Social Influence and Purchasing Decisions: When We Comply and When We Reject?

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Yiwan Ye
Social Network 034:170
Instructor: Freda Lynn
9 December 2013
Social Influence and Purchasing Decisions: When We Comply and When We Reject? Introduction:
The decision making and the process of social influence and conformity have been rigorously studied by social scientists in the last century (Asch, 1956; Coleman et al. 1966; Deutsch & Gerard, 1955; Kelley & Thibaut, 1978). In different societal and cultural contexts, social influence can possibly induce different reactions (Kerckhove et al. 2011; Bond and Smith 1996; Blanton and Christie 2003). Even though most of the social influence studies provided evidences suggesting buyers’ tendency to accept social influence, a little is known about reactions of product avoidance due to rejection of social influence and/or any other factors. As a result, this literature review will investigate the strength and limitation of previous networking and marketing articles, which discuss about how social influence effects individual’s purchasing decisions. Particularly, this review will discuss buyers’ reactions to social influence (comply vs. reject) regarding to different social networks, cultural environments, and product information. Theoretical Background:

Consumer behavior model has become an important tool in understanding consumer purchasing decision making process (Yoon et al. 2012). A comprehensive buying decision-making process usually consists of five stages: need recognition, information search, products evaluation,

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purchase, and post-purchase evaluation (Kotler 2012; Sheth 1969). The need recognition is a psychological process when buyers are triggered by internal and external stimuli to purchase products. Then, buyers gather information of desired products. During the evaluation process, buyers consider and compare attributes of products based on preferences. Subsequently, the prospective buyers make the purchasing decisions: buy or not to buy (Kotler 2012:98-102). However, even if buyers have formed a purchase intention, their final decisions can still be terminated or altered to meet the group’s norms and expectations (Crawford 1997). According to Crawford, the purchasing process is interfered by two factors, social influence from reference groups1 and emergency events (1997). Specifically, three distinct reference groups can exert social influence upon purchasing decisions (Shibutani 1955). The three groups consist of a peer group to which an individual comes from, a group to which an individual admires, and a group to which an individual shares similar perspectives (Shibutani 1955).

Beside reference groups, numerous social factors impinge upon purchasing decisions. Purchasing decisions are also subjected to social influences from sources such as local environment (indirect ties) and anonymous others (strangers) (Kreager and Haynie 2011; Salganik and Watts 2009; Kotler 2012; Bell 1967; Kongsompong et al. 2009). This review also includes discussions on anonymous others and cultural factors (Salganik and Watts 2009). Why social influence, instead of homophily, is a more valid explanation for purchasing decision? The homophily is the selection of inbreeding groups due to similar preferences, whereas social influence is a result of alternation of behaviors and perception due to the actions of others (Van den Bulte and Lilien 2001). The multilevel model study on adolescent drinking shows that

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Connection between buyers and reference groups are usually direct ties (Crawford 1997).

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the drinking behaviors among adolescent’s romantic partners and friends have significant influence on adolescent’s future drinking behavior (Kreager and Haynie 2011). To validate the evidence of social influence, Kreager and Haynie’s study (2011) found a weak correlation between respondents’ prior behaviors and partners’ previous behaviors, suggesting that the similarity in future behaviors are not a result of inbreeding homophily. For example,...
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