Influence of social sciences on buyer behavior


All major social sciences like economics, psychology, sociology and anthropology have influenced buyer behavior studies. It is essential to have an idea of the nature of this influence.

Influence of Economics

Economists describe man as a rational buyer and view the market as a collection of homogeneous buyers. Under a given set of conditions, all buyers behave in a similar fashion and every buying decision is a logical process with the ultimate intention of obtaining optimum value for the money spent. Price is regarded as the strongest motivation for the ‘economic man’. The economic man’s behavior, in short, is rational.

Though the model of economic man may help us understand certain aspects of buyer behavior, it certainly cannot answer all the puzzles of buyer behavior. The main problem with the concept of economic man is the assumption that buyers are absolutely rational in their purchases and that markets are homogeneous.

Markets are actually a collection of heterogeneous buyers, differing from each other in several characteristics. The marketing process is intended to match these heterogeneous segments of demand with heterogeneous segments of supply.

Influence of Psychology

The next major influence on buyer behavior came from psychology. According to psychologists, any human activity is directed towards meeting certain needs. These needs have been categorized in different ways by different psychologists.

Physiological needs are the basic needs: they include the need to satisfy hunger, thirst, sleep, etc. For people who are well off, physiological needs are met as a matter of routine, whereas for the poor, a major part of their time is spent in striving to meet these needs. Safety needs include needs relating to physical safety and economic and social security.

Social needs come next and they include the need for love and the need to belong. Esteem needs include the need for self-esteem, the need for recognition by society and the need to be held in esteem by others. Self-actualization needs include the need for self-development and the need to attain complete fruition of one’s capabilities and endowments. The actions of individuals are guided by their need structure and need level.

Influence of Sociology and Anthropology

Sociology and anthropology lent further dimensions to the subject of buyer behavior. According to scholars in these fields, group pressure is the motive force behind buying. Sociologists and anthropologists have tried to establish a logical connection between buyer behavior and the social environment of the buyer. As a result, several new concepts like social stratification, reference groups, role-orientation, opinion leadership, etc., have come to be used for giving causal explanations of buyers’ behavior.