Using Lifestyle in Environmental Psychology


Ralf Terlutter (2001) ,"Using Lifestyle in Environmental Psychology", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, eds. Andrea Groeppel-Klien and Frank-Rudolf Esch, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 111-114.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, 2001      Pages 111-114


Ralf Terlutter, Saarland University, Germany


The (classic) emotional approach of environmental psychology is based upon the fundamental notion that emotions determine human behavior (Mehrabian, 1978, p. 14f.). A certain environment evokes emotional reactions in a person which in turn, cause a person to more or less approach this environment (Mehrabian, 1978, p. 15). According to Ittelson (1973, p. 16), the first reaction to an environment is affective and, in general, determines the behavioral tendency expressed in connection with an environment.

1.1. The classic environment model

Based upon the aforementioned considerations, Mehrabian/Russell (1974) developed a psychological environment model representing the effects of environmental stimuli and personality factors on primary emotional reactions and, consecutively, on behavioral reactions in form of approach and avoidance (Figure 1).

Following the model, an environment produces reactions to the three dimensions pleasure, arousal, and dominance described as primary emotional responses. Holders of the psychological environment model attribute the inconsistent reactions of persons shown in identical environments to differences in personality. In their opinion, inconsistencies might arise in the three dimensions of emotional reactions as named above. However, de facto only differences in the arousal dimension are taken into consideration.

In trade, above all, the Mehrabian/Russell model was applied. Donovan/Rossiter (1982) are among the first ones transferring parts of the model to (retail) trade. Many research papers, e.g. by Anderson (1986), Donovan et al. (1994) or Gr÷ppel-Klein (1998) followed. Studies in cultural institutions are based upon this model as well (Terlutter, 2000). Often, only parts of the model were tested partly relinquishing the consideration of the personality as influence variable.

The goal of this contribution is to show that it is more advantageous for the application in the trade to use consumers’ lifestyles in place of personality. Lifestyle is a variable with numerous advantages with regard to the explanation of behavior in a given environment. This is why a modification of the psychological environment model is suggested.

1.2. The meaning of lifestyle in the environmental setting

Generally in marketing, but also in the literature of environmental psychology, the orientation on the consumers’ lifestyles plays an important role (e.g. Banning, 1987; Terlutter, 2000; Diehl, 2001). Gr÷ppel (1995, col. 1021) e.g. emphasizes that the goal of the emotional store setting in retail trading should be the development of a pleasant, varied store atmosphere appealing to the visitor or customer in his/her lifestyle. Closely adhering to the visitor’s lifestyle seems to contribute to achieve a higher approach behavior of the visitor.


2.1. Advantages of lifestyle compared with personality as influential factor

Although literature demands to adjust the environmental setting with lifestyle, the lifestyle variable is not being considered in the psychological environment model by Mehrabian/Russell. Instead, personality is used as influence variable.

On closer inspection of the advantages of lifestyle or personality as influential factors in the psychological environment model, the following results are shown in summary:

B The survey of personality in the psychological environment model as carried out up to now shows deficiencies. According to Mehrabian/Russell (1974, p. 30), the most important differences in personality are to be derived from the dimension arousal. This predisposition in personality can divide individuals in their most extreme markedness into arousal-seekers and non-arousal-seekers. The arousal-seekers perceive more stimuli in a pleasant environment than the non-arousal-seekers and are more easily aroused by a certain environment. Arousal has an intervening influence on pleasure.

If differences in personality are taken into consideration, research up to now focuses on the arousal dimension. The effects of differences in the dimensions pleasure and dominance are mainly neglected. This is highly surprising insofar as the dimension pleasure is considered to have the highest predictive power with regard to behavior (Donovan/Rossiter, 1982, p. 52). To explain varying reactions to an environment, not only personality differences with regard to arousal have to be taken into account. Human personality is formed by individual (i.e. biological or physiological predispositions) and by environmental (cultural and social settings) determinants (Banning, 1987, p. 97; Terlutter, 2000, p. 45). The praxis for the personality survey restricted to the dimension arousal, therefore, has to be considered with reserve.

