Special Session Summary Consumer Behavior in the Global Context

ABSTRACT - The significant influence of cultural factors on consumer behavior has been widely recognized. However, systematic research examining cultural influences has been somewhat limited. While some studies have recently addressed cultural issues in consumer behavior, extant research inquiry in this area continues to be fragmented and lacks compelling theoretical frameworks. This session attempts to provide a forum for researchers in the area of cross-cultural consumer behavior to discuss their findings and address the issues related to conducting research that spans across national boundaries. These issues will range from conceptualisation of theoretical constructs, alternate theoretical frameworks, methodological and data collection constraints.


Nidhi Agrawal, Rujitrana Mandhachitara, and Durairaj Maheswaran (2001) ,"Special Session Summary Consumer Behavior in the Global Context", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, eds. Andrea Groeppel-Klien and Frank-Rudolf Esch, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 120-123.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, 2001      Pages 120-123



Nidhi Agrawal, New York University, U.S.A.

Rujitrana Mandhachitara, New York University, U.S.A.

Durairaj Maheswaran, New York University, U.S.A.


The significant influence of cultural factors on consumer behavior has been widely recognized. However, systematic research examining cultural influences has been somewhat limited. While some studies have recently addressed cultural issues in consumer behavior, extant research inquiry in this area continues to be fragmented and lacks compelling theoretical frameworks. This session attempts to provide a forum for researchers in the area of cross-cultural consumer behavior to discuss their findings and address the issues related to conducting research that spans across national boundaries. These issues will range from conceptualisation of theoretical constructs, alternate theoretical frameworks, methodological and data collection constraints.

Four papers will be presented in this session that address several aspects of cross-cultural research. The paper by Klein and DeBroux examines the construct of cultural animosity and the Theory of reasoned action in Japan. The paper by Wong, Rindfleish and Burroughs investigates how perceptions of materialism differ in the United States, Singapore and Thailand. Lee, Garbarino, Lerman , Horn and Satow address the cultural variations in country of origin perceptions in twelve countries. Finally, the Agrawal, Maheswaran and Mandhachitara paper provides an integrated review that identifies the conceptualization and methodological issues that are critical in conducting research in the global context.

The papers featured in the session represent insights from multiple countries and present the operationalization of multiple theoretical constructs and conceptual frameworks. This session will provide a broad and rich coverage of critical consumer behavior issues in the global context.



Jill G. Klein and Philippe DeBroux

Consumer animosityCdefined as anger related to previous or ongoing political, military, economic, or diplomatic eventsBcan have a direct, negative effect on consumers’ purchase behavior. Further, these effects are unrelated to product quality. In other words, angry consumers do not distort or denigrate images of a target country’s products, they simply refuse to buy them (Klein, Ettenson and Morris 1998).

These are the propositions of the animosity model of foreign product purchase. The model has been supported in multiple settings. For example, angry consumers in Nanjing, China were less likely to purchase Japanese goods than those who were less angry, but anger was unrelated to judgments of Japanese product quality (Klein, Ettenson and Morris 1998). Other contexts in which the model has been supported include: consumers in Belgrade and U.S. products (NATO bombings), Australian consumers and French products (French nuclear testing in the South Pacific), U.S. consumers and Japanese products (strained trade relations and World War II) (Ettenson and Klein 2000).

An important question not previously explored is whether social norms play a role in these and similar contexts. If a consumer does not feel angry but perceives that relevant others are angry, will this affect product purchase? This question was tested within the framework of Ajzen and Fishbein’s theory of reasoned action. The theory proposes that a person’s intention to behave in a given manner is a function of two factors: personal attitudes and social influence. This second factor, known as subjective norms, is the person’s perception of social pressures to behave in a particular manner. Subjective norms, in turn, have two sources: normative beliefs, which are beliefs about how others (e.g., friends, parents) would want one to behave, and the importance the individual attaches to complying with the beliefs of these important others.

Thus, subjective norms were incorporated into the animosity model and the expanded model was tested in Hiroshima, Japan. Animosity was measured within the context of anger toward the United States due to the nuclear attack on Hiroshima in 1945. In collectivist cultures such as Japan, individuals are particularly concerned about adhering to group norms and being an accepted member of their group. Thus, if social norms do play a role in the animosity model, Japan is a setting in which this effect should be discernable.

