G5 Artikkeliväitöskirja

Evolutionary psychology for consumers : awareness of ultimate explanations as a self-reflective tool for consumer empowerment

Julkaisun tekijät: Piha Samuel

Kustantaja: University of Turku: Turku School of Economics

Paikka: Turku

Julkaisuvuosi: 2018

ISBN: 978-951-29-7432-0

eISBN: 978-951-29-7433-7

Verkko-osoite: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-29-7433-7


Evolutionary psychology is becoming a popular approach in consumer research. Evolutionary-based consumer research has, however, typically been undertaken from the managerial rather than from the consumer perspective. The current thesis aims to fill this gap by conceptually integrating evolutionary psychology and transformative consumer research through positive psychology. The objective is to investigate the usefulness of evolutionary psychology, especially the consumer’s awareness of ultimate explanations, as a self-reflective tool for consumer self-regulation and empowerment. The thesis consists of an introductory essay and three empirical articles about insect-based food (Article 1), customer toilets (Article 2) and sex toys (Article 3).

First, the thesis lays down the principles of evolutionary-based consumer research, including the ultimate level of explanation and fundamental motives. Answering the first research question (How can ultimate explanations deepen the understanding of consumers’ need fulfilment?), the thesis builds an analytical framework of ultimate explanations behind the approach and avoidance tendencies towards need fulfilment. Then, after introducing the philosophical positioning of the role of evolutionary psychology as an instrumental method theory, the thesis answers the second research question (What ultimate explanations are related to the approach and avoidance tendencies concerning [a] buying insectbased food, [b] using customer toilets and [c] buying sex toys?) by applying this analytical framework to reinterpret the three consumer-related phenomena presented in the empirical articles.

Ultimate reinterpretations suggest that regarding insect-based food (Article 1), the approach tendency is to eat healthily and sustainably, fundamentally motivated by status seeking, and the avoidance tendency is disgust and neophobia, fundamentally motivated by disease avoidance. Regarding customer toilets (Article 2), the approach tendency is to relieve a physiological urgency in a socially appropriate way based on the fundamental motive of affiliation, and the avoidance tendencies are fear and disgust, stemming from the fundamental motives of selfprotection and disease avoidance. Finally, regarding sex toys (Article 3), the approach tendency relates to enhancing sexual pleasure, fundamentally motivated by mate retention and acquisition, and the avoidance tendency is the fear of being sexually exposed based on the fundamental motives of self-protection and affiliation.

Following this ultimate-level reinterpretation, the thesis answers the third research question (How can ultimate explanations operate as a basis for consumer empowerment?) by constructing and illustrating the conceptual idea labelled as evolutionarily-informed empowerment. According to this idea, the awareness of the ultimate explanations and fundamental motives behind reactive behavior (such as the behaviour illustrated in the three empirical phenomena) is argued to be the starting point in a process where consumers can critically deliberate over this reactive behaviour. Supposedly, this deliberation will empower consumers to adopt the habit of making wiser and more rationally-informed consuming decisions not only in these three illustrative cases but also in other consumptionrelated situations. Although the current doctoral thesis mainly aims at increasing consumers’ own understanding of their behaviour, the idea of evolutionarilyinformed empowerment may also offer valuable insights for marketing practitioners. Additionally, evolutionarily-informed empowerment is suggested to operate as a useful tool in consumer and marketing education.

While this thesis corroborates the role of ultimate explanations in consumer empowerment, it also acknowledges that evolutionarily-informed empowerment is only one source of consumer empowerment, and even psychological empowerment may take place without the awareness of ultimate explanations. Additionally, the conditions where the idea of evolutionary-informed empowerment is applicable is subject to certain limitations. Specifically, the interfaces between constructs (ultimate explanations, self-awareness, self-regulation and consumer empowerment) may be interfered with by certain factors such as the acceptance and understanding of evolutionary psychology, ego depletion and a consumer’s own sense of virtuosity. As the functionality of the framework is only illustrated through reinterpretation, future research is needed in order to deductively test its validity. A key research direction where the framework could also be applied is, for example, consumer behaviour related to mental and sexual health. Despite the limitations and questions that potentially direct future research on the topic, the thesis already contributes to the consumer research literature by taking a consumer perspective on evolutionary-based consumer research. In particular, the current thesis is among the first studies to use evolutionary psychology in understanding transformative consumer research and consumer empowerment.

Last updated on 2021-24-06 at 10:56