Accounting for consumer choice: inter-temporal decision making in behavioural perspective

Accounting for consumer choice: inter-temporal decision making in behavioural perspective
Document type
Working Paper
Foxall, Gordon R
Cardiff Business School
Date of publication
1 February 2010
Cardiff Marketing and Strategy Working Papers
Marketing: all aspects of marketing, advertising and public relations
Business and management
Material type

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The paper argues that only a model of consumer choice which incorporates the various influences on impulsive and inhibited choice and their manifestations can explain both everyday and extreme consumer behaviour. This process requires the integration of evolutionary psychology with the insights provided by neuroeconomics and reinforcement learning. A model of consumer choice based on reinforcement learning, the Behavioural Perspective Model, enables such integration by synthesizing the range of consumer behaviours observed in the modern world and the differing patterns of influence exerted by their common neurobiological and environmental causes. Temporal discounting, which is apparent in all modes of consumer behaviour from the routine to the addictive, is an evolutionary endowment that has been biologically and culturally modified through time. Its evolutionary advantage is most obvious in the pre-agricultural phases of the Pleistocene era when immediate consumption was essential to both survival and biological fitness and delay would inhibit both. The capacity to overcome impulsivity, on which both agrarian and animal husbandry depend, required the development of executive functions that enable long term memory, self-rule formation and the self-control of emotional response to engender behavioural inhibition. In human evolutionary terms, the key outcome of this development has been the capacity of behaviour to be reinforced by symbolic as well as functional consequences and the consequent ability to enter into collective intentionality. 

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