Data were collected from 250 adults in Hiroshima at shopping areas, train stations and other public places. Results supported the animosity model and the important role of subjective norms. As Figure 1 shows, both respondent animosity and subjective norms were significant predictors of purchase intentions, with subjective norms playing a dominant role. Further, both constructs were predicted by the perceived animosity of others. Consumer ethnocentrismBthe belief that one should buy domestic rather than foreign goodsBalso predicted purchase intentions. Animosity was unrelated to product judgments and purchase intentios were not predicted by product judgments. (SEM results: CFI=.92, NNFI=.91, RMSEA=.064; *=p<.05, ***=p<.001.) An additional finding was that greater social pressure to avoid U.S. goods was experienced by respondents who had family members in the Hiroshima area, or who personally lived in the area, in 1945.

Future research will be discussed, including: a study to replicate these findings in South Korea, a comparison of these results with those of an individualist culture (and an examination of the relationship between animosity and individual scores on an individualismBcollectivism scale); and an investigation of the effects of priming individual and collective self-esteem on the relationship between animosity and purchase.




Nancy Wong, Aric Rindfleisch, and James Burroughs

This past century has seen the emergence of consumption as a culturally accepted means of seeking success, happiness, and the populist notion of the good life. As we enter the twenty-first century, material messages, themes, and desires have increasingly transformed into a "world standard package of goods" (Ger and Belk 1996, p. 70) whereby its ownership for consumers around the world represents entree into the global consumption community.

Although materialism research has largely focused on Americans, a growing number of researchers have begun to explore the nature of materialism in other cultures. These recent cross-cultural inquiries have produced a mixed array of findings concerning the generalilzability of American materialism research in other cultures. We suggest that these divergent findings can be meaningfully classified into two emerging schools of thought. Specifically, some researchers appear to subscribe to a Universal perspective, which suggests that the characteristics and consequences of materialism are culturally invariant, while other researchers adopt a Cultural perspective, which suggests that the nature of materialism is culturally bound.

After identifying the origins, assumptions, and findings of each of these two schools of thought, we examine their empirical validity through two studies that employ over 600 adults from three different nations. We measured materialism using the Material Values Scale (MVS) (Richins and Dawson 1992) and to assess the characteristics of materialism, we also included measures of individualism and collectivism (Triandis and Gelfand 1998), religiosity (Koenig et al. 1997), and religious service attendance. Prior research suggests that materialism should be negatively related to religiosity and religious service attendance (LaBarbera and Gurhan 1997) and positively related to individualism (Belk 1985). To assess the consequences of materialism, we included a measure of overall life satisfaction (Diener et al. 1985). Our results suggest that the conceptualization, characteristics, and consequences of materialism may be culturally dependent. First, measures of materialism yield different factor structures in collectivist cultures such as Singapore and Thailand. In addition, the characteristics associated with materialistic individuals appears to vary somewhat between cultures, as religious service attendance appears to be negatively associated with materialism for Americans (most of whom are Christian) and Singaporeans (with different religious backgrounds) but unrelated to materialism for Thais (most of whom are Buddhist). Finally, the consequences of materialism appears to be heavily dependent upon cross-cultural differences, as materialism appears to run the gamut from reducing the life satisfaction of Americans, to being unrelated to the life satisfaction of Singaporeans, to possibly increasing the life satisfaction of’ Thais. We explore the implications of these findings and offer a set of recommendations for both researchers and policy makers interested in cross-cultural materialism and the emergence of a global consumer culture.



Julie Anne Lee, Ellen Garbarino, Dawn Lerman, Marty Horn, Kay Satow

In a 12-country sample, when asked, "What country makes the best [product]?" consumers overwhelmingly chose their own country, in most cases, over the superior country of origin as identified across the entire sample of consumers. This was true for a wide array of products including athletic shoes, beer, wine, tea and even a car. The only exceptions were for electronic goods (a computer, color television and 35 mm camera), where there are more technological advantages and less potential taste issues. The data reported in this study is taken from an omnibus survey that was administered, by either a face-to-face or telephone interview, to a random sample of at least 1,000 respondents in 1 or 2 cities in each of the following 12 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Spain, United Kingdom and the USA.

