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Stages Of Consumer Socialisation (John, 2008)
Stages Of Cognitive & Social Development
1. Cognitive DevelopmentThe most well-known framework for characterising developments in cognitive abilities is Piaget's theory, which proposes four main stages of cognitive development:o
Sensorimotor (0-2 years).
Preoperational (2-7 years).
Concrete operational (7-11 years).
Formal operational (11+ years).
Preoperational children tend to be perceptually bound to the readily observable aspects of their environment, unlike concrete operational children who do not accept perception as reality but can think about stimuli in their environment in a more thoughtful way.Preoperational children are also characterised by centration, which is the tendency to focus on a single dimension.In contrast the concrete operational child can consider several dimensions of a stimulus at the same time and relate the dimensions in a thoughtful and relatively abstract way.In the formal operational stage, children progress to more adult like thought patterns, capable of even more complex though about concrete and hypothetical objects and situations.Information processing theories of child development provide additional explanatory power for the types of cognitive abilities evidenced by children as they mature,Several formulations of information processing theory exist but all share a focus on children's developing skills in the areas of acquisition, encoding, organisation and retrieval of information.?
In the consumer behaviour literature, children have been characterised as belonging to one of three segments:
Strategic processors (12+) use a variety of strategies for storing and retrieving information such as verbal labelling,
rehearsal and use of retrieval cues to guide memory search.Cued processors (7-11) are able to use a similar set of strategies to enhance information storage and retrieval but typically need to be aided by explicit prompts or cues.Children under the age of 7 are limited processors with processing skills that are not fully developed nor successfully utilised in learning situations, even when prompted to do so.
2. Social DevelopmentThe area of social development includes a wide variety of topics such as moral development, altruism and pro-social development, impression formation and social perspective taking.Social perspective taking, involving the ability to see perspectives beyond one's own, is strongly related to purchase influence and negotiation skills.Impression formation, involving the ability to make social comparisons, is strongly related to understanding the social aspects of products and consumption. ?Developments in social perspective taking are described well by Selman (1980). There are 5 stages:
The egocentric stage (3-6 years).
The social informational role taking stage (6-8 years).
The self-reflective role taking stage (8-10 years).
Mutual role taking stage (10-12 years).
Social and conventional system role taking (12-15 years).
In the preschool and kindergarten years, the egocentric stage (3-6 years), children are unaware of any perspective other than their own.As they enter the next stage, the social informational role taking stages (6-8 years), children become aware that others may have different opinions or motives, but believe that this is due to having different information rather than a different perspective on the situation. Therefore children in this stage do not exhibit the ability to actually think from another person's perspective.This ability surfaces in the self-reflective role taking stage (8-10 years) as children can understand that other may have different opinions even if they have the same information. They can consider another person's viewpoint but not simultaneously with their own.This ability emerges in the fourth stage of mutual role taking (10-12 years). This is the most important juncture as much social interaction, such as persuasion and negotiation requires a dual consideration of both parties' perspectives.The final stage, social and conventional system role taking (12-15 years) features an additional development which is the ability to understand another person's perspective as it relates to the social group to which they belong or the social system in which they operate.?
Impression formation abilities also undergo dramatic development (Barenboim, 1981). There are three stages:
Behavioural comparisons phase (6-8 years).
Psychological constructs phase (8-10 years).
Psychological comparisons phase (11+ years).
Before the age of 6, children describe other people in concrete or absolute terms, often mentioning physical appearances or overt behaviours. However these descriptions do not incorporate comparisons with other people.In Barenboim's first stage the behavioural comparisons phase (6-8 years) children do incorporate comparisons as a basis of their impressions but the comparisons continue to be based on concrete attributes or behaviours.In the second stage, called the psychological constructs phase (8-10 years) impressions are based on psychological or abstract attributes but do include comparisons to others.Comparisons based on psychological or abstract attributes do not emerge until the psychological comparisons phase
(11+ years) which feature more adult like impressions of people.
Stages Of Consumer SocialisationConsumer socialisation can be viewed as a developmental process occurring in a series of stages as children become socialised into their roles as consumers.Changes occur as children move through three stages of consumer socialisation:
The perceptual stage (3-7 years).
The analytical stage (7-11 years).
The reflective stage (11+ years). ?
The perceptual stage derives its name from the overwhelming emphasis that children in this stage place on perceptual as opposed to abstract or symbolic thought.The analytical stage is named for the vast improvements seen in this stage in children's abilities to approach matters in a more detailed and analytic way.The reflective stage derives its name from the ability of children of this age to reflect on the complex social contexts and meanings related to consumption.
1. Perceptual StageThe perceptual stage (3-7 years) is characterised by a general orientation toward the immediate and readily observable perceptual features of the market place.Piaget's notion of perceptual boundness describes these children well, as does his idea of centration on a single dimension of objects and events.Children's consumer knowledge is based on perceptual features and distinctions often based on a single dimension or attribute and represented in terms of concrete details from their own observations.These children exhibit familiarity with concepts in the market places such as brands or retail stores but rarely understand them beyond a surface level.Due to constraints in encoding and organising information individual objects or experiences are rarely integrated into more generalised knowledge structures with multiple dimensions, perspectives and contingencies.Many of these same characteristics hold true for consumer decision making skills and influence strategies at the perceptual stage. The orientation here can best be described as simple, expedient and egocentric.Decisions are often made on the basis of very limited information, often on the basis of a single attribute that is perceptually salient (e.g. size). This strategy is rarely modified to fit different choice tasks or situations.Limited adaptivity is also a feature of children's influence strategies. Children approach these situations from an egocentric perspective, unable to incorporate another person's perspective in using a strategy to influence or negotiate for desired items.Although they may be aware that their parents have other views, children at this age have difficulty thinking about their own perspective and that of another person simultaneously.
2. Analytical StageEnormous changes take place both cognitively and socially as children move into the analytical stage (7-11 years).This period contains some of the most important developments in terms of consumer knowledge, skills and consumption motivations.The shift from perceptual thought through to symbolic along with dramatic increases in information processing abilities results in a more sophisticated understanding of the marketplace, a more complex set of knowledge about concepts such as advertising and brands, and a new perspective that goes beyond their own feelings and motives.Concepts such as brand categories or prices are thought of in terms of functional or underlying dimension s, products and brands are analysed and discriminated on the basis of more than one dimension or attribute and generalisations are drawn from ones experience.Reasoning proceeds at a more abstract level setting the stage of knowledge structures that include information about abstract concepts such as advertiser's motives as well as the notion of contingencies.The ability to analyse stimuli on multiple dimensions and the acknowledgement of contingencies brings about vast changes in children's consumer decision making skills and strategies.
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