To buy or not to buy – determinism or free will

Determinism and Free Will

Do we choose the product or is the product chosen for us, and can we choose our choice to choose?

Marketing and consumer demographics are bed buddies for corporations looking to increase their profit margins. Its no surprise that if you’re looking to improve your sales you need to understand your target audience and in turn tailor your product to appeal.

Authors Note: this article like the others in this category are part of my Masters Degree in Art and Design and are works in progress, so you’ll have to forgive the bad grammar and spelling in places.

Understanding the consumer is the first step in order to influence the cause for desirable products beyond personal budgets and generate more sales to wider audiences by tapping in to those impulses. But are we preordained to purchase products that are suited to our Social Grade… or can we more often choose to obtain the unobtainable? This (in part) essay explores the relationship between Consumer Classifications (ACORN Consumer Demographics) and the concepts of Determinism and Free Will.

Determinism and ACORN

Determinism, or more suited to this essay “Causal Determinism”, is an idea used often in physics as the notion of cause-and-effect. The concept of Causal Determinism defines the state of events being bound by a casual relation to prior states. As the theory of determinism does throw up many pit-falls and questions which would spin the main point in the wrong direction, we have to accept the idea of Determinism or Causal Determinism at least for the benefit of of this essay.

How could we ever decide whether our world is deterministic or not? Given that some philosophers and some physicists have held firm views—with many prominent examples on each side—one would think that it should be at least a clearly decidable question. Unfortunately, even this much is not clear, and the epistemology of determinism turns out to be a thorny and multi-faceted issue.

Hoefer, Carl, “Causal Determinism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

Given the influences we’re constantly bombarded with by exterior and interior methods of marketing its surprising we’re not all zombiefide to buy gray products, manufactured to the same dull, functional standard, day in day out.

Thankfully we’re aware of our choices and as individuals we have our own standards and a willingness to be individuals within society. Social Types can be blanketed by a classification that offers a holistic opinion of a particular group of society however, its those individuals within the group who make the decisions to buy certain products for themselves. So how do these Social Types choose individually and still fall within the classification? Obviously money and available funds has a lot to do with it, if a lower social class has less disposable income than a higher social class, product is purchased on the value of price not function or quality.

Other factors can be taken in to consideration such as Social Influence, the exchange of information as where to find the latest bargains and “BOGOF” (buy one, get one free) offers, also Location and Health of that individual play a major part in the type of product bought. Peers also within Social Types govern the products we buy, arriving at a golf club with less than (perceived) adequate quality clubs, can isight ridicule within higher social types or expensive jewelry and gadgets can raise the status in lower social classes but consequently identify them as a target for crime. Perception of an individuals self is mainly conceived by surrounding and supportive influences (friends and family) and a relative level of acceptance. Education also plays a major part in product purchasing, its highly likely affluent social types are well educated, which determines later wealth and readiness of disposable income, therefor product is purchased on the value of quality not price.

ACORN understand this perfectly well and realise that a combination of Health, Education, Income and Social Scene govern and direct consumers towards their choices of purchase, below are two extreme examples from ACORN’s Categorised Consumers.

Category 1 – Wealthy Achievers

These are some of the most successful and affluent people in the UK. They live in wealthy, high-status rural, semi-rural and suburban areas of the country. Middle-aged or older people predominate, with many empty nesters and wealthy retired. Some neighbourhoods contain large numbers of well-off families with school-age children, particularly the more suburban locations.

These people live in large houses, which are usually detached with four or more bedrooms. Almost 90% are owner-occupiers, with half of those owning their home outright. They are very well educated and most are employed in managerial and professional occupations. Many own their own business.

Car ownership is high, with many households running two or more cars. Incomes are high, as are levels of savings and investments. These people are established at the top of the social ladder; they are healthy, wealthy and confident consumers.

It needs to be noted that ACORN is used to understand customers’ lifestyle, behaviour and attitudes, or the needs of neighbourhoods and people’s public service needs. The information gathered is used to analyse customers, identify profitable prospects, evaluate local markets and focus on the specific needs of each local community.

Category 5 – Hard-Pressed

This category contains the poorest areas of the UK. Unemployment is well above the national average. Levels of qualifications are low and those in work are likely to be employed in unskilled occupations. Household incomes are low and there are high levels of long-term illness in some areas.

