motivational research

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An approach to the study of consumer behaviour, especially advertising and marketing, based loosely on assumptions and concepts of dynamic psychology in general and psychoanalysis in particular. It seeks to uncover the unconscious motives through the use of naturalistic observation, focus groups, depth interviews, and projective tests, and it tends often to focus on sexual factors. It was pioneered in the 1930s by the Austrian-born US psychologist Ernest Dichter (1907–91), one of whose early claims was that, for a woman, baking a cake unconsciously symbolizes having a baby, and that ready-mix cakes, which did not sell as well as expected when they were first introduced, could be made more appealing to housewives by allowing them to add the basic ingredient that they expect to contribute when having a baby, namely a fresh egg. Motivational research has attracted criticism from psychologists and others and was scathingly attacked by the Canadian-born US economist John Kenneth Galbraith (1908–2006) in the first edition of The Affluent Society (1958). See also subliminal perception. MR abbrev.

Subjects: Psychology.

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