Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Positive and Negative Reinforcement

Question: What Is Positive Reinforcement?
In operant conditioning, positive reinforcement involves anything that follows a behavior that makes it more likely that the behavior will occur again in the future. When a favorable outcome, event or reward occurs after an action, that particular response or behavior will be strengthened.

One of the easiest ways to remember positive reinforcement is to think of it as something being added. By thinking of it in these terms, you may find it easier to identify real-world examples of positive reinforcement.

Examples of Positive Reinforcement

Consider the following examples:

After you execute a turn during a skiing lesson, your instructor shouts out, "Great job!"

At work, you exceed this month's sales quota so your boss gives you a bonus.

For your psychology class, you watch a video about the human brain and write a paper about what you learned. Your instructor gives you 20 extra credit points for your work.
Can you identify the positive reinforcement in each of these examples? The ski instructor offering praise, the employer giving a bonus and the teacher providing bonus points are all examples of positive reinforcers. In each of these situations, the reinforcement is an additional stimulus occurring after the behavior that increases the likelihood that the behavior will occur again in the future.

An important thing to note is that positive reinforcement is not always a good thing. For example, when a child misbehaves in a store, some parents might give them extra attention or even buy the child a toy. Children quickly learn that by acting out, they can gain attention from the parent or even acquire objects that they want. Essentially, parents are actually reinforcing the misbehavior. In this case, the better solution would be to use positive reinforcement when the child is actually displaying good behavior.

Different Types of Positive Reinforcers

There are many different types of reinforcers that can be used to increase behaviors, but it is important to note that the type of reinforcer used depends upon the individual and the situation. While gold stars and tokens might be very effective reinforcement for a second-grader, they are not going to have the same effect with a high school or college student.

Natural reinforcers are those that occur directly as a result of the behavior. For example, a girl studies hard, pays attention in class and does her homework. As a result, she gets excellent grades.

Token reinforcers are points or tokens that are awarded for performing certain actions. These tokens can then be exchanged for something of value.

Social reinforcers involve expressing approval of a behavior, such as a teacher, parent or employer saying or writing "Good job" or "Excellent work."

Tangible reinforcers involve the presentation of an actual, physical reward such as candy, treats, toys, money and other desired objects. While these types of rewards can be powerfully motivating, they should be used sparingly and with caution.
When Is Positive Reinforcement Most Effective?

When used correctly, positive reinforcement can be very effective. According to a behavioral guidelines checklist published by Utah State University, positive reinforcement is most effective when it occurs immediately after the behavior. The guidelines also recommend the reinforcement should be presented enthusiastically and should occur frequently.

The shorter the amount of time between a behavior and the presentation of positive reinforcement, the stronger the connection will be. If a long period of time elapses between the behavior and the reinforcement, the weaker the connection will be. It also becomes more likely that an intervening behavior might accidentally be reinforced.

Question: What Is Negative Reinforcement?
Negative reinforcement is a term described by B. F. Skinner in his theory of operant conditioning. In negative reinforcement, a response or behavior is strengthened by stopping, removing or avoiding a negative outcome or aversive stimulus.

Aversive stimuli tend to involve some type of discomfort, either physical or psychological. Behaviors are negatively reinforced when they allow you to escape from aversive stimuli that are already present or allow you to completely avoid the aversive stimuli before they happen.

One of the best ways to remember negative reinforcement is to think of it as something beingsubtracted from the situation. When you look at it in this way, it may be easier to identify examples of negative reinforcement in the real-world.

Examples of Negative Reinforcement

Learn more by looking at the following examples:

Before heading out for a day at the beach, you slather on sunscreen in order to avoid getting sunburned.

You decide to clean up your mess in the kitchen in order to avoid getting in a fight with your roommate.

On Monday morning, you leave the house early in order to avoid getting stuck in traffic and being late for class.
Can you identify the negative reinforcer in each of these examples? Sunburn, a fight with your roommate and being late for work are all negative outcomes that were avoided by performing a specific behavior. By eliminating these undesirable outcomes, the preventative behaviors become more likely to occur again in the future.

Negative Reinforcement versus Punishment

One mistake that people often make is confusing negative reinforcement with punishment. Remember, however, that negative reinforcement involves the removal of a negative condition in order to strengthen a behavior. Punishment, on the other hand, involves either presenting or taking away a stimulus in order to weaken a behavior.

