Exploring Success and Failure in Intended Changes of Life-Style

ABSTRACT - This paper explores intended changes towards a more restrained lifestyle among a sample of consumers belonging to the organization The Future in Our Hands. Great variations in intended changes and ability to change were observed. Socio-economic and demographic variables were found to possess almost no descriptive or explanatory Power.


Kjell Gronhaug and Torvald Ogaard, Jr. (1982) ,"Exploring Success and Failure in Intended Changes of Life-Style", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 09, eds. Andrew Mitchell, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 302-305.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 9, 1982      Pages 302-305


Kjell Gronhaug, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration

Torvald Ogaard, Jr., Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration

[We are grateful to Leif Holbak-Hansen for allowing us to use his data bases and to George Fisk, Liisa Uusitalo and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.]


This paper explores intended changes towards a more restrained lifestyle among a sample of consumers belonging to the organization The Future in Our Hands. Great variations in intended changes and ability to change were observed. Socio-economic and demographic variables were found to possess almost no descriptive or explanatory Power.


The majority of consumer research has regarded consumption as purposeful behavior (cf. Sheth 1972). Viewed in a "consumption-system" perspective (cf. Boyd & Levy 1962), consumption - including purchase and use of various goods and services - may be seen as means of purchasing specific goals.

Major aspects of a person's life-style are related to supply and consumption of various products and services (cf. Wells & Cosmas 1977). Consequently, major changes in lifestyle, may also involve changes in consumption pattern due to goal directed change activities.

In most societies the household (or family) exerts great influence on a person's life-style. The household shares resources and represents a major arena for various consumption activities (cf. Engel et al. 1978).

The household may be described by various characteristics. Socio-economic and demographic (SED) factors probably represents the most common, and have been widely used by researchers from several disciplines including marketing, consumer behavior and consumer policy (for overview cf. Sheth 19775.

The popularity of such factors is easily explained. Compared to factors related to personality, attitudes and psychographics they are easier to collect, easier to communicate to others, and often more reliable. However, the main point is whether such factors possess descriptive and explanatory power. Socio-economic and demographic factors are often used as indicators of some underlying, but relevant aspects of the phenomena studied, such as: Income may be regarded as an indicator of economic resources; education may indicate problem-solving capacity; age may be regarded as an indicator of life-cycle and products needed. Taken together indicators such as education, occu-order to map social class (for overview cfr. Bauer 1966, and Zaltman & Wallendorf (19795.

The focus here is on intended changes in supply and consumption of various products and services, and on the outcome of such intentions. Figure 1 outlines the conceptual framework underlying this exploratory piece of research.

Box A subsumes various socio-economic and demographic factors describing the household, which may be useful in order to map dimensions such as buying power, manpower, problem-solving capacity and various needs. It is assumed that such factors may exert on intentions to change (Box B) as well as on the outcomes of change activities (Box C).





Data used in this paper are from a large research project investigating private consumption and changes in lifestyle (for a detailed description see Holbaek-Hansen 1980). The data were obtained from structured mail questionnaires, which were developed through extensive testing and modifications.


The total population from which the present sample has been taken, consists of all Norwegian households where at least one member belongs to the organization, Framtiden i vare hender (The Future in our Hands). When the research was conducted the organization consisted of approximately 20.000 members. The main objectives for this organization is to discuss and propose changes in present way of living in Norway and other industrialized countries. It is mainly a populistic movement, and is probably best described by some of its slogans: "Small is beautiful", "Do it yourself", Solidarity with the third world" etc.

The questionnaire was sent to a random sample of 2,000 members. Approximately 1,400 households completed the questionnaire. Usable answers were received from 1,199 households, i.e. 59.3% response rate. Compared to the total population of Norwegian households, the sample was found to be only slightly skewed compared by the following characteristics: Members were found to be somewhat younger and better educated; large households were under-represented.

Consumption activities

Below are listed the various supply and consumption activities studied:

(1) daily diet

(2) sociability (what to serve, drink etc.)

