Good Case Study On Social And Psychological Theories In Buying Behavior

Type of paper: Case Study

Topic: Shopping, Theory, Business, Teenagers, Youth, Brand, Customers, Products

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2020/10/07


Young people nowadays are very much aware of the brands of things they buy. They often buy bags, make-up, clothes which are produced by top designers. Branding is the use of a name, term, symbol or design to give a product a unique identity in the marketplace (Handlin, 2015). Buying behavior is defined by Enis (2011, p.228) that it is ‘a process which though inputs and their use through process actions which leads to satisfaction of needs and wants’. Products are bought because of the image it gives to the consumer. Moreover, there are also underlying theories which are observed in consumers and answers why people buy such brands.

Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning
Social theories are one of the things to be considered why people buy a certain product since it gives a concrete explanation of the actions and reactions of humans. Lantos (2011, pp. 22-23) explained one social theory which is the ‘classical conditioning’ of Ivan Pavlov. Conditioning is passively learned, low-involvement associative process of instinctive responses or habits produced mainly by recurrence plus the reinforcement of the responses by Lantos (2011).
Lantos (2011, p.23), elucidated on the five concepts used in the theory of Pavlov which are the following: (1) drives which are the internal tensions activated by unsatisfied needs and wants; (2) cues (stimuli) which mostly the environmental stimuli received by the five senses; (3) association which is the linkage between two or more cues; (4) responses is the person’s reaction to the cue(s) to reduce the drive; and (5) reinforcement is the reward causing from a response to a stimulus that lessens the drive’s strength.
Pavlov’s conditioning theory is apt for the young buyers. These young adults are impulsive and oftentimes buy things they think they lack which brings the ‘drive’ in perspective. The ‘cue’ is when their senses feel that need to buy something which they thought they need. Their ‘association’ to this need is then linked to their senses. For instance, a young woman saw a Hermes bag and the design got her attention which satisfied the sense of sight. Afterwards, she will buy it and her ‘drive’ was lessened because she was gratified by buying the bag. The ‘reinforcement’ is the reward she will get from the envious eyes of her friends and compliments from other people.

Freud’s Psychoanalytical Theory

The interaction between id, ego and superego is quite evident in the buying behavior of these young people. Freud’s model suggests that human needs operate at different at various levels of consciousness. According to Freud a child comes in this world with needs that lie in the ‘id’. While the is growing up these subtle needs which were not gratified were stored in their ‘ego’ and is then pacified by the ‘superego’ which let the person feel guilty whenever he or she tries to satisfy his or her wants (Naik and Venugopal, 1999).
When this theory is translated to the buying behavior of young people, Freud stated that the decision of buying in a person is not simplistic and operates in different levels. For instance, a man bought a top of the line brand of car and may explain to other s that he bought it because of its design and maneuverability but in his subconscious mind or the ‘id’ he may have had a desire to feel young or impress women. At a deeper level this maybe a cause of gratification of something the person have not satisfied when he was still young.

Trait Theory

This theory postulates that that an individual’s personality is made up of definite predisposition attributes called traits (Sandip. 2013. PDF file.) In trait theory, the traits are defined as compulsiveness, ambitiousness, gregariousness, dogmatism, authoritarianism, ethnocentricism, introversion, extroversion, aggressiveness and competitiveness. It was found out that the personality of the buyers is linked to the choice of purchase or product which is in broad selection rather specific brand (Sandip. 2013. PDF file).
This theory is true in a response given by the young students interviewed in the case study. One of the answers which emerged was luxury brands are snobbery, elitism, and ostentatious which are connected to the trait of the person buying it. The buyer may exude such traits which can be reflected to the products he or she buys.
The trait theory is elucidated by Bay, Gill, Petrizzi, and Rath ( 2015, pp. 136-137) are introversion, extroversion, and negativism. Introverts are people who chose to turn inward, and do not want to ask for approval from others. Extroverts are people are sociable, outgoing, and concerned with external matters. Negativism, simply is the expression of negative thoughts and showing negative outlook in life.
In the case study, one of the answers which emerged is that luxury products are superfluous, useless, ephemeral, superficial things which are descriptions of a person who exhibits negativism when it comes to luxury brands.