Consider the following example and determine whether you think it is an example of negative reinforcement or punishment:

Timmy is supposed to clean his room every Saturday morning. Last weekend, he went out to play with his friend without cleaning his room. As a result, his father made him spend the rest of the weekend doing other chores like cleaning out the garage, mowing the lawn and weeding the garden, in addition to cleaning his room.
If you said that this was an example of punishment, then you are correct. Because Timmy didn't clean his room, his father assigned a punishment of having to do extra chores.

When Is Negative Reinforcement Most Effective?

Negative reinforcement can be an effective way to strengthen a desired behavior. However, it is most effective when reinforcers are presented immediately following a behavior. When a long period of time elapses between the behavior and the reinforcer, the response is likely to be weaker. In some cases, behaviors that occur in the intervening time between the initial action and the reinforcer are may also be inadvertently strengthened as well.

According to Wolfgang (2001), negative reinforcement should be used sparingly in classroom settings, while positive reinforcement should be emphasized. While negative reinforcement can produce immediate results, he suggests that they are best suited for short-term use.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Attachment Theory

What is Attachment?

Attachment is an emotional bond to another person. Psychologist John Bowlby was the first attachment theorist, describing attachment as a "lasting psychological connectedness between human beings" (Bowlby, 1969, p. 194). Bowlby believed that the earliest bonds formed by children with their caregivers have a tremendous impact that continues throughout life. According to Bowlby, attachment also serves to keep the infant close to the mother, thus improving the child's chances of survival.

The central theme of attachment theory is that mothers who are available and responsive to their infant's needs establish a sense of security. The infant knows that the caregiver is dependable, which creates a secure base for the child to then explore the world.

Characteristics of Attachment

  • Safe Haven: When the child feel threatened or afraid, he or she can return to the caregiver for comfort and soothing.

  • Secure Base: The caregiver provides a secure and dependable base for the child to explore the world.

  • Proximity Maintenance: The child strives to stay near the caregiver, thus keeping the child safe.

  • Separation Distress: When separated from the caregiver, the child will become upset and distressed.

Ainsworth's "Strange Situation"

In her 1970's research, psychologist Mary Ainsworth expanded greatly upon Bowlby's original work. Her groundbreaking "Strange Situation" study revealed the profound effects of attachment on behavior. In the study, researchers observed children between the ages of 12 and 18 months as they responded to a situation in which they were briefly left alone and then reunited with their mothers (Ainsworth, 1978).

Based upon the responses the researchers observed, Ainsworth described three major styles of attachment: secure attachment, ambivalent-insecure attachment, and avoidant-insecure attachment. Later, researchers Main and Solomon (1986) added a fourth attachment style called disorganized-insecure attachment based upon their own research. A number of studies since that time have supported Ainsworth's attachment styles and have indicated that attachment styles also have an impact on behaviors later in life.

Characteristics of Attachment

Characteristics of Secure Attachment
  • Securely attached children exhibit distress when separated from caregivers and are happy when their caregiver returns. Remember, these children feel secure and able to depend on their adult caregivers. When the adult leaves, the child may be upset but he or she feels assured that the parent or caregiver will return.

  • When frightened, securely attached children will seek comfort from caregivers. These children know their parent or caregiver will provide comfort and reassurance, so they are comfortable seeking them out in times of need.

Characteristics of Ambivalent Attachment
  • Ambivalently attached children usually become very distressed when a parent leaves. This attachment style is considered relatively uncommon, affecting an estimated 7-15% of U.S. children. Research suggests that ambivalent attachment is a result of poor maternal availability. These children cannot depend on their mother (or caregiver) to be there when the child is in need.

Characteristics of Avoidant Attachment
  • Children with an avoidant attachment tend to avoid parents or caregivers. When offered a choice, these children will show no preference between a caregiver and a complete stranger. Research has suggested that this attachment style might be a result of abusive or neglectful caregivers. Children who are punished for relying on a caregiver will learn to avoid seeking help in the future.

Problems with Attachment

What happens to children who do not form secure attachments? Research suggests that failure to form secure attachments early in life can have a negative impact on behavior in later childhood and throughout the life. Children diagnosed with oppositional-defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) frequently display attachment problems, possibly due to early abuse, neglect, or trauma. Clinicians suggest that children adopted after the age of six months have a higher risk of problems with attachment.

