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What Does a Consumer Psychologist Do?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 27 October 2016
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A consumer psychologist is a person responsible for researching and explaining the purchasing habits of consumers, as well as other relevant consumer behaviors. Research in this field is often experimental, and may involve focus groups as well as traditional psychological research. A person with insight into the thoughts of consumers can market this knowledge to many different businesses, and can be employed in advertising or even in business architecture to maximize profits. Generally, a consumer psychologist works by consulting with different businesses rather than working with a single company in order to maximize profits.

The basic idea behind consumer psychology is that humans tend to act in certain ways based on their culture, personal habits, and even human nature, and playing on how these basic regularities function can yield higher profits for a business. For example, a consumer psychologist might suggest that a company make an emotional appeal in an advertising campaign in order to make consumers feel that they need something they did not know they needed. Using psychoanalysis and drawing from other business fields, a consumer psychologist makes generalizations about a company's consumer base and attempts to come up with ways to exploit their insecurities, desires, and social needs.

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In most cases, a consumer psychologist is charged with doing research and making a compelling argument for one strategy that will be employed by a business. Determining which advertising strategy will be most successful in any given case requires looking at data about a specific customer base as well as thinking about the target audience. The psychological theories employed by a consumer psychologist may be quite different depending on his or her educational background, but it generally does not matter which theory is used so long as the results are positive. Consumer psychology is less concerned with theoretical accuracy and more concerned with demonstrable profits.

The daily duties of a consumer psychologist depend on how he or she works. If the psychologist runs an independent consulting firm, then he or she may perform research, brainstorm, and even do office tasks depending on the size of the office. Working independently may allow for greater profits and more professional freedom, but it also requires more marketing and business skills. For this reason, many people find that working as an employee of a consulting firm is a better approach to this profession.

When working for an advertising firm or other business, the psychologist's job may be highly specific. Many companies hire people who specialize in this type of psychology to perform fairly isolated tasks rather than the entire process of research and analysis often performed by consultants. A consumer psychologist's job duties may be very different at various companies, and meeting employer expectations by remaining adaptable is important in this field.

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fBoyle
Post 3

I think it's a good thing that manufacturers are interested in consumer psychology. At least we'll get products that we really want.

discographer
Post 2

@bluedolphin-- My brother is a consumer psychologist and he does not do anything unethical in my view. A consumer psychologist does not have to be part of a team that develops strategies to exploit people to sell a product. Usually, consumer psychologists do research, not all of which is used by companies.

My brother researches trends in general social psychology and consumer interests. As far as I understand, he looks for trends in the psychology of Americans and then compares this information with what Americans prefer to buy. His research is published in a trade journal. Of course, marketing departments of companies may benefit from this information but my brother has nothing to do with how they interpret his research or how they use it. His job is just research and that's what he does.

bluedolphin
Post 1

I did not even know that consumer psychologist exists, but now that I know about this occupation, I think it's a bit unethical.

I've always thought of psychologists as people who want to help others by giving them the psychological support they need and showing them ways to overcome their issues. But a consumer psychologist first learns about people's tendencies and weaknesses and then helps manufacturers exploit them.

I don't mean any disrespect for people who do this for a living. I'm sure there is good money in this occupation as well. But if I was a psychologist, I don't think I would want to do this kind of work.

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