Young people in new digital consumption roles: Promoting opportunities and reducing risks

Funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV).

Joint application by Prof. Oliver Büttner, University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE), Prof. Dr. Gunnar Mau, German University of Applied Sciences (DHGS), and Dr. Michael Haas, Media Smart e.V.

Duration: 2022 - 2024

Volume: 199.571 EUR

Researcher: Kim Büttner, M.Sc.

As part of the program to promote innovation in consumer protection in law and business, the BMUV is funding projects for consumer-related research and development on "Strengthening consumer resilience". The joint project of DHGS, UDE and Media Smart e.V. aims to support children and adolescents aged 12 to 15 in their resilience in acquiring skills and resources related to the demands of new consumer roles through digital business models, especially social media. For this purpose, psychologically based intervention techniques for self-regulation will be researched, revised and tested for their effectiveness in online studies. As a result, high-quality teaching materials will be available free of charge to educators, parents, and other groups to help increase children's and young people's resilience when interacting with digital business models. The aim is to enable young people to take advantage of the opportunities offered by these services and to identify and reduce the risks they face. Ultimately, this should facilitate the social and societal participation of young people.

Fast Fashion, Fast Decisions – Consumer psychological interventions to promote sustainable and conscious purchase decisions in the textile trade

Funded by the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV)

Joint proposal by Prof. Dr. Oliver Büttner and Dr. Benjamin Serfas

Duration: 2021 - 2024

Volume: 149.446 EUR

Researcher: Saskia Flachs, M.Sc.

As part of the program to promote innovation in consumer protection in law and business, the BMJV funds projects on consumer protection in the service of the UN Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals. The research project of Prof. Dr. Oliver Büttner and Dr. Benjamin Serfas aims to develop and test psychologically sound and practically applicable intervention techniques that promote sustainable consumption patterns when buying clothes. Consumer-oriented interventions are intended to enable consumers to make more conscious purchasing decisions and to reduce their consumption of fast fashion clothing. The intervention techniques address the phenomenon known as the intention-behavior gap, that although consumers often intend to consume sustainably, they often do not implement it. The development and testing of the intervention techniques should take into account that the purchase of clothing is characterized by a high proportion of spontaneous decisions and unconscious influencing factors.

Consumer sufficiency as a pathway to climate change mitigation: Understanding the effectiveness of gain-frames to foster consumption reduction

funded by the Austrian Climate Research Program (ACRP), Österreichische Bundesministerium für Klimaschutz, Umwelt, Energie, Mobilität, Innovation und Technologie

Joint proposal with Prof. Dr. Petra Riefler, Universität für Bodenkultur (BOKU), Wien

Duration: 2020 - 2023

Volume: 249.560 EUR

This research project aims to address the strategic vision of consumer sufficiency (i.e. consumption reduction at an individual level) for mitigating climate change by (i) advancing the conceptual understanding of consumer sufficiency, (ii) identifying costs (acting as barriers) and gains (acting as motivators) at an individual consumer level, and (iii) empirically examining the effectiveness of gain-frames to foster consumption reduction as a pathway to a sustainable development.

Lay theories on food products for children

Funded by the Kompetenzzentrum Verbraucherforschung Nordrhein-Westfalen (KVF NRW)

Joint application with Prof. Dr. Gunnar Mau, Hochschule Macromedia, University of Applied Sciences

Duration: 2019-2020

Staff member: Raphaela Bruckdorfer, M.Sc.

Mini sausages, “fun” fruit yoghurt, biscuits in the shape of animals: So-called food products for children have become a permanent part of the product ranges of most supermarkets. Characterized by features like intense colors, cartoon characters and practical pre-portioning, they are highly appealing to children and often also their parents.

While such products are usually marketed as particularly child-friendly, they are often criticized by health experts and consumer protection organizations, who consider them as unnecessary at best and harmful to health at worst. At the same time, very little is known about consumers’ perceptions and attitudes towards these products. This lack of research, however, is highly problematic, as it is often precisely people’s subjective views that influence (buying) behavior.

The current research project therefore addresses the topic of food products for children from the perspective of potential consumers with the aim of (a) identifying different attitudes and perceptions and (b) relating these to personal characteristics. Online and eye-tracking studies will be used. The empirical findings are also expected to have important implications for consumer work and education.

