Mechanisms of consumer decision processes

Maiken Klindt Christensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The vast fragmentation of societies associated with postmodernism has, incontrovertibly, made it difficult to accurately characterise consumer behaviour. The intersection of economy, psychology and neuroscience, as well as their associated disciplines, promise a greater understanding of consumer behaviour, and more specifically, decision processes. The mechanisms of consumer decision processes are evaluated from several contrasting perspectives of traditional consumer behaviour and theories of cognitive neuroscience. Research within cognitive neuroscience has demonstrated that implicit and automatic processes are involved in initiating behaviour, where the underlying processes of decisionmaking are further governed by emotions. From a traditional perspective of consumer behaviour, decision processes rely on deliberate, conscious and purely rational interpretations. However, acknowledging the intuitive and unconscious affect of decision processes challenge the traditional theories based on explicit and conscious methods. Furthermore, perspectives of psychological, biological and psychophysical approaches explore the underlying processes of decision processes that enhance the understanding of predictive coding of consumer choice. As part of investigating the neural mechanisms of choice, the results stemming from methods of brain asymmetry demonstrate that laterality has shown to predict willingness to pay. This novel finding has raised considerable evidence with regards to the importance of prefrontal activity in relation to assigning economic value and unconscious directed behaviour. Moreover, uncovering and analysing individual brain frequencies have further demonstrated that particularly gamma (γ) frequencies are strong predictors of willingness to pay. Finally, the results demonstrate that the frequency values measured in relation to different product categories differ, which further improves the established understanding of consumer decision processes. In considering how neuroscience can inform existing knowledge of consumer behaviour, the findings of this thesis categorises neuroscience as a complement to the research and investigation of consumer behaviour, rather than an opposition to traditional theories of consumer behaviour. Thus, utilising traditional theories and findings from cognitive neuroscience in unison make a promise of a more profound comprehension of consumer decision processes in general.

EducationsMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2012
Number of pages92