Self-Image and Consumer Behavior

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Article Review: Self-Image and Consumer Behavior: How Sacrosanct Self-Beliefs Sway Preferences in the Marketplace Written by: David Dunning

In this article, David Dunning questions whether or not beliefs, wants, and needs are the keys to decision making in a consumer’s mind. He believes in a decision making technique called belief harmonization. With this, Dunning means that in order to reach a decision , it may require arranging and revising one’s beliefs, needs, and preferences into a network of cognition that produces little tension among its elements.

He states that this allows for two major influences on decision making. The first influence is if people hold a bias to favor one decision over another, then that will alter how they perceive the product. They will solely make a decision on that bias and keep to it. In our book, it explains this with brand equity. The outcome shows that a consumer will decide based on the belief that this brand is better than all of the others and not think twice to purchase.

The second influence involves the beliefs that the consumer want to maintain, called sacrosanct beliefs. This is one claiming that the self is a moral, lovable, and capable individual. Dunning states that many decisions in the consumer world are based on this belief of self-image, even when the decision at hand has no relevance to the self. We buy to highlight or hide aspects of our self. Evidence for Decision Making as Belief Harmonization

There is much evidence that suggest that judgment and decision making, including consumer behavior decision making, is known to be belief harmonization. Dunning stated that through the 1940s and 1960s, people depended on the consistency theory, balance theory, and the cognitive dissonance theory. However, it has been known that belief and other connections are applied as well. This would be referred to as connectionist modeling or parallel-constraint satisfaction. He gives a certain example of a young woman buying a car and the positive and negative factors based on buying this car. There can be some direct and indirect contradictions in the harmonization process. What people do is revise what they believe in and make connections with the decision. It may lead towards the negative factors or the positive factors in this decision. Dunning states that the best decisions should be based on the beliefs that the person possesses and will be the best indicator for it. Beliefs are equally able to influence and be influenced by other beliefs. The Influence of Decision Outcomes on Perceptions of “Input” Variables

Emerging evidence demonstrates just how easily the causality in decision making can run in reverse. A preliminary opinion leaning toward one conclusion tends to alter how people evaluate evidence in decision making. This also is a part of product choice as well. The Influence of Logically Irrelevant “Outside Beliefs”

Any belief can bias people to initially favor one over another. These beliefs are called “outside” beliefs and tend to be irrelevant when it comes to the decision making process. Dunning talks about how a juror decides on whether or not someone should be sued for posting negative comments on the internet. They looked at both positive and negative sides of the defendant and never based their decision on if the defendant was a nice guy or not. Work in the consumer world has also found similar bias due to outside beliefs. Evidence for Sacrosanct Beliefs about the Self

People commonly approach every decision with the belief that their decision takes precedence and that they are honorable individuals. They want their decisions to be positive so that their self-image is positive. In class, we learned about impression management, which means that we work to “manage” what others think of us. This is a factor in our self-image. Evidence for Positive Self-Beliefs

Researchers have showed that people have upbeat self-images, even to an unrealistic degree....
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