Social Media, Distraction, and Self-Regulation
Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) within the Research Training Group „User-Centred Social Media“  (GRK 2167/1)
Duration: 2017 - 2020

Social media are a vital part of our everyday life. However, social media have a high potential for distracting users from pursuing their tasks. Media multitasking is a consequence of getting distracted by social media. Multitasking has been shown to result in lower task performance and can also negatively impact well-being. Therefore, this project aims at a) understanding social media distraction, and b) testing strategies for reducing distractions by social media. The underlying idea is to enable users handling their social media distractions successfully and thus reduce its potentially negative impacts when trying to focus on a task. This project focuses on visual attention and motivational processes that underly distraction. Methods used in this project are experiments and eye tracking. The outcome of this project should be a clear understanding of distraction by social media. Further, the goal is to provide users with techniques empowering users to handle social media distractions.  


Influence of Crowding on Consumer Decisions

Funded by the Vienna Chamber of Commerce, Award “Wirtschaftskammerpreis 2016”

Joint project with Dr. Johanna Palcu, Universität Wien

2016-2017 (completed)

Over-crowded stores can be a major problem for retailers. Previous research has provided evidence for negative consequences of crowding, but it remains unclear whether crowding influences how consumers make decisions and what retailers can do in order to mitigate negative consequences. The present project examines how crowding influences the perception of the assortment, the interaction with service personnel, and in-store consumer decision making. We address these questions in an online survey and an in-store study using eye-tracking. The project aims at providing implications regarding how retailers can enhance the customer experience in crowded stores by optimizing assortment and service interactions.

Impulse Purchasing and Overspending – The Role of Shopping Orientation and Consumer Information Processing (IPOROSOCIP)

Funded within Marie Curie Career Integration Grant (FP7-MC-CIG-293577)

Duration: 2011 – 2014 (finished)

Buying products spontaneously is a frequent behavior for many consumer. Engaging too much in impulse purchasing, however, may entail negative consequences such as overspending and indebtedness. The project addressed impulse purchasing from the perspective of consumer psychology and had two main research objectives: (1) to advance knowledge on the mechanisms that underlie impulse purchasing and (2) to provide techniques and strategies to consumers to control their purchasing behaviour.

The focus of the project was on the role of visual attention for impulse purchasing. In a set of laboratory experiments that used eye tracking, we examined the relationship between buying impulsiveness, visual attention, and shopping orientations. We found that buying impulsiveness influences the breadth of visual attention. In a simulated shopping task, impulsive buyers were more likely to get distracted by task-irrelevant products than non-impulsive shoppers. Further studies indicate that an experiential shopping orientation increases this visual distractibility, whereas a task-focused shopping orientation reduces the distractibility. Another study used pupil dilation as an indicator of affective arousal and found that impulsive buyers, compared to non-impulsive shoppers, showed more affective arousal while watching shopping scenes.

Based on these results from the first set of studies, we tested techniques that could modify attentional processes and thereby help consumers to shield themselves from distraction. In two eye-tracking studies in the laboratory, we found that two techniques may help consumers to reduce visual distractibility. First, we found that planning (i.e., making a shopping list) helps consumers to focus their visual attention. A second lab study showed that consumers who formed implementation intentions (a technique from motivational psychology) that established increased affective arousal as a trigger for efforts to control attention, were more successful in controlling their attention than other participants. An additional field study tested the effect of implementation intentions to control attention on actual purchasing behavior. A follow-up measurement after two weeks did not show positive effects of implementation intentions on self-reported shopping behavior. Taken together, the results on interventions imply that techniques such as planning or implementation intentions may help to reduce the visual distractibility of impulsive buyers. In order to establish long-term effects on consumers’ buying behavior, however, these techniques need to be completed by additional intervention strategies or more intensive training.

The results from the project have major implications for research on impulsive buying. Our results show that buying impulsiveness already operates at the level of visual attention, and that these attentional processes can be modified. The research has also an impact on consumer welfare. The knowledge about attentional mechanisms and techniques to control attention may help consumers to increase their control over their spending.