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It’s Not Just About If You Like It: A Reasoned Action Approach to Predicting Consumer Behavior

Presentation Presented at Quirks Chicago, April 2, 2019

Market research often takes a hedonic approach to understanding and predicting consumer behavior: the more people like something, the more likely they are to purchase it.  Research methods that follow this assumption are simple: to predict the likelihood of purchase, measure how much they like it. Some market research recognizes that real-world barriers exist so incorporate questions to discover these.  Despite the appeal of such a simple approach, it does not capture the complexities of the attitude-behavior link that best predict specific behaviors.

The Reasoned Action Approach (Fishbein, 2008; RAA) is a social psychological theory that offers a more robust model for predicting human behavior from psychological variables.  The first step of this model introduces the behavioral intentional construct.  This theory focuses on planned behaviors, rather than spontaneous ones, and the psychological factors that drive people to decide they want to engage in the behavior.  The three psychological factors that drive behavioral intentions are behavioral attitudes, social norms, and perceived control.

Behavioral attitudes are those thoughts and feelings people have regarding the behavior itself.  Traditional market research may focus on the thoughts and feelings towards the object – the thing I am going to purchase – rather than the behavior – the actual purchasing.  Although attitudes about the object are influential, it is the attitudes about the behavior that are essential.  The features of a new treatment may sound very enticing, but the idea of undertaking the treatment may elicit different feelings.

Social norms are the attitudes and amount of influence that other people, whom are important, can have on one’s behavioral intentions – think of it like peer pressure.  The pressure of others could push someone to do something they don’t find appealing or prevent someone from engaging in a behavior they do find appealing.  As a patient, I might not have had the treatment if my spouse didn’t push me to get it.  As a prescriber, I might have offered a treatment if my colleague hadn’t swayed me against it.

Perceived Control beliefs are most akin the concept of barriers.  When barriers are thought of as those things which you anticipate will prevent you from engaging in the behavior, this is perceived control.  These can be thoughts about my own abilities; for example, would I be able to comply with the treatment regimen?  These can also be considerations of what is within one’s own control; for example, would I be able to afford it?

The RAA does not predict which of the three factors drives behavioral intention but emphasizes that all three must be considered.  For some respondents, norms may hold more influence than control; for others, attitudes may be most important.  Rather than only trying to make the target object more appealing or determine which barriers to eliminate, the RAA allows for insights about which types of interventions ought to be made and to whom.  The experts at KJT Group leverage this theory to provide these insights to our clients in our newest analytic offering: Behavioral Insights Analysis.