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The Experiential Aspects of Consumption: Consumer Fantasies, Feelings, and Fun

Author(s): Morris B. Holbrook and Elizabeth C. Hirschman


Source: The Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Sep., 1982), pp. 132-140
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2489122
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The Experiential Aspects of
Consumption:Consumer Fantasies,
Feeling , and Fun

MORRISB. HOLBROOK
ELIZABETHC. HIRSCHMAN*

This paper argues for the recognitionof importantexperientialaspects of con-


sumption.Specifically,a general frameworkis constructedto representtypical
consumerbehaviorvariables.Based on this paradigm,the prevailinginformation
processing model is contrasted with an experientialview that focuses on the
symbolic, hedonic, and esthetic nature of consumption.This view regards the
consumptionexperience as a phenomenondirectedtowardthe pursuitof fanta-
sies, feelings, and fun.

In its brief history, the study of consumer behavior has sciousness with a variety of symbolic meanings, hedonic
evolved from an early emphasis on rationalchoice (mi- responses, and esthetic criteria. Recognition of these im-
croeconomics and classical decision theory) to a focus on portantaspects of consumptionis strengthenedby contrast-
apparently irrational buying needs (some motivation re- ing the informationprocessing and experientialviews.'
search) to the use of logical flow models of bounded ra-
tionality (e.g., Howard and Sheth 1969). The latter ap- CONTRASTING VIEWS
proach has deepened into what is often called the OF CONSUMER BEHAVIOR
"informationprocessing model" (Bettman 1979). The in-
formationprocessing model regardsthe consumeras a log- Our bases for contrastingthe informationprocessingand
ical thinker who solves problems to make purchasingde- experientialviews appearin the Figure. This diagramis not
cisions. The informationprocessingperspectivehas become all-inclusive. It simply representssome key variables typ-
so ubiquitousin consumerresearchthat, like fish in water, ically considered in logical flow models of consumer be-
many researchersmay be relatively unawareof its perva- havior. In brief, variousenvironmentalandconsumerinputs
siveness. (products, resources) are processed by an interveningre-
Recently, however, researchershave begun to question sponse system (cognition-affect-behavior)that generates
the hegemony of the informationprocessing perspectiveon output consequences which, when appraisedagainst crite-
the groundsthatit may neglect importantconsumptionphe- ria, result in a learning feedback loop. Individual differ-
nomena (e.g., Olshavsky and Granbois 1979; Sheth 1979). ences, search activity, type of involvement, and task defi-
Ignored phenomena include various playful leisure activi- nition affect the criteriaby which outputconsequences are
ties, sensory pleasures,daydreams,esthetic enjoyment,and evaluated.
emotionalresponses. Consumptionhas begun to be seen as Though the Figure neglects some variablesthat have in-
involving a steady flow of fantasies, feelings, and fun en- terestedconsumerresearchers,2it reflectsthe generalview-
compassed by what we call the "experientialview." This point embodied by most popular consumer behavior
experientialperspective is phenomenological in spirit and models. Moreover, the diagram facilitates the intended
regardsconsumptionas a primarilysubjective state of con- comparisonbetween approachesby distinguishingbetween

*MorrisB. Holbrookis Associate Professor, GraduateSchool of Busi-


ness, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027. ElizabethC. Hirsch- 'Throughoutthe discussion, most argumentsare supportedby one or
man is Associate Director, Instituteof Retail Management,and Associate two key references. Much more extensive documentationappearsin earlier
Professor, Departmentof Marketing, New York University, New York, versions of the paper that may be obtainedfrom the authors.
NY 10003. The authorsgratefully acknowledge the conceptualcontribu- 2Forexample, the Figure omits the effects of general economic condi-
tions made by Sarah M. Holbrook. They also wish to thank Rebecca H. tions and relatedexpectations, some elements of the marketingmix (e.g.,
Holman, John A. Howard, Trudy Kehret, Donald B. Lehmann, Sidney channels of distribution),social influence throughreference groups, per-
J. Levy, John O'Shaughnessy, John R. Rossiter, and Michael J. Ryan for ceived risk and other conflict-relatedphenomena,joint decision making
their helpful comments on an earlierdraft. in households, and considerationsof economic externalitiesor social wel-
fare.
132
? JOURNAL OF CONSUMERRESEARCH* Vol. 9 0 September1982
EXPERIENTIAL
ASPECTSOF CONSUMPTION S133

Mu s NOC A EE N 0 R V E
NOTE:

The T NI STS U P N
I
slash

marks
I

indicate I L
a
|
I
C | I
V
comparison GCC'S-- GCC
VEV GOODS
LLIFE-STYLE TYPE PROB
L-----------i
I
between IDEMOGRAPHICS SK B
A
FEATURES
OBJECTIVE
SERVICE/
TANGIBLE
/
/ ISOCIOECONOMICS/ OF PROCESS
SOLVING BENEFITS/
1INFORMATION
SEARCH
INDIVIDUAL LL STIMULUS
the |ACQUISITION/ / / /SUB
FEAT
SECONDARY/PRI ECOMMUNICATION
/NON
REL MONEY/TIME ARTISURPRODUCTS
I
TYPE VER BENEFITS
URES
/SYMBOLIC
/ENTERTA
DEFINITION JECTIVE
A ACTIVITY
BEHAVIOR PROCESS
RESPONSE /NONERBAL
BAL
SEMANTIC/SYNTACTIC CONTRASTS
GION /SENSATION
VS./CREATIVITY LEFT-BRAIN/RIGHT-BRAIN
LEM-/HEDONAIVCIT
INVOLVEMENT CONTENT
INMENT
B DIFFERENCES ______________________________
information-processing I
I I
/EXPLORATORY|
/~~~~PERSONALITY---
view
SEEKING
BETWEEN
(left I SEEKINGI
I
side) I I THE
and I| OF
the

W I

experiential WORK
IKNOW CONSUMER
FIGURE
MENTALITY/ THOUGHT
perspective LEDGE
STRUCTURE

(right
/PLAY I /
INTERVENING BEHAVIOR
L ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~GENERATION
COGNITION INFORMATION-PROC
/FREE
side). MENTALITY
UTILITARIAN/ESTHETIC
|ECONOMIC/PSYCHOSOCIALI /IMAGERY
MEMORY/SUBCONSCIOUS AND
I /FANTASIES
~~~PROTOCOLS/PRJCTV
BELIEFS/DAYDREAMS
/ASSOCIATION
RESPONSE

PEFEGR SYSTEM: EXPERIENTIAL


uIPI MARY_I I
-- VIEWS
AFFECT

e
~~~~~~~
OPERANT/RESPONDENT ATTITUDES/EMOTIONS
SATISFACTION/ASSOCIATION
REINFORCEMENT/CONTIGUITY|
PROCESSING
ENCES/FEELINGS
| INFORMATION-
S
~~SYSTEM
S
E
YSTEM
DECISION
PURCHASE
/ EXPERIENTIAL

BEHAVIOR
i BUYING/USAGE
FUNCTION/FUN ILERIGCTECHNIQUESONSQUECE
CHOICES/ACTIVITIES
EXPERIENCE
RESULTS/ENJOYMENTI
PURPOSE/PLEASURE| /CONSUMPTION
134 THEJOURNALOF CONSUMERRESEARCH