(3) drinking habits (alcoholic beverages)

(4) smoking habits

(5) energy conservation at home

(6) transportation

(7) leisure time activities

(8) vacation and travelling

(9) growing of vegetables etc. in private garden

(10) picking of wild growing berries

(11) maintenance and redecoration of own home by family members (painting, carpenting etc.)

(12) physical exercise

This list was developed by scanning publications from the organization and by interviewing a small sample of members in order to delete supply and consumption activities of minor interest for intended changes.


Below are reported the measurements used in this study:

(1) Intended change: (cf. Box B): For each of the supply and consumption activities listed, the respondents were asked whether they wanted to change or had tried to change their consumption. With regard to directions for intended changes the following should be noted:

For the following activities, food (1), drinking (3), smoking (4), energy conservation (5), and transportation (use of) (6) changes are related to reductions;

- regarding growing vegetables (9), berry picking (10), maintenance and decoration (11) and physical exercise (12) the changes all refer to increases;

- for activities number 2 (what to serve etc.), leisure (7) and vacation/travel (8) the directions of intended changes are unspecified.

(2) Outcome (cf. Box C): For each product and activity the respondents were asked to report to what extent she or he had been successful in carrying out the intended change. "Succeeded well" and "succeeded very well" are here classified as success. Failure subsumes the following response alternatives: "Wanted, but of no use to try; tried, but in vain; tried, but the change was not successful", (while "Did not try" was classified as no intention to change).

(3) The household was described by the following indicators (cf. Box A).

- number of household members;

- number of household members having income;

- household income;

- education (measured in terms of years of schooling for the household member receiving the highest income);

- age (of person receiving the highest income).

Here number of household members is perceived as an indicator of manpower, but taken together with household income also as an indicator of buying power. Income serves as an indicator of buying power and economic resources, number of household members with incomes an indicator of allocation of time; education as an indicator of planning and problem solving capacity, and age as an indicator of stage in life cycle, and thus products and services needed and consumption skills.

Due to the explorative purpose of the present paper no explicit hypotheses will be advanced.


Below are reported the main findings regarding intended changes, outcomes, and the descriptive and explanatory power provided by the various antecedent variables (SED-factors).

Intentions and outcomes

Table 1 reports intentions and outcomes for the various products and activities listed previously.

Several things ought to be noted from Table 1: The fraction of intended changes (cf. column 3) varies considerably across the various products and activities. Intentions to change behavior are the highest for food (1), energy conservation (5), growing vegetables (9), picking berries (10), and physical exercises (12).



The percentage of positive outcomes (cf. col. 4, i.e. (success x 100/(success + failure)) is the successrate of intended changes. Inspection of column (4) reveals great variations in the percentage of positive outcomes across the various products and activities.

From Table 1 it is evident that the respondents may both intend to do and be successful in several changes. Number of intended and successful changes are reported in Table 2.



Very high fractions for multiple intended and successful changes are observed from Table 2. The high correlation coefficient between the two distributions (r = .77; p < .001) combined with the higher scores for intentions compared to successful changes, support the assumption that intentions precede outcomes.

Table 1 revealed great variations in intended as well as in successful changes. In order to detect possible patterns among the intended changes, factor analysis was performed.

The factor analysis extracted three factors explaining 50.5% of the variance (varimax, eigenvalue > 1). As seen from Table 3, however, none of the factors are pure and the communalities (h2) are rather low. Factor score > .40 have been underlined.


Factor 1 has its highest loadings on activities like berry picking (10), home maintenance (11), which all are in concordance with the stated goals of the organization (cf. description above). Factor 3 loads highest on items number (2), (3) and (4) all reflecting the intentions to conform to a more restrained life-style. Factor 3 with high loadings on leisure (7) and vacation/travel (8) reflects intended changes in allocation of time (and money?). Taken together, the three factors reflect that the respondents really intend to behave according to the basic ideas of the organization.

Table 4 reports in a similar way the factor analysis performed on successful changes.