While attachment styles displayed in adulthood are not necessarily the same as those seen in infancy, research suggests that early attachments can have a serious impact on later relationships. For example, those who are securely attached in childhood tend to have good self-esteem, strong romantic relationships, and the ability to self-disclose to others.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Social Anxiety

A woman hates to stand in line in the grocery store because she's afraid that everyone is watching her. She knows that it's not really true, but she can't shake the feeling. While she is shopping, she is conscious of the fact that people might be staring at her from the big mirrors on the inside front of the ceiling. Now, she has to talk to the person who's checking out her groceries. She tries to smile, but her voice comes out weakly. She's sure she's making a fool of herself. Her self-consciousness and anxiety rise to the roof...

Another person sits in front of the telephone and agonizes because she's afraid to pick up the receiver and make a call. She's even afraid to call an unknown person in a business office about the electric bill because she's afraid she'll be "putting someone out" and they will be upset with her. It's very hard for her to take rejection, even over the phone, even from someone she doesn't know. She's especially afraid to call people she does know because she feels that she'll be calling at the wrong time -- the other person will be busy -- and they won't want to talk with her. She feels rejected even before she makes the call. Once the call is made and over, she sits, analyzes, and ruminates about what was said, what tone it was said in, and how she was perceived by the other person....her anxiety and racing thoughts concerning the call prove to her that she "goofed" this conversation up, too, just like she always does. Sometimes she gets embarrassed just thinking about the call.

A man finds it difficult to walk down the street because he's self-conscious and feels that people are watching him from their windows. Worse, he may run into a person on the sidewalk and be forced to say hello to them. He's not sure he can do that. His voice will catch, his "hello" will sound weak, and the other person will know he's frightened. More than anything else, he doesn't want anyone to know that he's afraid. He keeps his eyes safely away from anyone else's gaze and prays he can make it home without having to talk to anyone.

A man hates to go to work because a meeting is scheduled the next day. He knows that these meetings always involve co-workers talking with each other about their current projects. Just the thought of speaking in front of co-workers raises his anxiety. Sometimes he can't sleep the night before because of the anticipatory anxiety that builds up. Finally, the meeting is over. A big wave of relief spills over him as he begins to relax. But the memory of the meeting is still uppermost in his mind. He is convinced he made a fool of himself and that everyone in the room saw how afraid he was when he spoke, and how stupid he acted in their presence. At next week's meeting, the boss is going to be there. Even though this meeting is seven days away, his stomach turns raw with anxiety and fear floods over him again. He knows that in front of the boss he'll stammer, hesitate, his face will turn red, he won't remember what to say, and everyone will witness his embarrassment and humiliation. He has seven miserable days of anxiety ahead of him -- to think about it, ruminate over it, worry about it, over-exaggerate it in his mind.......again and again and again.....

A student won't attend her university classes on the first day because she knows that in some classes the professor will instruct them to go around the room and introduce themselves. Just thinking about sitting there, waiting to introduce herself to a roomful of strangers who will be staring at her makes her feel nauseous. She knows she won't be able to think clearly because her anxiety will be so high, and she is sure she will leave out important details. Her voice might even quiver and she will sound scared and tentative. The anxiety is just too much to bear---so she skips the first day of class to avoid the possibility of having to introduce herself in class.

Another young man wants to go to parties and other social events---indeed, he is very, very lonely---but he never goes anywhere because he's very nervous about meeting new people. Too many people will be there and crowds only make things worse for him. The thought of meeting new people scares him---will he know what to say? Will they stare at him and make him feel even more insignificant? Will they reject him outright? Even if they seem nice, they're sure to notice his frozen look and his inability to fully smile. They'll sense his discomfort and tenseness and they won't like him --- there's just no way to win --- "I'm always going to be an outcast," he predicts. And he spends the night alone, at home, watching television again. He feels comfortable at home. In fact, home is the only place he does feel completely comfortable. He hasn't gone anywhere else in twelve years.

In public places, such as work, meetings, or shopping, people with social anxiety feel that everyone is watching, staring, and judging them (even though rationally they know this isn't true). The socially anxious person can't relax, "take it easy", and enjoy themselves in public. In fact, they can never fully relax when other people are around. It always feels like others are evaluating them, being critical of them, or "judging" them in some way. The person with social anxiety knows that people don't do this openly, of course, but they still feel the self-consciousness and judgment while they are in the other person's presence. It's sometimes impossible to let go, relax, and focus on anything else except the anxiety and fear. Because the anxiety is so very painful, it's much easier just to stay away from social situations and avoid other people altogether.

