Consumer Research Based On Nonverbal Communication

Studying nonverbal communication can be an inventive, tedious, and an ultimately revealing process. NVC is the physical evidence of reactions to stimuli such as beads of perspiration on a brow. Researchers are interested in what an individual is consuming and what affects him/her conciously and unconciously. This includes:

  1. the study of Physical Objects
  2. Content Analysis
  3. Mechanical Tracking
  4. Motivations

Studying PHYSICAL OBJECTS includes observable patterns and behavior, direct and natural. No lab setting or awareness on the consumers part will ad bias to this type of study. An example: 'The floor tiles around the hatching-chick exhibit at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry must be replaced every six weeks. Tiles in other parts of the museum need not be replaced for years. The selection of erosion of tiles, indexed by the replacement rate, is a measure of the relative popularity of exhibits.'

CONTENT ANALYSIS studies the message itself. An example: '...words, themes, characters or space and time relationships,' even the consistency of minorities in ads can be studied and is considered nonverbal messages. One way to monitor that is by analyzing media. The Naisbett Group analyses 6,000 local newspapers to present a report four times a year on the subject of society trends, 'The Trend Report'

MECHANICAL TRACKING makes the connection between behavior and cognition. The brain decides a feeling, sends signals to the body, and a physical symptom is the observable response, an arousal is detectable. Research to detect the physical responses to advertising helps make more effective ads. One example deals with Response latency. It is the amount of time a subject spends deciding which of two or three products to choose. The more time spent, the more similar the items are considered, in terms of preference. But it may be difficult for the subject to say why there was hesitation. Mechanical devices can observe NVC to help answer the questions. Examples include:

MOTIVATION concerns consumers reasons for making purchase decisions. Surveys and focus groups are one way to find this information. Several models have been devised to easily coordinate personalities into groups once the information has been obtained. These groups allow faster processing of targeting information.

Three main factors help to separate the groups including:

  1. Sociocultural influences
  2. Psychological influences
  3. Situational influences

      Psychological influences are well illustrated by Abraham Maslow's matrix, Hierarchy of Needs, which basically says, physiological needs are the first needed to be met, then safety, belongingness and love (social needs), esteem (personal needs), and lastly, self-actualization (self-fullfillment). Other components of these psychological influences are personality, learning, values, beliefs, and attitudes (VALS) and lifestyles. To see where you fit in, take the VALS test.

      Sociocultural influcences incorporate personal influences, reference groups, family influence, social class, and culture and subculture. An individual looks to these items to:

      assess other individuals opinions or behaviors in environment
      reference groups
      to measure self-worth or confirm beliefs
      family influence
      decide needs based on stage in family life
      check level of living with others in environment
      culture and subculture
      check values, ideas, and attitudes in agreement with others in environment

      SITUATIONAL INFLUENCES deals with an individual's environment at the time of purchase including:

      • purchase task - gift or need
      • social surroundings - alone or in group
      • pysical surroundings - mall or boutique
      • temporal effects - rushed or not rushed
      • antecedent states - amount of money available

      Click here to read about the relation to advertising that nonverbal communication has.

      * NVC: What Is It? * Main Theory-NonVerbal Expectancy Violations Model * Other Components of NonVerbal Expectancy Violations Model Theory * *Importance of NVC * Consumer Research *  Relation to Advertising * Related Links * references.