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The Direct and Indirect Influences of Human Values on Consumer Choices

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posted on 2021-11-03, 22:17 authored by Allen, Michael W

The aim of the present thesis is to develop a conceptual framework of how consumers' choice of products may be influenced by the human values that they endorse. The framework combines a traditional model of human value influence based in expectancy-value theory (e.g., Scott and Lamont's (1973), Gutman's (1982) and Lindberg, Garling and Montgomery's (1989) attribute-mediation approach), with a new approach based on product meanings, judgements and psychological functions. From the union, a product meaning approach to value influence is suggested which outlines two structures of the value-attitude-behaviour system. Firstly, when consumers are evaluating a product's utilitarian meaning and making a piecemeal judgement, human values may influence the importance of the product's tangible attributes that in turn influence product preference. Secondly, when consumers are evaluating a product's symbolic meaning and making an affective judgement, human values may influence product preference directly. The meaning and judgement elements of the conceptual framework and the traditional attribute-mediation approach were examined in three studies; Study 1 found that the attribute-mediation approach could not fully account for the influence of human values on product preference (Hypothesis 1) and that the inability was greatest for products, such as red meat and overseas holiday destinations, which are likely evaluated on their intangible attributes of symbolic meanings and aesthetics (Hypothesis 2). The second and third studies tested whether the two routes of value influence uncovered in Study 1, that is, the route proposed in the attribute-mediation approach and the alternative, direct route, result from consumers evaluating different product meanings and making different types of judgements. Study 2 developed scales that measure the general publics' product meaning and judgement preferences, and Study 3 associated the meaning and judgement preference scales with the influences of human values on automobile and sunglasses ownerships; confirming the product meaning approach hypothesis that a consumer's preference for utilitarian meaning and for a piecemeal judgement to symbolic meaning and an affective judgement should be greater when his or her human values have an indirect influence on product preference (e.g., via the importance of the product's tangible attributes) than when his or her human values have a direct influence. Besides modelling the cognitive structure through which human values operate when consumers attend to utilitarian and symbolic meanings and make piecemeal and affective judgements, several propositions were made that consumers have a cross-product tendency to prefer the same meanings, judgements and routes of value influence, and that each route of value influence serves a specific psychological function. Concerning the latter, the propositions were made that when consumers attend to symbolic meaning and directly apply their human values, the application serves an expressive psychological function (e.g., self-consistency and social approval), and hence should be associated with greater psychological identification with the product, greater importance assigned to human values in general (e.g., value relevance), and a preference for terminal values to instrumental values. Conversely, when consumers attend to utilitarian meaning and indirectly apply their human values via tangible attribute importances, the application serves an instrumental psychological function (e.g., utility maximisation and control of the environment), and hence should be associated with a weaker psychological identification with the product, weaker value relevance, and a preference for instrumental values to terminal values. Study 4 assessed these propositions by examining the results of Studies 1-3 in detail and by analysing a fourth data set. Support was found for most of the propositions. Qualifications and limitations of the product meaning approach to the influences of human values on consumer choices are discussed, as are the implications of the approach for human value theory and consumer research.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Psychology


Ng, Sik Hung