Many times people with social anxiety simply must be alone---closeted---with the door closed behind them. Even when they're around familiar people, a person with social anxiety may feel overwhelmed and have the feeling that others are noticing their every movement and critiquing their every thought. They feel like they are being observed critically and that other people are making negative judgments about them.

One of the worst circumstances, though, is meeting people who are "authority figures". Especially people such as bosses and supervisors at work, but including almost anyone who is seen as being "better" than they are in some respect. People with social anxiety may get a lump in their throat and their facial muscles may freeze up when they meet this person. The anxiety level is very high and they're so focused on "not failing" and "giving themselves away" that they don't even remember what was said in the conversation. But later on, they're sure they must have said the wrong thing.....because they always do.

How is it ever possible to feel "comfortable" or "natural" under these circumstances?

To the person with social anxiety, going to a job interview is pure torture: you know your excessive anxiety will give you away. You'll look funny, you'll be hesitant, maybe you'll even blush, and you won't be able to find the right words to answer the questions coherently. Maybe this is the worst part of all: You know that you are going to say the wrong thing. You just know it. It is especially frustrating because you know you could do the job well if you could just get past this terrifying and intimidating interview.

Welcome to the world of the socially anxious.

Social anxiety is the third largest psychological problem in the United States today. This type of anxiety affects 15 million Americans in any given year. Unlike some other psychological problems, social anxiety is not well understood by the general public or by medical and mental health care professionals, such as doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, social workers, and counselors. In fact, people with social anxiety are misdiagnosed almost 90% of the time. People with social phobia come to our anxiety clinic labeled as "schizophrenic", "manic-depressive", "clinically depressed", "panic disordered", and "personality disordered", among other damaging misdiagnoses.

Because few socially-anxious people have heard of their own problem, and have never seen it discussed on any media, such as the television talk shows, they think they are the only ones in the whole world who have these terrible symptoms. Therefore, they must keep quiet about them. It would be awful if everyone realized how much anxiety they experienced in daily life. Then what would people think about them? Unfortunately, without some kind of education, knowledge, and appropriate treatment, social phobia/social anxiety continues to wreak havoc throughout their lives. Adding to the dilemma, when a person with social anxiety finally gets up the nerve to seek help, the chances that they can find it are very, very slim.

Making the situation more difficult is that social anxiety does not come and go like some other physical and psychological problems. If you have social anxiety one day......you have it every day for the rest of your life.....

The feelings I described to you at the beginning of the article are those of people with social anxiety disorder. That is, their symptoms apply to most social events and functions in almost every area of life. I suffered from social anxiety myself for twenty years before I ever saw the term or read about its symptoms in a book. (The first book that specifically dealt with social phobia was not published until the 1990's.)

As with all problems, everyone with social anxiety has slightly different secondary symptoms. Some people, for example, cannot write in public because they fear people are watching and their hand will shake. Others are very introverted and they find it too difficult to hold down a job. Still others have severe anxiety about eating or drinking in the presence of other people. Some people with social anxiety feel that a certain part of their body (such as the face or neck) are particularly "strange looking" and vulnerable to being stared at. Others experience a muscle spasm (usually around the neck and shoulders) and it becomes the center of their focus ---"it's so embarrassing that if someone sees it I will be humiliated forever!"

One thing that all socially anxious people share is the knowledge that their thoughts and fears are basically irrational. That is, people with social anxiety know that others are really not critically judging or evaluating them all the time. They understand that people are not trying to embarrass or humiliate them. They realize that their thoughts and feelings are somewhat exaggerated and irrational. Yet, despite this rational knowledge, they still continue to feel differently.

It is these automatic "feelings" and thoughts that occur around social situations that must be met and conquered in therapy. Usually these anxious feelings are tied to thoughts that are entwined in a vicious cycle of negative expectations and negative appraisals. It is a catch-22 situation: there is no way out without the appropriate therapy.

Here comes the good part.