Housing is a mix of low-rise estates, with terraced and semi-detached houses, and purpose-built flats, including high-rise blocks. Properties tend to be small and there is much overcrowding. More than 50% of the housing is rented from the council or a housing association.

There are a large number of single-adult households, including many single pensioners and lone parents. In some neighbourhoods, there are high numbers of black and Asian residents. These are the people who are finding life the hardest and experiencing the most difficult social conditions.

From these classifications its clear there is a definite distinction of Social Types, if the concept of Determinism is applied here its likely that Category 5 and Category 1 are predetermined to perchance items of particular quality, style, fashion and price, also location plays its hand too. Although in some instances its acceptable that Category 5 will perchance items beyond their average annual income, this is likely to be due to unpredicted variables such as short term monitory wins, Bingo, Betting, National Lottery and so on. Also in comparison Category 1 are not fixed to spending in the above average price range for common items, however both these variables are likely to be uncommon, except in exceptional and individual circumstances.

explanations of human behavior have generally favored unidirectional causal models emphasizing either environmental or internal determinants of behavior. In social learning theory, causal processes are conceptualized in terms of reciprocal determinism. Viewed from this perspective, psychological functioning involves a continuous reciprocal interaction between behavioral, cognitive, and environmental influences. The major controversies between unidirectional and reciprocal models of human behavior center on the issue of self influences. A self system within the framework of social learning theory comprises cognitive structures and subfunctions for perceiving, evaluating, and regulating behavior, not a psychic agent that controls action.

Bandura, Albert. The self system in reciprocal determinism. Vol 33(4), Apr 1978, page 344-358.

Any marketing hand of a successful corporation will realise the advantages of Determinism or Casual Determinism when predicting or projecting sales forecasts, its the predetermined lives of social types that shape the prediction (to dam near accuracy) of profit.

Free Will and ACORN

Free will is the notion that individuals can make choices free from of constraints that amy otherwise persuade or influence a ready decision. If there is an opposite to the metaphysical constraint of determinism then free will would be it, the concept has religious, ethical, and scientific implications which can disrupt or even shatter the concept of a Social Type. As ACORN demographics are categorised to cater for social types they look upon the type as a collective, ignoring the individual which chooses to break from that category, and consequently included in a higher or lower demographic. Its these anomalies within the system which are discounted because of the uncertain possibility or likelihood of exceptional circumstances. However repelling as the concept of free will and consumer demographics may seam there are issues that fall in line with determinism regardless of the contradictive nature of free will.

Free choice is an activity that involves both our intellectual and volitional capacities, as it consists in both judgment and active commitment. A thorny question for this view is whether will or intellect is the ultimate determinant of free choices.

O’Connor, Timothy, “Free Will”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

ACORN demographics cover a wide range of variables within specified categories, an anomaly rising or lowering within ACORN’s or CACI’s demographics, still fall within a category, class or sub category. If free will is real, then aren’t the choices and decisions influenced by rejection or defiance of the norm? If this is the case, then its interesting to think that Casual Determinism is specific to that individual, and two types of control over supposed free will are applied, regulative and guidance. O’Connor explains the differences “Regulative control requires alternative possibilities open to the agent, whereas guidance control is determined by characteristics of the actual sequence issuing in one’s choice”.

ACORN has a strong hold of variables for all social types, these classification for sometimes obscure types are highly detailed and provide a fundamental insight in to understanding the speeding patterns of that type. for example ACORN classifies wealthy commuters who “live in villages as affluent, well-educated professional people employed in senior managerial positions. There are also more working from home in this type”. they’re investigations also go on to state that in “this wealthy type, unemployment has traditionally been very low, however the recession has brought a larger-than-average increase in unemployment, including a quadrupling of the number of unemployed managers”.

Individuals can fall between any variable in the classifications which suggests free will as not applicable to consumer demographics. An individual can make decisions, regulative or guidance, that shape their course of life, however they’ll always fall in to a demographic that suits their applied efforts. Like the story of rags to riches, the individual will rise from Category 5 (Hard – Pressed) to Category 1 (Wealthy Achievers), the motions or methods of changing category are insignificant to the application of the demographic. Fundamentally the pattern of spending is reflective of the materialism that individual uses to identify themselves. An individual may have grown up in a deprived area but worked hard to achieve a wealthy life style in adulthood, may be reflective (in some ways) of free will in the regulative control, but they’re still likely to shop in patterns of a higher social type.