the phenomenaof primaryinterest to the informationpro- make use of verbal stimuli. However, many productspro-
cessing perspective (left side of slash marks) and those of ject important nonverbal cues that must be seen, heard,
centralconcern to the experientialview (right side of slash tasted, felt, or smelled to be appreciatedproperly. Indeed,
marks). In the following sections, we discuss these distinc- in many consumption situations (viewing a movie, eating
tions as they pertain to (1) environmentalinputs, (2) con- at a restaurant,playing tennis), several sensory channels
sumerinputs, (3) interveningresponses, and (4) outputcon- operate simultaneously. Yet scant research on nonverbal
sequences, criteria, and learningeffects. multisensorypropertieshas been reportedin the literature.
Accordingly, the experientialperspective supportsa more
ENVIRONMENTAL INPUTS energetic investigation of multisensorypsychophysicalre-
lationships in consumer behavior.
Products Turningone's attentionfrom primarilyverbal to nonver-
Much consumer research has focused on the tangible bal sensory cues requiresa very differentmode of present-
benefits of conventional goods and services (soft drinks, ing experimental stimulus objects. While verbal descrip-
toothpaste, automobiles) that perform utilitarianfunctions tions have often sufficed in conventional research on
based on relatively objective features (calories, flouride, consumerpreferences,an experientialoutlook must involve
miles per gallon). By contrast, the experientialperspective subjectsin consumption-likeexperiencesbased on real-or
explores the symbolic meanings of more subjective char- at least realistic-product samples.
acteristics(cheerfulness, sociability, elegance).
All products-no matter how mundane-may carry a
symbolic meaning (Levy 1959, 1980). In some cases, the
CommunicationContent
symbolic role is especially rich and salient: for example, Contentanalyses of communicationin consumerresearch
entertainment, the arts, and leisure activities encompass have more often focused on drawing inferences about the
symbolic aspects of consumptionbehaviorthat make them source of a message than on explaining its effects (Kassar-
particularlyfertile ground for research. These areas have jian 1977). When the latter perspective has been consid-
recently received increased attention from consumer re- ered, it has generally involved an informationprocessing
searchersconcernedwith productslike musical recordings, orientationtoward the study of consumerresponses to the
singers, fashion designs, architectural styles, paintings, semantic aspects of communication content (Shimp and
museum exhibitions, novels, concerts, performingarts se- Preston 1981). Focusing on effects attributableto the syn-
ries, and associated patternsof leisure activity (Hirschman tactic aspects of message content-that is, their structure
and Holbrook 1981). The growth of research on leisure, and style-is more germaneto the experientialperspective.
entertainment,and the arts reflects a shift of attentionto- In otherdisciplines, message syntaxhas often been found
ward the experientialside of the distinctions shown in the to exert a direct effect on hedonic response. This concept
Figure. is central, for example, to the so-called "Wundt curve"
Methodologically,this shift promotescertainadvantages. and its relationshipto collative stimulus propertiessuch as
One benefit stems from the tendency for leisure, entertain- uncertaintyor complexity (Berlyne 1971). This information
ment, and arts products to prompt high levels of interest theoreticperspectivehas been applied at length in analyses
and involvement among their target markets. The growing of emotional responses to music and other art forms by
body of work in these areas suggests that respondentscan researchersexploring its relevance to the esthetic process
typically provide meaningfuldata on perceptionsand pref- (Platt 1970).
erences across a broadarrayof relevantobjects or activities. Work on syntactic structurein consumerresearchis less
Hence, applicationsof multivariatemethods may be more well developed. However, Taylor's (1953) "Cloze" tech-
valid with this type of productthan with some low-involve- nique has been used to measure subjective verbal uncer-
ment consumer nondurables,such as detergentsor canned tainty in English prose (Wallendorf,Zinkhan,and Zinkhan
peas, for which consumers may be unable to make valid 1981) and advertisingcopy (Zinkhanand Martin 1981).
perceptualor affective distinctionsamong more than a few
different brands. For this reason, many of our available
statisticalprocedures-especially those directedtowardin- CONSUMERINPUTS
traindividualanalysis across brands-may actuallybe more
appropriatewithin the context of experientialconsumption Resources
thanfor the frequentlypurchasednondurablesto which they
have typically been applied. In examining the resourcesthat a consumerbringsto the
exchange transaction,conventional researchhas generally
focused on monetaryincome constraintsand the effects of
Stimulus Properties prices. In more recent economic analysis, this money-ori-
Traditionalconsumer research paradigmshave concen- ented focus has been expandedto acknowledge the funda-
tratedon product attributesthat lend themselves to verbal mental role played by the consumer's allocation of time
descriptions. Both conjoint analysis and multiattribute resourcesto the "household productionfunction" (Becker
models, for example, have relied heavily on designs that 1976). In this view, householdsboth produceand consume
EXPERIENTIAL
ASPECTSOF CONSUMPTION 135