How can social anxiety be treated? Many therapeutic methods have been studied, but cognitive-behavioral therapy is the only modality that has been shown to work effectively. In fact, treatment of social anxiety through cognitive-behavioral methods has the capacity to produce long-lasting, permanent relief from the anxiety-laden world of social anxiety.

Social anxiety responds to relatively short-term therapy, depending on the severity of the condition. I have seen significant progress in just twelve individual sessions, although most people respond better with sixteen to twenty-four meetings. To overcome social anxiety, completion of a behavioral therapy group is also essential (when people feel ready for this and not before).

What socially anxious people do not need is years and years of therapy or counseling. You can't be "counseled" out of social phobia. In fact, socially anxious people who are taught to "analyze" and "ruminate" over their problems usually make their social anxiety and fears much worse, which in turn leads to depression, which just reinforces the fact that "I will never get better". (Shudder...this statement does NOT have to be true.)

THERE IS A BETTER LIFE FOR ALL PEOPLE WITH SOCIAL ANXIETY. Without treatment, social anxiety is a torturous and horrible emotional problem; with treatment, its bark is worse than its bite. Add to this that current research is clear that cognitive-behavioral therapy is highly successful in the treatment of social anxiety. In fact, the people who are unsuccessful are the ones who are not persistent in their practice and who won't stick with simple methods and techniques at home. They are the ones who give up.

If a person is motivated to end the years and years of crippling anxiety, then cognitive-behavioral treatment provides the methods, techniques, and strategies that come together to lessen the anxiety and make the world a much more enjoyable place.

Many of us have been through the crippling fears and constant anxiety that social phobia produces -- and have come out healthier and happier on the other side. You can too.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Anchoring Bias

Anchoring or focalism is a term used in psychology to describe the common human tendency to rely too heavily, or "anchor," on one trait or piece of information when making decisions.

During normal decision making, individuals anchor, or overly rely, on specific information or a specific value and then adjust to that value to account for other elements of the circumstance.

Usually once the anchor is set, there is a bias toward that value.

Take, for example, a person looking to buy a used car - they may focus excessively on the odometer reading and the year of the car, and use those criteria as a basis for evaluating the value of the car, rather than considering how well the engine or the transmission is maintained.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Panic Disorder

There is much written about anxiety and panic attacks. Why? - because they are an essential part of being human. Panic attacks and anxiety are abilities that have kept us safe for millions of years, allowed us to survive, evolve and succeed as a species.

When the world was a dangerous place, without anxiety and panic attacks we would not have carefully scanned the environment for danger and so may have died out as a species. And this is why.

What Panic Attacks are for...

Many thousands of years ago, a woman was walking through a gorge with rock walls that stretched up towards the sun, shrouding the gorge floor in shade. She was making her way to a spring near where she and her tribe lived. As she rounded a corner, she found herself face to face with a huge bear.

The animal, surprised by her attacked, swinging a massive paw. It knocked her off her feet, cutting her badly with its sharp claws and breaking three of her ribs. Despite her injuries she sprang to her feet feeling no pain and ran back the way she had come.

Over the following months, her body healed and she was able to contribute once again as a member of her tribe. She started on light work and was gathering twigs one day when she came to a stone cliff that stretched up above her, shading her from the sun.
She suddenly began to feel very uneasy and looked around. There was nothing to be seen but still the feeling increased. She dropped her bundle, turned and ran back to the safety of her tribe.

'Man the hunted'

We have long referred to man as 'man the hunter'. In evolutionary terms, and with regard to anxiety and panic attacks, this is highly misleading. We did not survive in hostile environments by being over-confident, brash, loud animals. We survived by learning how to be quiet, timid and very, very careful.

In a world where most large animals were stronger, faster, more vicious and armed with teeth or claws, the best way for humans to survive was avoidance.

Panic attacks are good for you!

The highest level of anxiety, often called a panic attack, or the 'fight or flight' response, is a fantastic emergency mechanism which puts your body in the perfect state for tackling your aggressor or getting out of there fast.

All the adrenaline, the alterations in blood flow, the changes in the digestive system and so on, are designed to give you the best chance to stay alive.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Interpretation of Dreams

When you interpret your dreams, you can learn everything about yourself and your life. The accurate translations provided to you by the scientific method of dream interpretation help you understand who you really are.

You will easily recognize that these translations are real. They explain why you have psychological problems. They will show you many details from your past that generated these problems.