B For the application in marketing, the personality is too general a variable. According to research in lifestyle, the data collection on a general variable as the general lifestyle is not very promising for the analysis of consumer behavior. Thus, it may be supposed that the collection of data on the (general) personality might be of disadvantage. Numerous possibilities for a specific product survey for lifestyle render much more specific information for consumer behavior.

B Lifestyle is a variable widely spread in marketing and trade (Weinberg/Terlutter, 1999). Thus, the lifestyle is a better known and more "tangible" variable than personality for the praxis of decision makers.

B Lifestyle does not exhibit as many operationalization problems than personality. Personality as a hypothetical complex variable is difficult to operationalize. On the other hand, lifestyle criteria can be collected through observable behavior (Kroeber-Riel/Weinberg, 1999, p. 547) and is easier to ascertain.

B Since personality is an important decision factor for the lifestyle (Banning, 1987; Terlutter, 2000), personality aspects relevant for lifestyle and therefore also for marketing are implicitly ascertained when lifestyle data are collected. If the goal of the environment setting is to appeal to the customer’s lifestyle, lifestyle as influencing factor offers more accurate information for the environment setting than the individual’s personality. For example, if a person’s lifestyle is featured by activity, it may be immediately inferred that activity opportunities should be offered in the environment setting. Is an individual’s lifestyle characterized by communication, preferences for a communicatively formed environment will be triggered in this person.

Therefore, it seems considerably advantageous to modify the Mehrabian/Russell model in so far as to apply instead of the personality factor, the lifestyle as influence variable. This modification permits to represent consumer behavior more accurately. Moreover, this model allows a more practicable application in the trade and offers instantaneous links for a market segmentation by forming lifestyle groups.



2.2. Empirical results for the influence of lifestyle

To test the influence of lifestyle on the emotional and behavioral reactions the following empirical results from the cultural field may be used for comparison (comp. in detail Terlutter, 2000). It may be supposed that these results can be used for the trade sector as well.

Tests were carried out for three lifestyle groups identified empirically:

Lifestyle group 1: "The emotional type": This group showed an active, social, communicative, and modern lifestyle.

Lifestyle group 2: "The prestigious and educated type": This group showed a more traditional character and preferred prestige and education. This group was highly exteriorly oriented.

Lifestyle group 3: This third group showed little interest in cultural institutions and should only be considered marginally. They were called the "cultural grouch".

With regard to their reactions, these three lifestyle groups were tested intwo differing (cultural) environments:

Environment A: "The traditional concept": This concept was a "typical" museum (uniform structure, big show rooms etc.); comparable with a soberly furnished store.

Environment B: "The modern concept with emotional aspects". The interior of this museum was emotionally appealing and should especially meet the needs of lifestyle group 1 (rooms of varying size, stimulating colours, etc.); comparable with an emotionally designed store.

The variables of the primary emotional reactions pleasure and arousal as well as the intended approach as behavioral variable were ascertained (the dimensions pleasure and arousal of the primary emotional reactions were combined).

Multifactorial variance analyses show the influence by environment and lifestyle on the variables in question (Table 1).

As shown by the above Table 1, both isolatedly and jointly, the two factors environment and affiliation to a lifestyle group exert a highly significant influence upon the perceived pleasure and arousal. The environmental influence is stronger than that of the affiliation to a lifestyle group. The lower part of Table 1 shows the average characteristic of pleasure and arousal experienced in the environments classified in lifestyle groups. Positive values in the table signify a characteristic of the dependent variables above average, negative values a characteristic of the dependent variables below average.

According to the results of Table 1 and the following tables, the emotionally designed concept arouses higher positive reactions than the traditional concept in all the groups.

In this context, the value denoted as "Increase" in this table is of high interest. This value shows how much better the single groups experience and/or evaluate the emotional museum (environment B) compared with the traditional museum (environment A).