"commodities" that combine inputs of goods and time to one s own life and the stimulus, explicitly excluding com-
maximize overall utility, subject to resource constraints. ponentssuch as attention,interest,or excitement.This early
The investigationof subjective time resources may help view has proven most congenial to informationprocessing
to unravelthe mysteriesof the psychotemporalexpenditures proponents, who define involvement in terms of personal
involved in experientialconsumption. Studying the nature relevance or multiplicity of cognitive responses (Leavitt,
and allocation of discretionarytime deserves high priority. Greenwald, and Obermiller1981). Attention, interest, ex-
Movement in this direction has appearedin several review citement, and so forthbear more directlyon the experiential
articles, in special conferencesessions, and in a recentissue view by emphasizing degree of activationor arousal, with
of the JCR devoted to the subject of time in consumer consequent implications for the availability of psychobio-
behavior(March 1981). logical indices (Kroeber-Riel 1979). Krugman's (1971)
later work on brain-wavepatternshas moved in this direc-
Task Definition tion and thus appearsto representa shift towardthe exper-
iential model.
In making assumptionsconcerning the consumer's task
Further, any argumentthat involvement is primarilya
definition, the informationprocessing and experientialper- left-brain phenomenon refers implicitly to cognitive re-
spectives envision differentkinds of consumptionbehavior.
sponses associated with analytic, logical, problem-oriented
The informationprocessing view conjures up an image of
cerebration(Hansen 1981). If one referredinstead to "in-
the consumer as a problem solver engaged in the goal-di-
volvement" in the sense of the orientationreflex, its arousal
rected activities of searching for information, retrieving
component might be more closely associated with right-
memorycues, weighing evidence, and arrivingat carefully brain phenomenarelatedto emotion.
consideredjudgmentalevaluations.Freudcalled such men-
The use of psychobiological indices of arousal and the
tal activities "secondary process" thinking. It is "second- interest in right-brain hemispheric specialization have
ary" in the sense that it reflects the way our mental pro- promptedincreased attention from consumer researchers.
cesses function as a result of socialization (Hilgard 1962). Numerous problems arise when interpretingthe results of
By contrast, the experiential view emphasizes the im- these physiological approaches. Ryan (1980) has chal-
portance of primary process thinking in accord with the lenged the constructvalidity of psychobiologicalmeasures.
pleasureprinciple. Primaryprocess thinkinginvolves a task In this light, Olson, Reynolds, and Ray's (1982) findings
definition oriented toward hedonic response and is "pri- on psychophysiological advertisingeffects raise almost as
mary" in the sense that it hearkensback to the way a baby
many questions as they answer. Similarly, Hansen and
pursuesimmediatepleasureor gratification(Hilgard 1962). Lundsgaard(1981) have reportedratherdiscouragingcon-
This type of consumptionsee1s fun, amusement, fantasy, vergent validities among various indices of brain laterali-
arousal, sensory stimulation, and enjoyment. Indeed, the zation. Takentogether,these difficultiespoint out thatwork
evidence suggests that consumers typically spend the ma-
on the physiological components of consumptionremains
jority of their lives eating, sleeping, chatting with friends, in its infancy and needs furtherconceptual and methodo-
making love, and watching television (Robinson 1977, p.
logical developmentin measuresof arousalandhemispheric
35). Surely, any meaningful attempt to model such rela- involvement.
tively pleasure-orientedconsumptionmust pay attentionto
its hedonic components.
Regarding consumption as a primary process directed Search Activity
towardthe hedonic pursuitof pleasureraises certainmeth-
odological issues. These include: (1) the need to develop The natureof the associatedsearchactivity is closely tied
better measures of hedonic response-especially valid and to involvementissues. Here, proponentsof the information
operationaldefinitions of what constitutes "pleasure"; (2) processingperspectiveadoptvariousstrategiesfor the study
the fact that hedonic responses are likely to be unusually of informationacquisition. Those inclined toward labora-
susceptibleto fluctuationsacross situations,therebyposing tory methodshave developed ingenious techniquesto study
problems of reliability and validity; and (3) the difficulty how cues are acquired (Russo 1978). Meanwhile, survey
of using available indices of chronic hedonic energy, such researchershave investigatedthe general characteristicsof
as sensation seeking, in the context of explaining acute, information seekers at the cross-cultural level (Thorelli,
volatile, sensory-emotive phenomena. The experiential Becker, and Engledow 1975).
view performsa useful role by insistently calling attention By contrast,an experientialview of searchactivity might
to these conceptual and methodologicalproblems. draw more heavily from the work by psychologists on ex-
ploratorybehavior (Berlyne 1960). For example, Howard
and Sheth (1969) consider stimulus ambiguity, working
Type of Involvement through arousal, as a determinantof specific exploration
We focus here not on the degree of involvement (low via what they call "overt search." More diversive explo-
versushigh), but ratheron its type (engagementof cognitive ration-such as that involved in exposure to entertainment
responses versus orientation reaction involving arousal). media-has sometimes been explained as a form of play,
Krugman's(1965) early definition of involvement empha- as in the "ludic" theory of mass communication(Huizinga
sized the tendency to make personal connections between 1970; Stephenson 1967).
136 THEJOURNALOF CONSUMERRESEARCH