To further understand the strong own-country bias, we looked at the effect of uncertainty avoidance on the consumer’s responses. Uncertainty avoidance is defined as the "extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by uncertain or unknown situations" (Hofstede 1991, p. 113). This construct can be used to reflect how people respond to uncertainties and ambiguities in the market place. People who are low on uncertainty avoidance tend to be more comfortable with uncertainty, take risks more easily, and are more tolerance for opinions and behaviors different from their own (Hofstede 1991). People who are high on uncertainty avoidance have a need for explicit rules and more structured situations. As an example, they might focus on certain strategies to reduce uncertainty, such as taking extra time and effort to search out all options, buying a known brand, or one made by a superior country of origin, or buying one that someone they know and trust had bought before.

Certain market conditions might also interact with consumer’s uncertainty avoidance, offering a set of rules that might help to reduce uncertainty. For instance, in a market where your own country is competitive you may be more familiar with these offerings or perceive them to be more tailored to your tastes. Or, in another market where there is a clear superior manufacturer, country-of-origin information may make the decision-making process easier, reducing uncertainty for products that may be difficult to evaluate. These conditions are likely to affect consumers who are high on uncertainty avoidance by making them less likely to seek out other products.

In order to test these propositions, consumers were allocated a score, based on Hofstede’s (1980) country level measure of uncertainty avoidance. The level of uncertainty avoidance was tested for its relevance to the population by correlating the country level scores with individual values reported by the respondent. We found that high uncertainty avoidance was related to being cautious, liberal, and demanding, while low uncertainty avoidance was related to being easygoing, innovative, a leader, open-minded and self-confident.

In support of our hypothesis, we found that, in high dominance marketsBwhere there is a clear consensus about which country makes the best productBpeople from low uncertainty avoidance countries (e.g. USA, Canada, Australia and the UK) were more likely to choose a non-dominant country, than people high on uncertainty avoidance (e.g. France, Spain, Mexico and Japan). Going with the "underdog" in a high dominance market may tap into either a higher probability of failure (risk) or an unknown probability of occurrence (ambiguity), both of which are likely to be associated with uncertainty avoidance.



Nidhi Agrawal, Durairaj Maheswaran, and Rujitrana Mandhachitara

The interaction of culture and consumer behavior has received relatively less attention in extant literature. While the significant impact of cultural differences on consumer behavior has been widely acknowledged, published research in marketing that has incorporated data collected in countries outside the United States is limited (Winer 1998). Several factors may be responsible for the lack of such research studies. It is likely that the effort and investment involved in collecting data in many countries may deter the enthusiasm for such studies. Alternately, the methodological complexities of achieving construct equivalence and measurement equivalence across many countries may be daunting to many researchers. In this paper, we summarize the salient issues that contribute to the challenging nature of cross-cultural research and attempt to develop guidelines that would facilitate systematic scholarly inquiry in this domain.

Specifically, we address two aspects of cross-cultural research. First, we examine the appropriateness of the extant research orientation. Second, we examine the current approaches to defining and operationalizing culture.

We examine the research orientation by comparing and contrasting the emic-etic orientation to conducting studies across cultures. The specific advantages and disadvantages related to developing and operationalizing constructs within and across cultures in the marketing context are highlighted.

This paper also provides insights from both published research and ongoing studies to highlight the dynamic nature of culture and its characteristics. Specifically, the multidimensional nature of culture will be reviewed. The efficacy of operationalizing cultural orientation based on constructs such as Individualism-Collectivism (Triandis 1989) will be discussed. First, we suggest that the current conceptualization of culture as an enduring and chronically accessible construct, that is invariant across contexts is somewhat limited. Recent evidence shows that members of individualist cultures can have collectivist responses under certain conditions (Aaker and Williams 1998). In addition, within culture analysis in some studies have reported similar behavioral patterns as exhibited across cultures (Brockner and Chen 1996). These studies suggest that in any culture there could be varying levels of both individualism and collectivism. In other words, recent evidence calls for a more dynamic conceptualization of culture as a bundle of multiple and overlapping chronic tendencies. It is likely that some chronic tendencies are more dominant than others in the daily context. This view is also made plausible by the increasing trend in globalization and the corresponding exposure to stimuli from other cultures. In accord with this view, new evidence shows that the less dominant chronic tendencies can be made accessible by external priming (Oishi, Wyer and Colcombe, 2000, Lee, Aaker and Gardener, 2000).It is also likely that relevance and applicability of these less dominant tendencies may also encourage their use as decision making cues (Han and Shavitt 1994).