This shows that the emotional lifestyle group realizes a significantly higher increase (1.48) than all the other visitors (0.76 and 1.00 respectively). They experience the emotional and modern concept (environment B) as significantly more pleasurable and exciting than the traditional concept (environment A).

In the intended approach to the environment, both in isolation and in combination, the kind of environment and the affiliation to a lifestyle group are influential (Table 2).

As clearly represented in Table 2, the emotional individuals show a significantly higher intended approach to concept B compared with concept A than the other lifestyle groups. This again proves the applicability of lifestyle as influential factor on behavior in environments.

Comparing the influence of the environment with the influence of the lifestyle, the environment setting exerts a higher influence on the emotional reactions pleasure and arousal and on the behavioral reactions. The influence of lifestyle on the variables in question is also significant.

Summarizing, it may be ascertained that a significant influence of the lifestyle on the reactions in a given environment is evident. Accordingly, it seems advantageous to perform an environment setting in the lifestyle of the target groups.

Taking the individual lifestyle as a basis for the environment setting, this should also be integrated into the models of environmental psychology. For the environmental psychology, this means to use the variable of lifestyle as influential factor in the model instead of the variable personality.





2.3. The modified psychological environment model

Consequently, the suggested psychological environment model could be represented according to Figure 2. Personality is replaced by the more practicable lifestyle. Future research must validate the influence of lifestyle. Especially a direct comparison of the influence of lifestyle vs. personality should be carried out.




Anderson, P.: Personality, Perceptions and Emotion-state Factors in Approach-Avoidance Behaviors in the Store Environment, in: Shimp, T.A. et al. (Ed.): 1986 AMA Educators¦ Proceedings, Chicago: American Marketing Association, 1986, S. 35-39.

Banning, T.E.: Lebensstilorientierte Marketing-Theorie, Heidelberg 1987.

Diehl, S.: Internetmarketing. Dissertation at the University of the Saarland, Germany, 2001.

Donovan, R.; Rossiter, J.; Marcoolyn, G.; Nesdale, A.: Store atmosphere and purchasing behavior, in: Journal of Retailing, 70, 1994, p. 283-294.

Donovan, R.J.; Rossiter, J.R.: Store Atmosphere: An Environmental Psychology Approach, in: Journal of Retailing, Vol. 58, No. 1, 1982, p. 34-57.

Gr÷ppel, A.: In-Store-Marketing, in: Tietz, B.; K÷hler, R.; Zentes, J.: Handw÷rterbuch des Marketing, 2. Edition, Stuttgart 1995, Col. 1020-1030.

Gr÷ppel-Klein, A.: Wettbewerbsstrategien im Einzelhandel: Chancen und Risiken von Preisfnhrerschaft und Differenzierung, Wiesbaden 1998.

Ittelson, W.H.: Environment Perception and Contemporary Perceptual Theory, in: Ittelson, W.H. (Ed.): Environment and Cognition, New York 1973, p. 1-19.

Kroeber-Riel, W.; Weinberg, P.: Konsumentenverhalten, 7. Edition, Mnnchen 1999.

Mehrabian, A.: RSume des Alltags oder wie die Umwelt unser Verhalten bestimmt, Frankfurt/M. et al. 1978.

Mehrabian, A.; Russell, J.A.: An Approach to Environmental Psychology, (MIT Press) Cambridge, Massachusetts et al. 1974.

Russell, J.A.; Pratt, G.: A Description of the Affective Quality Attributed to Environments, in: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 38, No. 2, 1980, p. 311-322.

Terlutter, R.: Lebensstilorientiertes Kulturmarketing, Wiesbaden 2000.

Weinberg, P.; Terlutter, R.: Kulturinstitutionen: Mit Marketing in die ZukunftBBesucherorientierung als Leitmaxime, in: Schmengler, H.J.; Fleischer, F.A. (Ed.): Jahrbuch Marketing Praxis Dnsseldorf 1999, p. 126-131.



Ralf Terlutter, Saarland University, Germany


E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5 | 2001

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