You also have an interior image of the functioning of your psyche. You understand when you are influenced by your anti-conscience, which is your primitive conscience, that didn’t evolve like your human conscience. You also understand how absurd your human conscience is. Your human conscience must be developed in order to become balanced.

The scientific translations tell you the truth. They won’t tell you that you are smart and you’ll become rich to make you like what you’ll learn. They are not commercial translations based on suppositions like the dream interpretations of all the impostors who pretend to be translating dreams. The scientific translations are based on a true comprehension of the symbolic meaning of the dream images. They correct your mistakes, showing you how to be wise.

For example, dreams where you see yourself near the people you dislike, are showing you that you act like these people too. You may condemn their behavior, and criticize their opinions; yet, you are like them in many ways.

You may dislike finding out that you act like the people you condemn when you analyze the meaning of your dreams. However, you will only be able to correct your mistakes, once you observe and understand what they are. If you don’t understand that you are wrong when you act on impulse without understanding all the consequences which could occur because of these actions, you’ll keep doing what will cause you future suffering in the first place. You cannot escape from bad consequences if you don’t pay attention to your actions.

Most dreams are behavioral lessons that eliminate the influence of the negative components of your personality. You must learn how to do only what will be positive for you and your life. This is how you’ll manage to successfully face all life challenges.

There are also dreams that will give you courage. When you see yourself finding diamonds in a dream, this means that you’ll find the truth. You’ll acquire a precious and superior knowledge.

However, before seeing positive dream scenes, you must transform your personality. Only when you have become psychologically balanced and wise, will the dream images reflect your superiority. While you keep being influenced by the absurd components of your personality, the unconscious mind keeps sending you warnings.

The unconscious mind is your protector. There are many dangers you must pay attention to. On the other hand, you are too ignorant. You don’t know how to behave. Yet, you inherit too much absurdity in the biggest part of your brain. Your anti-conscience doesn’t let you evolve.

By interpreting the meaning of your dreams, you learn how to become a self-confident person, and find answers to all questions. You are in constant contact with the wise unconscious mind that knows everything. You also learn many secrets about other people, the future, and the world you live in.

Christina Sponias continued Carl Jung’s research into the human psyche, discovering the cure for all mental illnesses, and simplifying the scientific method of dream interpretation that teaches you how to exactly translate the meaning of your dreams, so that you can find health, wisdom and happiness.

Click Here to download a Free Sample of the eBook Dream Interpretation as a Science (86 pages!).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Consumer Psychology

The study of consumers helps firms and organizations improve their marketing strategies by understanding issues such as how
  • The psychology of how consumers think, feel, reason, and select between different alternatives (e.g., brands, products, and retailers);
  • The psychology of how the consumer is influenced by his or her environment (e.g., culture, family, signs, media);
  • The behavior of consumers while shopping or making other marketing decisions;
  • Limitations in consumer knowledge or information processing abilities influence decisions and marketing outcome;
  • How consumer motivation and decision strategies differ between products that differ in their level of importance or interest that they entail for the consumer; and
  • How marketers can adapt and improve their marketing campaigns and marketing strategies to more effectively reach the consumer.

One "official" definition of consumer behavior is "The study of individuals, groups, or organizations and the processes they use to select, secure, use, and dispose of products, services, experiences, or ideas to satisfy needs and the impacts that these processes have on the consumer and society." Although it is not necessary to memorize this definition, it brings up some useful points:

  • Behavior occurs either for the individual, or in the context of a group (e.g., friends influence what kinds of clothes a person wears) or an organization (people on the job make decisions as to which products the firm should use).
  • Consumer behavior involves the use and disposal of products as well as the study of how they are purchased. Product use is often of great interest to the marketer, because this may influence how a product is best positioned or how we can encourage increased consumption. Since many environmental problems result from product disposal (e.g., motor oil being sent into sewage systems to save the recycling fee, or garbage piling up at landfills) this is also an area of interest.
  • Consumer behavior involves services and ideas as well as tangible products.
  • The impact of consumer behavior on society is also of relevance. For example, aggressive marketing of high fat foods, or aggressive marketing of easy credit, may have serious repercussions for the national health and economy.

