation groups - are acquired. Infants are not born with an orientation to Person, Place, Time, etc., and they don't have Sexual, Territorial or other Survival Motives. As infants, they don't know who or where they are. Instead, these motives are acquired over time.

The Adaptation Motive is different. Pictures of neonates that appear in diagnostic ultrasound during the third trimester show clear and present movements of the hands to the face. These are known as adaptors. Early adaptors consist primarily of hand to face movements and they aid the infant in adapting to his/her in-uterine environment. Since Adaptation is a motive that is observable even before birth it is an extremely forceful and robust motive.

Adults often resort to the primitive hand-to-face adaptors that were seen in infancy when they are tense and anxious. Cigarette smoking, with it's hand to face movement, is an adaptor. Although it starts as a desire to be like one's friends (Adaptation), smoking quickly establishes itself as a reflexive behavior that is difficult to break or extinguish. This is because the Adaptation Motive consists of reflexes as well as motives, as in thumb sucking. Once broken it will go into remission, but it never is completely extinguished or gone. It can always be reawakened. Just as in infancy, the adaptor aids the adult in anxious and tense situations.

There is another aspect to Adaptation. Adaptation carries with it, for adolescents and adults, the motivation to be like everyone else. This is another unconscious motivation that works automatically and quietly in the unconscious mind, until it is threatened from the outside. An example of a threat may be when the "everyone else" turns out to be the wrong people, and either parents, the police or the courts interfere. This is why children, who are born with the Adaptation Motive, need to be raised properly and with guidance. This is the only way that parents can insure that the Adaptation Motive won't lead them in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, and as some parents can attest, it often does.

Marketing campaigns designed to appeal to the Adaptation Motive have been carried out ever since advertising was invented. In street language, it's called "keeping up with the Joneses," and it was a very popular marketing strategy during the fifties and sixties. It is still around and still very much in use; a testimony of the power of marketing directly to the motives.


The Expectation Motive consists of trust, hope and conviction about what is likely to happen in the future. Like the Adaptation Motive, the Expectation Motive is present from the very beginning of life. The newborn infant is unable to make it on his/her own, and needs to be taken care of, by someone, for a very long time. The infant comes to expect and knows that someone will be there to perform this task, for as long as it takes. In the last thirty to forty years, Americans have looked more and more to their government to fulfill the Expectation Motive.

The Expectation Motive is one of the four motivational groups that exists in the unconscious. Unlike the motivational groups which have been discussed, the Expectation Motive deals with the future, not the present. It assists people in adapting to the future and what is to come.

The Expectation Motive is integral in the utilization of professional services, where the consumer has no knowledge of what to expect but places his/her life in the hands of a physician, attorney, dentist or other professional. In doing this, the consumer has learned to expect results.

The Expectation Motive is also critical in consumer activities involving gambling, where outcomes are uncertain. In the case of gambling and wagering, the consumer has to believe that he/she has a unique quality, trait or attribute that allows them to beat the odds, in spite of all the people who have not beaten the odds. In this case, the Expectation motive is referred to as "luck." Expectation is a strong, powerful and motivating force in human behavior that assists individuals in dealing with the future


As in any needs hierarchy or needs structure, there is an order or arrangement, in which there are needs or motives which are dominant and powerful and other needs and motives which are less dominant or less powerful. The structure of the motive hierarchy that has been discussed here is seen in Figure 2, with the most dominant or powerful motives at the bottom of the pyramid, and the weaker motives at the top.




This theory of consumer behavior has been derived from research. The research methodology has been described above. It is a three step process involving Visualization * Relaxation * Repetition. As noted above, it relies heavily upon visualization. The motivational hierarchy was developed out of practice and in reality, and has led marketers directly to actionable results and recommendations. Many questions regarding consumer choice, loyalty, brand awareness, commitment, new product design, interior design and merchandising and many other consumer activities have been addressed. And as individual motives are quantified in attitude surveys or questionnaire formats and the data is collected, each motive and emotion can be verified through factor analysis and other statistical methods.

In an effort to (1) support the observation that these motives were operational in consumer behaviors and (2) assess the relative strength of each motive, a study was carried out with 200 consumers who were volunteers. Subjects agreed to fill out a survey consisting of 124 items which asked general questions about lifestyle, beliefs and attitudes. These surveys were then subjected to factor analysis and rotated to simple structure. Seventeen factors emerged, which gave strong [Evidence that people do respond to questions designed to elicit responses about lifestyles, beliefs and attitudes in ways that are consistent with the motives that have been described.] support to the motives that have been described and which appeared in the following order, in terms of the percentage of variance contributed by each "motive." (See Table 2).

The implications for this research have obvious significance for the marketer in understanding his/her product or service. The motivations uncovered here add another dimension to understanding consumer behavior: an "unconscious" dimension. Further implications involve product and service design, positioning, product delivery, advertising and product development. The methodology has been used to explain unusual and atypical marketing occurrences such as the Elvis Presley phenomenon, which annually draws "pilgrims" from all over the world, and especially from Great Britain, Europe and Australia. However, it is only within the last two years that quantitative and empirical support has been derived for the motives that are believed to drive consumer behavior at the unconscious or irrational level.


In Table 3, the ten basic consumer motives can be seen as well as the various elements that are required to sustain each motive. From these elements (or the lack of them) emotions arise, and the emotions give rise to consumer benefits.

This approach examines the motivational and causal processes that reside in the unconscious, irrational side of the consumer. External reinforcers like money, greed, positioning, praise, status, etc. are valid factors, and they are also important. They are dealt with more specifically within the behavioral modification framework of reinforcement.



This emotional approach demonstrates a third dimension in advertising and marketing, which opens up new possibilities and frontiers within the whole spectrum of research into the unconscious side of consumer behavior.


Fleischman, Paul R., M.D. (1990) The Healing Spirit. New York, Paragon House.

Maddock, Richard C. (1980) Guilt, Immortality and Spiritual Survival. Medical Hypnoanalysis, pp.5-13, with R. O. Sexton, M.D.

Maslow, A. H. (1970) Motivation and Personality (2nd Ed.), New York: Harper and Row

Reis, Al and Trout, Jack (1981) Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind. New York, McGraw-Hill



Richard C. Maddock, Accudata, Inc.


E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2 | 1995

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