Diversive explorationvia the entertainmentand arts me- donic motives for engaging in leisure activities, and re-
dia appearsto be a context well suited to the extension of sulting levels of enthusiasm expressed. These ethnic dif-
Berlyne's (1960) work on exploratorybehavior. Indeed, ferences appearto depend on interveningvariablessuch as
toward the end of his career, Berlyne (1971) devoted in- use of imagery, sensation seeking, and the desire to escape
creased attention to the experimental study of esthetics, reality.
focusing particularlyon a proposednonmonotonicrelation-
ship between stimulus complexity and hedonic value. As- INTERVENING RESPONSE SYSTEM
pects of his approachmay be usefully applied to an inves-
tigation of the consumption experience. However, in Cognition
making such extensions, three methodologicalrefinements Due to its cognitively oriented perspective, the infor-
appear critical: (1) esthetic stimuli should be designed to mation processing approachhas focused on memory and
vary in complexity over a range broadenough to permitthe related phenomena:the consumer's cognitive apparatusis
full nonmonotonic relationshipto appear;(2) the success viewed as a complex knowledge structureembodying in-
of this experimental manipulation should be checked by tricately interwoven subsystems of beliefs referred to as
obtaininga measureof subjective uncertaintyanalogousto "memory schemas" or "semantic networks" (Olson
the Cloze-based index described earlier; and (3) the sub- 1980). Such knowledge structuresinclude what Freudians
jective uncertaintymeasure should be treated as an inter- call "manifest" content-those ideas that are accessible to
vening variable that mediates the effect of stimulus com- introspectionand thereforeform the substanceof conscious
plexity on hedonic response. thoughtpatterns.
By contrast,the experientialperspectivefocuses on cog-
IndividualDifferences nitive processes that are more subconscious and privatein
For some time, consumer researchers'interest in indi- nature. Interest centers on consumption-relatedflights of
vidual differences has focused on general customer char- fancy involving pictorial imagery (Richardson1969), fan-
acteristicssuch as demographics,socioeconomic status, and tasies (Klinger 1971), and daydreams(Singer 1966). Such
psychographics. The relatively poor performanceof per- material often masks embarrassing or socially sensitive
sonality measures in predictingconsumerbehaviorhas en- ideas and perceptions. This "latent" content does not ap-
couraged their gradual abandonmentin favor of the sub- pear in overt verbal reports, either because it has been re-
category of psychographicsknown as life style variables. pressed or because its anxiety-provokingnatureencourages
Recently, in a move towardthe experientialview, the con- disguise at a subconscious level.
cept of life style has been generalizedto include more ex- In its treatment of cognitive phenomena, particularly
plicit consideration of the use of time (Lee and Ferber material of a subconscious nature, the experiential view
1977). borders somewhat on motivation research (e.g., Dichter
The investigationof experientialconsumptionappearsto 1960). However, there are two methodologicaldifferences.
offer considerable scope for the revival of personalityand First, we believe that much relevant fantasy life and many
allied variables, such as subculture,though the specific di- key symbolic meaningslie just below the thresholdof con-
mensions investigated will almost certainly differ from sciousness-that is, that they are subconscious or precon-
those of interestto the informationprocessing view. Some scious as opposed to unconscious-and that they can be
experientiallyrelevantpersonalityconstructsinclude: retrieved and reportedif sufficiently indirect methods are
used to overcome sensitivity barriers.Second, we advocate
* Sensationseeking(Zuckerman 1979), a variablelikelyto the use of structured projective techniques that employ
affecta consumer'stendencyto enjoymorecomplexen- quantifiablequestionnaireitems applicableto samples large
tertainment,to be fashionconscious,to preferspicy and enough to permit statisticalhypothesis testing.
crunchyfoods, to playgames,andto use drugs
* Creativityandrelatedvariablestied to variety-,novelty-,
or arousal-seeking(Raju1980) Affect
* Religious world view (Hirschman1982), a dimension that It might be argued that, in the area of affect, the con-
affectsdaydreamingas well as otherformsof sensation ventional informationprocessing approachhas been study-
andpleasureseeking ing experiential consumption all along. After all, the tra-
* Type A versus Type B personality (Friedmanand Rosen- ditional expectancy value models (E E * V) conform in
man1974),a dimensioncloselylinkedwithperceivedtime spiritto Bentham's felicific calculus. Fundamentally,how-
pressureandthereforelikelyto affectthewayoneallocates ever, the information processing perspective emphasizes
psychotemporal amongworkandleisureac-
expenditures only one aspect of hedonic response-namely, like or dis-
tivities like of a particularbrand (attitude)or its rank relative to
Research on individual differences in experiential con- other brands (preference). This attitudinalcomponent rep-
sumptionhas already found contrastsamong religions and resents only a tiny subset of the emotions and feelings of
nationalities in the types of entertainmentpreferred, he- interestto the experientialview.
EXPERIENTIAL
ASPECTSOF CONSUMPTION 137