We also examine the efficacy of the new typology of Horizontal and Vertical dimensions of the Individualism and Collectivism framework (Triandis and Gelfand, 1998). Findings from three studies that operationalized this multidimensional scale to examine cultural differences in Thailand, Japan and the United States are discussed. Finally, we identify some interesting differences in some culture specific constructs such as loyalty and justice among members of individualist and collectivist cultures that need further investigation


Aaker Jennifer (2000), "Accessibiliy or diagnosticity? Disentangling the influence of culture on persuasion processes and attitudes," Journal of Consumer Research, 26 (March), 340-357.

Aaker Jennifer and Durairaj Maheswaran (1997), "The Effect of Cultural Orientation on Persuasion," Journal of Consumer Research, 24 (December), 315-328.

Aaker J. and Williams P. (1998) "Empathy versus pride: The influence of emotional appeals across cultures", Journal of Consumer Research, 25, 241-261.

Belk, Russell W. (1985), #Materialism: Trait Aspects of Living in the Material World," Journal of Consumer Research, 12 (December), 265-280.

Brockner J, Chen Y.(1996), "The Moderating Roles of Self-Esteem and Self-Construal in Reaction to a Threat to Self: Evidence from the People’s Republic of China and the United States." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 71, No. 3, 603-615.

Diener, Ed, Robert A. Emmons, Randy J. Larsen, and Sharon Griffin (1985),"The Satisfaction with Life Scale," Journal of Personality Assessment, 49 (1), 71-75.

Ger, Guliz and Russell W. Belk (1996), "Cross-Cultural Differences in Materialism" Journal of Economic Psychology, 17, 55-77.

Koenig, Harold, George R, Parkerson, Jr., and Keith G. Meador (1997), "Religious Index for Psychiatric Research," American Journal of Psychiatry, 153 (June), 885-886.

La Barbera, Priscilla A., and Zeynep Gurhan (1997), "The Role of Materialism, Religiosity, and Demographics in Subjective Well-Being," Psychology & Marketing, 14 (January), 71-97,

Lee A.Y., Aaker J., Gardner W. (2000), " The pleasure and Pains of Distinct Self-Construals: the Role of Interdependence in Regulatory Focus," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 78(6).

Markus, Hazel and Shinobu Kitayama (1991), "Culture and the Self: Implications for Cognition, Emotion, and Motivation," Psychological Review, 98 (2), 224-253.

Oishi S, Wyer R, Colcombe (2000), "Cultural Variation in the Use of Current Life Satisfaction to Predict the Future", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 78(3), 434-445.

Richins, Marsha L. and Scott Dawson (1992), "A Consumer Values Orientation for Materialism and Its Measurement: Scale Development and Validation," Journal of Consumer Research, 19 (December), 303-316,

Sirgy, M. Joseph, Dong-Jin Lee, Rustan Kosenko, H. Lee Meadow, Dan Rahtz, Muris Cicic, Guang Xi Jin, Duygun Yarsuvat, David L. Blenkhorn, and Newell Wright (1998), "Does Television Viewership Play a Role in the Perception of Quality of Life?" Journal of Advertising Research, 28 (Spring), 125-142.

Triandis, Hary C. (1989), "The Self and Soial Behaivor in Differing Cultural Contexts," Psychological Review, 96 (July), 506-552.

Triandis, Harry C. and Michele J. Gelfand (1998), "Converging Measurement of Horizontal and Vertical Individualism and Collectivism," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74 (1), 118-128.

Winer, Russel S (1998), "From the Editor", Journal of Marketing Research, 35, iii-v.



Nidhi Agrawal, New York University, U.S.A.
Rujitrana Mandhachitara, New York University, U.S.A.
Durairaj Maheswaran, New York University, U.S.A.


E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5 | 2001

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