Consumerism Theoretical Contributions an Innovative dissertation

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The entire research constitutes three different studies, each of them dedicated to a distinct stage in problematic usage of mobile phones.

Study 1

A multi-dimensional psychometric measure was developed for the behaviour, described as problematic use of mobile phones (PUMP). The four-factor 16-item solution included behavioural dimensions of problematic use as follows: (1) impulsive use, (2) mounting tension, (3) dependency, and (4) control loss. A fifth dimension (denial) was removed during the EFA stage of scale development. Data was collected from a large developmental sample of 2364. Scale reduction and validation analysis involved EFA, CFA and nested model comparison.

Following scale development, theoretical analysis was performed on the PUMP model to enhance conceptual understanding of each of its four dimensions. This analysis utilized the frameworks of time-inconsistent preferences theory (Hoch and Loewenstein 1991) and the theory of automatic behaviour (Bargh & Gollwitzer, 1994); frameworks which supplement the dominate informational-processing approach in consumer behaviour. Drawing on these, an integrative theoretical framework was proposed in order to interpret the PUMP model. This provided deeper insight into each PUMP dimensions and the interplay that exists between dimensions (see Figure 4.1).

The first PUMP dimension, impulsive use, was originally conceptualised to reflect the impulsive buying behaviour present in the goods sector of the marketplace. It was described as mobile phone behaviour that is spontaneous, unreflective and immediate. Within the integrated theoretical framework, the impulsive use dimension becomes refined as non-conscious and automatic behaviour, as distinguished by automaticity theory (Bargh & Gollwitzer, 1994). Furthermore, this framework models the impulsive use factor as being an automatic behaviour that involves low order cognitive processing and likely a habitual, learned response.

The second PUMP dimension, mounting tension, reflects the aspect of compulsive consumption, with its conceptualization based on compulsive buying behaviour in the goods marketplace sector. Originally, this behaviour was broadly defined as an affective process involving a building inner urge that produces relief following the consummation act. The construct became refined as deprivation-desire, following application of time-inconsistent preferences theory (Hoch and Loewenstein 1991) and its reference-point model of desire. Conceptual refinement to the mounting tension dimension is that the behaviour results from increasing internal discomfort from gaps between actual and desired states, which creates a negative or deprivation-utility once the mobile phone is used.

The third PUMP dimension, dependence, drew on the aspect of dependency in behavioural addiction literature. It describes behaviour associated with perceived reliance or the importance of mobile phone services in an individual's daily life. Dependency and subsequent withdrawal symptoms when the consumption product is not available, is a common feature in clinical literature as well as media dependency studies. Yet conceptualisation of this PUMP dimension was somewhat altered, contrasting with other studies, following theoretical analysis with time-inconsistent preferences theory (Hoch and Loewenstein 1991). The dependence dimension was subsequently proposed as reflective of satisfaction-desire and positive utility, which arise from the more tangible benefits (e.g. convenience, connectivity) embodied in mobile phone services.

Finally, the fourth PUMP dimension, control loss, reflects a commonality to all three literatures on unregulated, problematic consumption. It describes behaviour associated with repeated efforts and failure to control consumption. Interpreting control loss within the framework of time-inconsistent preferences, the behaviour reflects a loss of self-regulation when an individual's willpower is unable to resist, or is overcome by their opposing, desire forces (impulsive use, mounting tension, and/or dependence).

Initial conceptualisation of PUMP dimensions and empirical results directed the overlay of an integrated theoretical framework. This framework provided clear direction for construct refinement in future research, as well as nomological testing undertaken in this present research (Study 3). Empirical results show that all four PUMP dimensions are moderately to strongly correlate with each other. This confirms the core proposition of this study -- that different aspects of unregulated consumption are interrelated and together result in problematic behaviour. However, findings also suggested that the activating element within the four-factor PUMP solution was the mounting tension dimension.

Study 2

Using the same sample and procedures as Study 1, a second, multi-dimensional psychometric instrument was developed to measure negative consequences of PUMP behaviour. Factors of the Negative Consequences scale include (1) financial difficulties, (2) productivity loss, (3) relationship damage, (4) emotional tethering, (5) physical symptoms, and (6) driving distraction.