Self –Concept and Self- Image

Self – concept has two major elements which are ‘actual’ self and ‘ideal’ self. ‘Actual’ self is the natural make-up of a person while ‘ideal’ self is the person’s second version of himself and the only one he wants to portray to other people (Sahney.2015, PDF file).
As a consumer, having two selves in the marketplace is quite difficult. When the ‘actual’ self tries to buy a product that matches his or her personality, his or her ‘ideal’ self cones in the scene to remind him or her that the product should match the group where he or she belongs. This is an indication that person is conscious in what other people will think when he or she buys a product.
Self- image arises from person’s background, values, lifestyles, experiences and other things such as interaction with friends, relatives and family that create a person’s image (Sahney. 2015, PDF file). Self-image is slightly the same with self-concept, however, the consumer buys a product which matches herself or himself regardless of what other people will. This is done by the consumer to preserve her or his image to other people. The implication of self-image to the buying behavior of young adult is that everyone is unique, hence they choose a luxury product which will identify their personality.

Identity-Related Function on Buying Behavior

This theory is akin to ‘extended self theory’ which uses props or settings to define their social roles. According to Luyckxs, Schwarts, and Vignoles (2011, p. 74) individuals give accounts on how their possessions aid them in doing their roles more effectively and efficiently. To cite an example, when a young lady buys a make-up which is produced by a renowned company, applying to her skin makes her famous too to her friends.
This theory of identity-related function underscores as well ‘self-congruity’. The fit between the ideal identity and product image, finding a suitable fit predicts stronger liking for goods or brands and stronger purchase motivation, with some indications that effects are more powerful for ideal identity than actual identity (Luyckxs, Schwarts and Vignoles, 2011). For instance, when a person thinks the brand of the product fits his personality he has the propensity to buy it since it will enhance how he thought of himself.

In this theory whatever a person buys is an extension or reflection of himself.

Individual’s Attachment to a Group
This is a theory under socio-cultural theory which is being ‘compliant’. The proponent of this theory is Thorstein Veblem and is known as the Veblenian Model. He stressed that human is primarily a social animal and his wants and behavior are largely influenced by the group of which he is a member (Ushadevi. 2013, PDF file). In this model it is emphasized that people have inclination to fit in a society in spite of personal likes and dislikes and are affected by thwe following factors: culture, subculture, social classes, reference groups and family (Ushadevi. 2013, PDF file).
Lifestyle is the pattern of living as expressed in his or her activities, interests, and opinions (Tamboli. 2008, PDF file). A lifestyle characteristically affects an individual’s attitude, perception of the world and values (Tamboli. 2008, PDF file).
In the case study the reference to luxury may be linked in this theory. The life styles, way of life, and a certain culture of a person greatly affect the woman or man’s life so she or he will be accepted in a certain group. For instance, a young man is pressured to buy a luxury product because all his friends have a bag which is produced by a famous company. So he will still be accepted and will not be out of place in his group he has to buy that bag so he can fit in.
According to Marketing Archive (2015) aside from lifestyles, there are still other factors which affect the behavior of buyers such as roles, family influences, reference groups, and social classes. Role is defined as a position a person occupies in a society; family influences means the individual’s role in the family; reference groups is any small or big group that positively or negatively affects the attitude of the buying behavior of a person; and social classes is an open collective group with social classes.
Moreover, further explanations of the components of social class that greatly affect the buying behavior of an individual are the following: economic variables which are occupation, income, and wealth; interaction variables which are personal prestige, association and socialization; and political variables which are power, class consciousness and mobility (Tasdemir. 2015, PDF file).
Since these young people are fond of buying luxury brands they look at the role they play in their environment. They wanted to be distinct from other people and this is seen when one response given in the survey was that luxury brand is a certain rarity. By buying something that others can’t actually afford makes them included in an elite circle of people in fashion. Next is family influence which can affect them positively or negatively. In the case study there was a result that young consumers can buy luxury brands since they don’t save up for expensive dinners because of the disintegration of family unit. Instead of two parents guiding the young adult how to handle impulsiveness when buying, he or she is free to buy something of her liking. When a young adult is a member of a certain reference group the person is somehow influenced to buy whatever the group is known for. To continue to be a part of a reference group the he or she should be able to afford what brand of a luxury product the group is identified with.


Young adults who patronize luxury brands are quite inclined to match up the brands they buy depending on their personality. Most of the answers in the case study surfaced were connected to personality of these young consumers. Their self-image, self-concept and traits embody the choice of luxury products they buy. Furthermore, their choices may also be affected by some unsatisfied needs during their childhood which only materialized now when they were able to ascertain the needs which were not gratified they wanted to satisfy it now. Moreover, in a conditioned response which has stimulus that drives a young adult to buy a certain luxury brand resulted in rewards that he or she will get in buying that product.
Various sociological and psychological theories underlie in the buying behavior of young people now and they tend to make it as a basis for purchasing their favorite luxury brands.


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