The factor analysis extracted three factors (varimax, eigenvalue > 1), explaining approximately 44% of the total variance. As seen from Table 4 none of the factors are pure and the communalities rather modest. Factor scores > .30 have been underlined. The three factors intuitively make sense. The first factor has its highest loadings on drinking, sociability and smoking ("Health"). The second factor loads on energy conservation, transportation, leisure, vacation and physical exercise ("Resources & time")s and the third factor loads the highest on various activities related to "do it yourself".

In the same vain factor analysis among failures in intended changes was performed to detect barriers to change, if any. The factor analysis extracted four factors (varimax, eigenvalue > 1) explaining 46.5% of the variance. By looking at the highest loadings on each factor, the following was observed: The first factor explaining almost 19% of the variance loads highest in item (1) foods energy conservations (5) and transportation (6), which may due structural bindings such as lack of relevant alternatives of transportation, heating and foot supply. A very high loading on drinking (factor 3,-9,3% explained variance) may reflect personal problems in quitting this habit. High loadings on leisure and vacation/travelling factor 2,-10.1% explained variance) may reflect barriers due to lack of economic means and time. Factor four (8,4% explained variance) loads on growing vegetables and berry picking which ray reflect lack of time and manpower.

Household characteristics

An underlying assumption for the present piece of research is that household characteristics (SED-factors) may be useful in describing and predicting intended and successful changes of consumption activities. Multiple regression analyses with number of intended changes and successful changes as dependant (cf. Table 2) and the SED-factors reported above as independent variables, were performed. The main findings are reported in Table 5:


The results are surprising. From Table 4 it is evident that household characteristics neither possess descriptive nor explanatory power.

A possible "stronger" test is to contrast the extremes. Respondents with no intentions were contrasted with respondents high in change intentions (> 11). No significant differences on the various SED-indicators were detected.

The same type of analyses were also performed for each of the twelve activities (cf. Table 1) with the same "disappointing" results.


a) The findings reported above indicate that the households in the present study:

- are most interested in changing behavior related to physical exercise, daily diet picking, energy conservation and growing of vegetables;

- are most successful in carrying out their intended changes regarding vacation/travelling, berry picking, drinking habits, leisure activities, home maintenance and smoking habits;

- are confronted with barriers to change partly due to lack of relevant alternatives, personal problems (addition). and lack of time and economic resources.

b) The modest descriptive and explanatory power of the various household characteristics are noteworthy in several ways. Compared to the total population of households, the actual sample was only moderately biased as described by various SED-factors (cf. sample description). However, in order to explain intended and actual changes of various consumption activities, other variables have to be included (cf. Sheth 1977).

Furthermore, the results reported indicate that widely used SED-factors may partly be inappropriate both as basis for designing marketing program and as indicators for selecting consumer protection activities (cf. Yankelovich 1964; Wells & Cosmas 1978).

For marketers the findings to also indicate that interests and values, here mapped by organizational membership may be highly relevant as basis for segmentation purposes.


Boyd, J. W. & Levy, S. L., (1963), "Nev Dimensions in Consumer Analysis," Harvard Business Review, Vol. 41 (Nov - Dec.) 129-140.

Bauer, R. A., (1966), Social Indicators, Cambridge, M.I.T. Press.

Engel, J. F., Blackwell, R. E, & Kollat, D. T., (1978), Consumer Behavior. Hinsdale. The Dryden Press.

Holbaek-Henssen, L., (1980), Privat forbruk og ny livsstil, Oslo Fondet for markeds- og distribustonsforskning.

Sheth, J. N., (1971), "Demographics in Consumer Behavior", Journal of Business Research, Vol. 5 (March), 129-138.

Wells, W. S. & Cosmas, S. C., (1979), "Life Styles," in R. Ferber (ed. ), Selected Aspects of Consumer Behavior Washington. NSF, Rand, 229-316.

Yankelovich, D., (1964), "New Criteria for Market Segmentation," Harvard Business Review, Vol. 42 (March-April), 83-90.

Zaltman, G. & Wallendorf, M. (1979), Consumer Behavior: Basic Findings and Management Implications, New York, John Wiley & Sons.



Kjell Gronhaug, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration
Torvald Ogaard, Jr., Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 09 | 1982

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