Besides drawing on literature and the qualitative phase of this research, three core propositions underpinned conceptualisation of the construct. First, negative consequences were separated from the causal behaviour to accord with guidelines for develop better psychometric measures (DeVellis, 2003). Second, the six factor model represented a range of consumer consumption costs, broader than merely financial issues. Third, short-term and longer-term manifestations of negative consequences were incorporated to account for temporal differences. This theoretical foundation coupled with a rigorous empirical testing produced a measure against which the PUMP scale could be evaluated. Alternatively, the Negative Consequences scale represents an independent scale valid for other consumer behaviour studies.

Following scale development, associations between the PUMP (IV) and Negative Consequences (DV) scales were modelled and examined. The four dimensions in PUMP were found to interact differently with factors in the Negative Consequences scale. These variations in findings indicate that all six factors are relevant to understanding consequences and the nature of problematic use of mobile phones. The mounting tension dimension in PUMP was found to be the strongest predictor for half the negative consequences factors (i.e. emotional tethering, productivity loss, physical symptoms). For other factors, all dimensions significantly predicted (relationship damage), impulsive use and dependence dimensions were powerful predictors (driver distraction), and the control loss dimension was most influential (financial difficulties). Thus, study findings also confirmed the value in developing a comprehensive, multifaceted instrument to measure harmful, behavioural outcomes.

Study 3

A second quantitative study resulted in a sample of 465. This sample was used to revalidate the PUMP scale and empirically test its theoretical framework. Revalidation of the PUMP scale resulted in removal of one item, resulting in a four-factor 15-item solution. Data was also collected to model a series of eight motivational drivers proposed to associate with different dimensions in the PUMP model. These motivational constructs were selected to represent and analysis underlying aspects of the PUMP dimensions, derived earlier by integrating time-inconsistent preferences and automaticity theories. Hypothesis testing provided further support for the proposed theoretical framework, as well as deeper insight into the relationship between PUMP dimensions and nature of the behaviour itself.

Eight motivational constructs were selected from literature to test propositions for each dimension in the PUMP scale. Motivational states and factors were broadly classified as being distal and proximal predictors of the problematic behaviour. During data analysis the three general, distal motivations required reconfiguring to account for measurement error. Overall, the five proximal motivations (sourced from compulsive buying and mobile phone studies) exhibited stronger psychometric properties, as well as stronger predictive powers than distal measures.

Six out of eight hypotheses were supported. Motivations behaved as predicted for three PUMP dimensions, with the exception being control loss, where paths from CFC-Immediate (H7) and the economic concerns motive (H8) and were not found to be significant. Impulsive use was predicted by mindless (H1). Mounting tension was strongly predicted by materialism (H2), identity gain (3) and negative mood reduction (4) motives. Dependence was predicted by instrumental (5) and reassurance (6) motives. Furthermore, results from a fully saturated model of the eight motivational constructs and four-factor PUMP scale found a number of significant paths that were not initially hypothesised.

Most significant was the strong influence (including suppression effect) that the negative mood reduction motive on all four PUMP dimensions, but most powerfully (as predicted) on mounting tension (?= .93). Following the removal of negative mood reduction motive from modelling, other interesting associations were noted. The instrumental motive predicted impulsive use more strongly than its hypothesised dimension of dependence. This finding indicates that both practical and psychological reasons may result in higher PUMP scores through the impulsive use dimension. Materialism also significantly and positively predicted all three "desire" dimensions of PUMP (impulsive use, mounting tension, and dependence). This finding also indicates that an individuals' materialistic value orientation links with problematic consumption, irrespective of marketplace sector.

Overall, findings confirm the core proposition of this study -- that PUMP dimensions, as different aspects of unregulated consumption, have diverse underlying mechanisms, and thus interact differently with alternative motivational factors. Study results demonstrate that both practical and psychological motives, as well as individual states (mindlessness) and traits (materialism) predict problematic use of mobile phones.

4. Theoretical Contributions

Shrimp (1994) advocates that consumer researchers focus more strongly on "consumer behaviour that occurs within the milieu of actual marketplace phenomena" (p. 5). Consumer researchers often have easier access to data relating to substantive phenomena, compared to other disciplines. This emphasis on substantive phenomena will "differentiate the field and enhance its impact both on theory and practice" (Simonson, Carmon, Dhar & Drolet, 2001). They argue that "a greater emphasis on rigorous, systematic, substantive phenomena-driven research has the potential to…[continue]

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