Reading Passage 3
You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 29-40, which are based on Reading
Consumer Purchasing Decisions
The psychologist Carl Jung posited that people make decisions in two distinct ways: by taking in a great deal of information and over time, rationally making a choice, or by making an intuitive decision quickly. However, these categories do not necessarily reflect the full complexity of decision-making, particularly when it comes to purchases. In general, purchasing goods or services involves five steps: problem recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision, and post-purchase behavior. These steps can happen in an instant, and although they are seemingly only affected by taste and available resources, what looks like an intuitive process is actually more intricate and involves many decision points, both conscious and subconscious.
All purchases, from small to large, are affected on the most fundamental level by subconscious motivations—a set of factors that cannot be easily simplified. Psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed a hierarchy of needs to explain human motivation, in which necessities such as food and shelter must first be met in order for humans to seek fulfillment of higher order needs such as acceptance and love. Maslow’s hierarchy is usually shown as a pyramid, with fundamental physiological needs at the base, underpinning needs concerning safety, such as financial security and physical health. After those first two tiers have been satisfied, an individual can focus on needs for love and belonging. The penultimate tier consists of the need for esteem and self-respect. Only once someone has met the four more basic needs can he or she strive for the peak, self-actualization. If this final need is met, the individual has reached his true potential. Where one is on that scale may subtly affect what one will concentrate on in a purchasing decision. For instance, someone who aspires to be accepted by the members of a community will subconsciously start buying clothing that mimics what is worn by that group.
In terms of conscious decisions, psychologists have divided the process into three different styles: the single feature model, the additive feature model, and the elimination of aspects model. The single feature model means that the decision maker focuses on one aspect of a product. Here one might look at cost over all else, since it might be the most important factor to someone who is not quite secure economically. For this person, buying a set of plastic plates is a better decision than investing in fine porcelain dishware. This model works best for simple and quick decisions.
The additive feature model works better for more complex decisions, such as buying a computer. Here one would look at the types of computers and their range of features. A consumer might weigh the mobility of a laptop against the power of a desktop. This is all compounded, of course, by where the consumer is in Maslow’s hierarchy. If the person has a good job and is using the computer to develop community or find a relationship, that may affect what he is looking for.
The elimination of aspects model is similar to the additive feature model but works in reverse. Here the consumer evaluates various choices feature by feature, and when a selection doesn’t have that feature, it is eliminated until only one option is left.
Clearly, explaining purchasing behavior is a complex endeavor. In fact, beyond the subconscious factors and conscious decision models are mental shortcuts that help consumers reduce the effort in making decisions. Psychologists have identified a number of these shortcuts, or heuristics, which are used frequently and help with difficult choices in particular. For example, the availability heuristic comes into play when a consumer has a previous experience with a product or brand and then makes a decision to either buy that brand or avoid it the next time. Similarly, marketers frequently capitalize on the representative heuristic, in which a consumer presented with two products will often choose the more visually familiar option. This explains why the branding of many products look similar to one another. And even more easily understood is the price heuristic, in which a product is perceived to be of higher or lower quality based on cost, as was shown in a recent study in which consumers were presented with the exact same wine at two price points, but preferred the taste of the “more expensive” sample.
Choose the best answer A, B, C or D.
29. The process of making a purchase