There are four main applications of consumer behavior:

  • The most obvious is for marketing strategy—i.e., for making better marketing campaigns. For example, by understanding that consumers are more receptive to food advertising when they are hungry, we learn to schedule snack advertisements late in the afternoon. By understanding that new products are usually initially adopted by a few consumers and only spread later, and then only gradually, to the rest of the population, we learn that (1) companies that introduce new products must be well financed so that they can stay afloat until their products become a commercial success and (2) it is important to please initial customers, since they will in turn influence many subsequent customers’ brand choices.
  • A second application is public policy. In the 1980s, Accutane, a near miracle cure for acne, was introduced. Unfortunately, Accutane resulted in severe birth defects if taken by pregnant women. Although physicians were instructed to warn their female patients of this, a number still became pregnant while taking the drug. To get consumers’ attention, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) took the step of requiring that very graphic pictures of deformed babies be shown on the medicine containers.
  • Social marketing involves getting ideas across to consumers rather than selling something. Marty Fishbein, a marketing professor, went on sabbatical to work for the Centers for Disease Control trying to reduce the incidence of transmission of diseases through illegal drug use. The best solution, obviously, would be if we could get illegal drug users to stop. This, however, was deemed to be infeasible. It was also determined that the practice of sharing needles was too ingrained in the drug culture to be stopped. As a result, using knowledge of consumer attitudes, Dr. Fishbein created a campaign that encouraged the cleaning of needles in bleach before sharing them, a goal that was believed to be more realistic.
  • As a final benefit, studying consumer behavior should make us better consumers. Common sense suggests, for example, that if you buy a 64 liquid ounce bottle of laundry detergent, you should pay less per ounce than if you bought two 32 ounce bottles. In practice, however, you often pay a size premium by buying the larger quantity. In other words, in this case, knowing this fact will sensitize you to the need to check the unit cost labels to determine if you are really getting a bargain.

There are several units in the market that can be analyzed. Our main thrust in this course is the consumer. However, we will also need to analyze our own firm’s strengths and weaknesses and those of competing firms. Suppose, for example, that we make a product aimed at older consumers, a growing segment. A competing firm that targets babies, a shrinking market, is likely to consider repositioning toward our market. To assess a competing firm’s potential threat, we need to examine its assets (e.g., technology, patents, market knowledge, awareness of its brands) against pressures it faces from the market. Finally, we need to assess conditions (the marketing environment). For example, although we may have developed a product that offers great appeal for consumers, a recession may cut demand dramatically.


Almost everyone has an irrational fear or two. Some get nervous at the thought of needles. Others shriek at the sight of a mouse. Still others get woozy when they look down from tall buildings. For most people, these fears are minor. But for some, these fears are so severe that they cause tremendous anxiety and interfere with normal day-to-day life.

When fears are irrational and disabling, they are called phobias. If you’re living in fear because of your phobia, take hope. You can overcome phobias and fears with the right treatment and self-help strategies. So don’t wait to seek help.

What is a phobia?

A phobia is an intense fear of something that, in reality, poses little or no actual danger. Common phobias and fears include closed-in places, heights, highway driving, flying insects, snakes, and needles. However, we can develop phobias of virtually anything. Most phobias develop in childhood, but they can also develop in adults.

If you have a phobia, you probably realize that your fear is unreasonable, yet you still can’t control your feelings. Just thinking about the thing you fear may make you anxious. And when you’re actually exposed to your phobia, the terror is automatic and overwhelming.

The experience is so nerve-wracking that you may go to great lengths to avoid it – inconveniencing yourself or even changing your lifestyle. If you have claustrophobia, for example, you might turn down a lucrative job offer if you have to ride the elevator to get to the office. If you have a fear of heights, you might drive an extra twenty miles in order to avoid a tall bridge.

Common types of phobias and fears

There are four general types of common phobias and fears:

  • Animal phobias. Animal phobias are fears caused by an animal or insect. Examples include fear of snakes, fear of spiders, fear of rodents, and fear of dogs.
  • Natural environment phobias. Natural environment phobias are fears cued by objects found in nature. Examples include fear of heights, fear of storms, fear of water, and fear of the dark.
  • Situational phobias. Situational phobias are fears triggered by a specific situation. Examples include fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), fear of elevators, fear of flying, fear of dentists, fear of driving, fear of tunnels, and fear of bridges.
  • Blood-Injection-Injury phobia. Blood-injection-injury phobia involves fear of blood, fear or injury, or a fear of shots or another medical procedure.