Which psychological factors influence buying choices?

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  • Post last modified:June 8, 2021

Several factors influence the buying choices of consumers. Some of them are economic, others sociocultural, or might be technological or even psychological in nature. Human personality and psychology are also awesome important factors that influence consumer buying behavior. In Kotler’s words, “The consumer’s choice results from the complex interplay of cultural, social, personal, and psychological factors.”

There are four psychological factors that influence consumers’ buying choices. 

They are:

  1. Motivation
  2. Perception
  3. Learning
  4. Beliefs and attitudes

Motivation:

A person has several needs at a given time, which may be biological, like hunger and thirst or psychological arising from the need for recognition, esteem, or belonging. A psychological need, when aroused to sufficient intensity, becomes a motive. If a need presses a person enough to seek its satisfaction, it becomes a motive or a drive. Two of the theories of psychological needs that have found heavy popularity are the ones given by Sigmund Freud and Abraham Maslow. 

Freud assumed that people were unaware of the real psychological forces shaping their behavior. His theory suggests that subconscious motives affect people’s buying behavior that a consumer himself might not be aware of. 

Now, if a middle-aged person buys a convertible, he might explain that he likes its speed and the feel of the wind. However, he might be intending to impress others at a deeper level or trying to feel young and independent once more. Many times consumers will be unable to describe why they are acting the way they do.

Perception:

A motivated person remains ready to act. However, the way he acts is affected by his perception. While we all have the five senses through which we learn, each one receives, organizes, and interprets the sensory information in his individual manner.

People select, organize and interpret information to form a meaningful picture of the world. This process is called perception. 

The same stimulus can give rise to different perceptions in different people because of three perceptual processes:

  • Selective attention
  • Selective Distortion
  • Selective Retention

People are exposed to a large variety and amount of stimuli daily. The number of ad messages people are exposed to daily can range between 3000 to 5000. No one can pay equal attention to all the stimuli surrounding him. People adopt selective attention to screen out most of the information they are exposed to. It is also why gaining people’s attention becomes difficult for marketers. They need to work hard to design ads that will catch and sustain people’s attention. 

People also process the stimuli they receive and try to fit it in their existing mindset. The tendency of interpreting information in a way that supports one’s existing beliefs is called selective distortion. It is just like trying to fit every picture in a larger frame. While some fit easily, others may be difficult to retain.

People do not retain all the information they receive. They only retain the information that supports their existing beliefs and attitudes. This process is called selective retention. It also implies that people will retain the information they love about the brand they favor and may discard the good points about a competing brand or product. For example, an Apple fan will remember all the good points he knows about an iPhone and try to forget any good points he might know about Samsung or Huawei premium phones. It is true about BMW, Tesla, or any market-leading brand.

Learning: 

Learning refers to the changes in our behavior that happen with experience. People learn when they act. Apart from it, learning theorists also state that most human behavior is learned. Learning takes place through an interplay of drives, stimuli, cues, responses, and reinforcement. 

A drive is a strong internal stimulus resulting in a call for action. A drive takes the form of a motive when directed toward a particular stimulus object.  For example, someone’s drive for self-actualization motivates him to buy a camera. There are surrounding cues that influence the buyer’s idea of purchasing a camera. Cues are the minor stimuli that determine when, where, and how the person responds. Cues can include several camera brands in a shop’s window, special sale prices, or a discussion with a friend about a camera. 

Suppose the consumer responds by buying the product and has a rewarding experience. In that case, he will use more and more of the product, and his response will be reinforced. If he goes to buy for a second time, the chances of buying the same brand will be higher. Learning theory has some practical implications for marketers. For example, they might build up demand for a product by associating it with strong drives, using motivating cues, and providing positive reinforcement.

Beliefs and attitudes:

People acquire beliefs and attitudes through doing and learning. These beliefs and attitudes influence their buying behavior. A descriptive thought a person holds about something is called belief.  These beliefs can be based on real knowledge, opinion, or faith and may or may not carry an emotional charge. Marketers are interested in people’s beliefs about specific products and brands since they affect the brand image and in turn buying behavior. If some of these beliefs are wrong and can prevent people from buying a particular product, marketers will launch a campaign to correct these beliefs. For example, if people in a region hold a wrong belief about a particular content in a product, the marketer will try to correct it by launching a campaign.

Attitude is a person’s relatively consistent evaluations, feelings, and tendencies towards an object or idea. They can move someone towards or away from a  product since they can put him in a frame of mind that makes the person like or dislike the particular product. Attitudes can be difficult to change since there is a pattern in attitudes and changing one will require making difficult adjustments to the others. It is why a company must try to fit its products into existing attitudes rather than trying to change them. Products that fit easily will sell easily. However, there are several exceptions as well as sometimes repositioning or extending a product or brand will require a change in attitudes.

Abhijeet Pratap

Abhijeet has been blogging on educational topics and business research since 2016. He graduated with a Hons. in English literature from BRABU and an MBA from the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi. He likes to blog and share his knowledge and research in business management, marketing, literature and other areas with his readers.