The full gamutof relevantemotions includessuch diverse commentaryon whatever cognitive materialthe subject is
feelings as love, hate, fear, joy, boredom, anxiety, pride, aware of" (Hilgard 1980).3
anger, disgust, sadness, sympathy, lust, ecstasy, greed, A recent state-of-the-artreview of theory, method, and
guilt, elation, shame, and awe. This sphere of human ex- applicationin the study of conscious experience has been
periencehas long been neglected by psychologists, who are provided by Singer (1981/1982). Comparableapproaches
just beginning to expand early work on arousalin orderto in conventionalconsumerresearchwould include problem-
develop systematic and coherent models of emotion (Plut- solving protocols, thought-generationtechniques, and sim-
chik 1980). ilar ideation-reportingprocedures. It remains for the ex-
Such psychological conceptualizations of emotion are periential perspective to extend this cognitively oriented
still in their seminal stages and, understandably,have not work toward the investigation of all aspects of the con-
yet cross-pollinatedthe work of consumerresearchers.Yet, sumption experience. In such a phenomenological ap-
it is clear that emotions form an important substrate of proach, experience is "acknowledged as a part of the psy-
consumptionand that their systematicinvestigationis a key chological universe and addressedas an object of study"
requirementfor the successful applicationof the experien- (Koch 1964, p. 34):
tial perspective. The phenomenologist . . . accepts, as the subject-matterof
his inquiry, all data of experience . . Colors and sounds
are data; so are impressionsof distance and duration;so are
Behavior feelings of attraction and repulsion; so are yearnings and
fears, ecstasies and disillusionments;. . . . These are data,
At the behaviorallevel, traditionalconsumerresearchhas given in experience, to be accepted as such and wondered
focused almost exclusively on the choice process that gen- about (MacLeod 1964, p. 51).
erates purchasedecisions culminatingin actual buying be-
havior. Thus, brand purchase is typically viewed as the MacLeod's statementcomes close to encapsulatingour
most importantbehavioraloutcome of the informationpro- central theme-namely, that the conventional approachto
cessing model. consumer research addresses only a small fraction of the
A quarterof a century ago, however, Alderson (1957) phenomenologicaldata that compose the entire experience
drew a sharp distinction between buying and consuming. of consumption.Investigationof the remainingcomponents
This contrast was furtherelaboratedin Boyd and Levy's of the consumption experience should serve as one key
(1963) discussion of the consumptionsystem with its em- target of future methodologicaldevelopmentsin consumer
phasis on brand-usagebehavior. By focusing on the con- research.
figurationof activities involved in consumption,this view- One qualitativeapproach,advocatedby Levy, "accepts
point calls attentionto the experiences with a productthat introspection as data" and involves the use of personal
one gains by actually consuming it. narratives:"A protocol in which a consumertells the story
Few consumer researchershave followed this lead, al- of how the productis consumed can be examined for how
though the study of productusage and related activities is the consumer interprets the consumption experience"
clearly a requisite cornerstoneto the development of the (1981, p. 50). Such relatively unstructuredproceduresmay
experientialmodel. The importanceof such study is rein- be usefully complementedby more structuredquantitative
forcedby the emphasison entertainment-,arts-, and leisure- methods.4 Toward this end, Pekala and Levine argue for
related offerings, which often depend more on the alloca- a "phenomenologicalor introspectiveapproach"to inves-
tion of time than of money. Given the operation of the tigate the "structureof conscious experience" (1981/1982,
pleasure principle in multisensory gratification, exciting pp. 30-31) and presenta Phenomenologyof Consciousness
fantasies, and cathectedemotions, one's purchasedecision Questionnaire (PCQ) consisting of 60 Likert-type items
is obviously only a small componentin the constellationof drawn from 15 different content areas. Factor analysis of
events involved in the overall consumptionexperience. the PCQ suggests the existence of nine importantdimen-
In exploring the nature of that overall experience, the sions: altered experience, awareness, imagery, attention/
approachenvisioned here departsfrom the traditionalpos- memory, negative affect, alertness, positive affect, voli-
itivist focus on directly observable buying behavior and
devotes increasedattentionto the mentalevents surrounding
3Therecentlyaccumulatingstudies on the streamof consciousnessserve
the act of consumption. The investigationof these mental also to introduce the new introspectionism. In this light, consider the
events requires a willingness to deal with the purely sub- avowed objective of the new journal entitledImagination, Cognition and
jective aspects of consciousness. This explorationof con- Personality: "An importantpurposeof this journalis to provide an inter-
sumption as conscious experience must be rigorous and disciplinaryforum for those interestedin the scientific study of the stream
scientific, but the methodologyshould include introspective of consciousness, directly relevant to theory, research, and application"
(Pope and Singer 1981/1982, p. 2).
reports,ratherthan relying exclusively on overt behavioral 4Levy (1981) views his analysis as "structural." The distinction be-
measures. The necessary methodological shift thus leads tween "structured"and "unstructured"methods pursued here refers to
toward a more phenomenologicalapproach-i.e., "a free the type of data-collectionprocedure.
138 THEJOURNALOF CONSUMERRESEARCH

