Different types of theories

Social theories

Among those who rejected Freud’s id-based theory of personality, some reasoned that the individual develops a personality through numerous attempts to deal with others in a social setting. These social theorists, sometimes collectively called the neo-Freudian school, viewed individuals as striving to overcome, feelings of inferiority and searching for ways to obtain love, security and brotherhood. Their argument minimized the role of id-based instincts that Freud emphasized. Instead, they stressed that childhood experiences in relating to others produce feelings of inferiority, insecurity and lack of love. These feelings motivate individuals to perfect themselves and also to develop methods to cope with anxieties produced by such feelings of inferiority.

The first major consumer behavior study using a neo-Freudian approach was based on the theoretical scheme of Karen Horney. Horney identified tem major needs which are acquired as a consequence of individuals attempting to find solutions to their problems in developing a personality and dealing with others in a social environment. These ten needs were then classified into three major orientations which describe general strategies for relating to others:

1) Compliant orientation: Those who move toward people and stress the need for love, approval, modesty and affection. These individuals tend to exhibit large amounts of empathy and humility and are unselfish.
2) Aggressive orientation: Those who move against people and stress the need for power, strength, and the ability to manipulate others.
3) Detached orientation: Those who move away from people. These individuals stress the need for independence, freedom and self reliance in their dealings with others. An important consideration is that no strong emotional ties develop between themselves and others.

A CAD (Complaint Aggressive Detached) instrument was developed to measure people’s interpersonal orientations within a consumer context. Results of the study indicated that different products and brands were used by individuals having different personality types. For example, it was found that compliant types prefer known brand names and use more mouth wash and toilet soaps: aggressive types prefer to use razors instead of electric shavers, use more cologne and aftershave lotions and purchase Old spice and Van Heusen shirts and detached types appear to have the least awareness of brands. Other research has found that he detached personality type appears to be less involved in purchasing than are compliant or aggressive types.

Although such findings are interesting social personality theories have not found great applications in the consumer behavior area. Additional research is necessary to refine scales and to generate wider base of findings from which to develop marketing strategies.

Trait and factor Theories

The most popular personality concepts used to explain the behavior of consumers have been trait and factor theories. The concept of a trait is based upon three assumptions or propositions: (1) individuals possess relatively stable behavioral tendencies, (2) people differ in the degree to which they posses these tendencies and (3) when identified and measured these relative differences between individuals are useful in characterizing their personalities. Therefore we see that traits are general and are relatively stable personality characteristics which influence tendencies to behave.

Factor theories are based on the quantitative technique of factor analysis, which explores the interrelationship between various personality measures across a large number of individuals. Basically the underlying logic is that if responses to certain personality inventory items are correlated across many different testing situations, then these responses are probably each related to some underlying personality characteristics or trait. If the measures are highly correlated with each other they probably tend to measure the same dimension of the trait and if their correlation is lower, they probably reflect somewhat different aspects of the same trait. Therefore, a factor can be viewed as a general level variable that is based on a combination of test items and is used to identify personality traits.

Various traits or factors are identified when subgroups of measures form. That is, factors emerge when certain measures show higher levels of correlation within themselves but quite low degrees of correlation across other subgroups of items. The task of the researcher is to use factor analysis to assist in identifying these interrelated groups of variables. The actual number of factors that will be identified depends on how well the variables in different subgroups correlate among themselves. Once factors are identified each one can be quantified with a factor score – a weighted combination of the measures that have correlated together to identify the factor.

A second task is to label or describe the factors that have been identified. This is accomplished by interpreting the factor loadings – correlations between the original measures and the factor score that is based on these measures. For example, consider a factor score that had strong loading (correlations) with the personality measures of despondency, moodiness and pessimism. The researcher might use this information to label the factor as depression. It is important to note that even though the naming of factors is guided by reference to the factor loadings, a considerable amount of subjective interpretation is still involved in this process.

After doing years of careful research some theorists have proposed that most personalities can actually be described by a small number of factors. In essence this view is that factor analyses of the results of many test situations has identified core personality traits. Therefore results of an individual’s testing using a personality inventory enables the researcher to compare the individual’s raw score and factor scores to the results of other subjects . This assists in the interpretation of the individual’s personality.