tion, and internaldialogue. This instrumenthas not (to our Consumerresearchershave devoted little attentionto the
knowledge) been applied in consumerresearch, but future underlyingdeterminantsof fun and playful activities even
applicationsmay help elucidate the experientialaspects of though it appearsthat consumersspend many of their wak-
consumption. ing hours engaged in events that can be explained on no
othergrounds.It would be difficult, for example, to account
OUTPUT CONSEQUENCES, CRITERIA, for the popularity of a television programlike Dallas on
the basis of its functional utility in providing solutions to
AND LEARNING life's many problems. Clearly, its success depends instead
OutputConsequences and Criteria on conformity to some set of esthetic standardsassociated
with the play mentality. Better understandingof such stan-
From the informationprocessing perspective, the con- dards is a vital link in the furtherdevelopment of the ex-
sequencesof consumerchoice typically are viewed in terms perientialview.
of the product'suseful function. The criteriafor evaluating
the succpss of a purchasingdecision are thereforeprimarily Learning
utilitarianin nature-as, when judging a "craft," one asks
how well it serves its intended purpose or performs its Ever since Howard and others included a feedback loop
properfunction (Becker 1978). The operativelogic behind via brandsatisfactionin the early models of buyerbehavior
this criterion reflects a work mentality in which objects (Howard and Sheth 1969), it has been clear that learning
attain value primarilyby virtue of the economic benefits effects exert a strong impact on future components of the
they provide. interveningresponse system (shown by a dotted feedback
By contrast, in the experientialview, the consequences line in the Figure). The traditionalview of learningin con-
of consumptionappearin the fun that a consumer derives sumer behavior has been based on operantconditioningor
from a product-the enjoyment that it offers and the re- instrumentallearning, where satisfactionwith the purchase
sulting feeling of pleasurethat it evokes (Klinger 1971, p. serves to reinforce futurebehavioralresponses in the form
18). In this generally neglected perspective, the criteriafor of repeat purchases.
successful consumption are essentially esthetic in nature But Howard and Sheth (1969) also recognized a second
and hinge on an appreciation of the product for its own learning principle, contiguity, which depends on the fre-
sake, apartfrom any utilitarianfunction that it may or may quency with which neural events have been paired in ex-
not perform (McGregor 1974). This is analogous to the perience. The resulting patternsof association, which Os-
appreciationof a work of "art" (versus a "craft") as a good (1957) called "associative hierarchies," exhibit a
thing in itself, without regard to its functional utility form of respondent conditioning. When extended to the
(Becker 1978). In making such appraisals, one conforms experientialperspective, this contiguity principle suggests
to a play mentality(Huizinga 1970) whereinperceivedben- that sensations, imagery, feelings, pleasures, and other
efits are primarilypsychosocial and "episodes designated symbolic or hedonic components which are frequently
as playful are assumedto be free from any immediatepur- paired together in experience tend to become mutually
pose" (Lancy 1980, p. 474): "Play is disinterested, self- evocative, so that "fantasy, dreams, and certain forms of
sufficient, an interlude from work. It brings no material play can similarly be construedas respondentsequences"
gain" (Stephenson 1967, pp. 192-193).5 (Klinger 1971, p. 35). This argumentimplies that-though
As indicated in the Figure, the relative salience of eval- satisfactioncertainlyconstitutesone importantexperiential
uative criteriais assumed to depend in part on the individ- component-the stream of associations that occur during
ual's-task definition, type of involvement, search activity, consumption (imagery, daydreams, emotions) may be
and personality. For example, where the consumptiontask equally importantexperientialaspects of consumerbehav-
is defined as the pursuitof hedonic response, esthetic cri- ior.
teria would be likely to apply. A similar play mentality
should prevail when involvementis primarilyrightcerebral
hemisphereoriented, when diversive explorationis directed CONCLUSION
toward the alleviation of boredom, and when a sensation- Much buyer behavior can be explained usefully by the
seeking, creative, non-Protestant,or Type B personalityis prevailing information processing perspective. Conven-
involved. tional research, however, has neglected an importantpor--
tion of the consumptionexperience. Thus our understanding
'Note that, in no sense, do we imply that the esthetic criteriainvolved of leisure activities, consumer esthetics, symbolic mean-
in the play mentality are irrationalor maladaptive. Indeed, as Becker's ings, variety seeking, hedonic response, psychotemporal
(1976) work has made clear, rational economic models can be built to
accountfor playful activities-not to mentionchild bearing,marriage,and resources, daydreaming, creativity, emotions, play, and
otherforms of behaviorgenerallyviewed as psychosocial or nonpurposive artisticendeavors may benefit from a broadenedview.
in origin. We merely wish to indicate that, in our currentstate of knowl- Abandoningthe informationprocessing approachis un-
edge, the psychodynamics of enjoyment and fun are perhaps less well desirable, but supplementingand enriching it with an ad-
understoodthan are the more technologicaland physiological relationships
that underlie the conventional utilitarianapproachto customer value (cf.
mixture of the experientialperspectivecould be extremely
Becker 1976, pp. 13-14). fruitful. Such an expansionof consumerresearchwill raise
EXPERIENTIAL
ASPECTSOF CONSUMPTION 139

vital but previouslyneglected issues concerning(1) the role Dichter, Ernest(1960), The Strategyof Desire, GardenCity, NY:
of esthetic products, (2) multisensory aspects of product Doubleday.
enjoyment, (3) the syntactic dimensions of communica- Friedman, Meyer and Ray H. Rosenman (1974), Type A: Your
tion, (4) time budgetingin the pursuitof pleasure, (5) prod- Behavior and YourHeart, New York: Knopf.
uct-relatedfantasies and imagery, (6) feelings arisingfrom Hansen, Flemming (1981), "Hemispherical Lateralization:Im-
plications for UnderstandingConsumerBehavior," Journal
consumption, and (7) the role of play in providing enjoy- of ConsumerResearch, 8 (June), 23-36.
ment and fun. This is the point of asking questions con- and Niels Erik Lundsgaard(1981), "Brain Lateralization
cerning the natureof experientialconsumption-questions and Individual Differences in People's Reaction to Mass
such as: Communication," working paper, Copenhagen School of
* "Which painting is the most beautiful?" Economics and Business Administration.
Hilgard,ErnestR. (1962), "Impulsive Versus Realistic Thinking:
* "Which tastes better, chocolate or strawberry?" An Examinationof the DistinctionBetween Primaryand Sec-
* "What makes Beethoven great?" ondary Processes in Thought," Psychological Bulletin, 59
* ''How much do you watch television?" (6), 477-488.
(1980), "Consciousness in ContemporaryPsychology,"
* "What do you see when you turn out the lights?" AnnualReview of Psychology, 31, 1-26.
* "What makes you happy?" Hirschman,ElizabethC. (1982), "Religious Affiliationand Con-
* "How did you spend your vacation?" sumption Processes: An Initial Paradigm," forthcoming in
Research in Marketing.
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advocate a "new" theory of consumerbehavior nor to re- Behavior, Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Consumer Re-
ject the "old" approach,but ratherto arguefor an enlarged search.
view that avoids any adherenceto the "-isms" or "-olo- Howard, John A. and Jagdish N. Sheth (1969), The Theory of
gies" that so often constrict scientific inquiry. One cannot Buyer Behavior, New York: John Wiley.
reduce the explanationof humanbehaviorto any narrowly Huizinga, Johan (1970), Homo Ludens:A Study of the Play Ele-
circumscribedand simplistic model, whetherthat model be ment in Culture, New York: Harper& Row.
Kassarjian,Harold H. (1977), "Content Analysis in Consumer
behavioristic or psychoanalytic, ethological or anthropo- Research," Journal of ConsumerResearch, 4 (June), 8-18.
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