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Putting Consumer Experience Back into Consumer Research: The Philosophy and Method of Existential-Phenomenology CRAIG J.THOMPSON WILLIAM B. LOCANDER HOWARD R.POLLIO* Existential-phenomenology is presented as an alternative paradigm for conceptua^ izing and studying consumer experience, Basic theoretical tenets of existential- phenomenology are contrasted with more traditional assumptions and methods used in consumer research. The metaphors used by each paradigm to describe its world view are provided and their respective implications for consumer research discussed. One phenomenological research method is detailed, and examples o1 how the method is applied and the type of data it produces are provided. An episte- mological analysis reveals that existential-phenomenology can provide an empiri- cally based and methodologically rigorous understanding of consumer phenomena. T his article presents existential-phenomenology as a paradigm for studying consumer experi- ence. A paradigm refers to a group of researchers shar- ing common assumptions about the nature of reality, utilizing common methodologies, and dealing with similar problems (Kuhn 1970). Adherents of a para- digm have both a philosophy of what the world is like and investigative methods deriving from that per- spective. Existential-phenomenology is a paradigm that blends the philosophy of existentialism with the methods of phenomenology (Valle and King 1978). The result is a contextually based, holistic psychology that views human beings in non-dualistic terms and seeks to attain a first-person description of experience (Giorgi 1983). Jacob (1987) notes that much confusion about de- scriptive methodologies has arisen from treating all such methods as though they were homogeneous. In consumer research, "interpretive" methods (Hudson and Ozanne 1988) primarily have proceeded in the •Craig J. Thompson is a Ph.D. candidate and William B. Lo- cander is Distinguished Professor of Marketing, both at the Depart- ment of Marketing, Logistics, and Transportation, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996. Howard R. Pollio is Distin- guished Service Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychol- ogy, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996. The authors gratefully acknowledge the invaluable assistance of the University of Tennessee's Learning Research Center. The authors also thank Sarah Gardial, David Schumann, Paul Speck, Robert Woodruff, and three anonymous JCR reviewers for their helpful comments. i33 ethnographic {Belk 1987; Belk, Sherry, and Wallen- dorf 1988; Hirschman 1986; Holbrook 1987; Wallen- dorf 1987), semiotic (Holbrook and Grayson 1986; Mick 1986; Sherry and Camargo 1987), or structural- ist (Levy 1981; O'Shaughnessy 1985) traditions. Al- though these approaches sometimes take a phenome- nological perspective, they are not per se existential- phenomenology. Existentialism, the philosophy underlying existen- tial-phenomenology, is associated with the works of Dilthey (1958/orig. 1890), Sartre (1962/orig. 1943), Heidegger (1962/orig. 1927), and Merleau-Ponty (1962/orig. 1945). The research methods of existen- tial-phenomenology derive primarily from Gestalt psychology (Koffka 1935; Kohler 1947; Wertheimer 1945) and clinical practice (May and Yalom 1984; Van den Berg 1970). For example, existential-phc- nomenological methods have been employed in re- search concerning the experiences ofanxiety (Fischer 1978), learning (Colaizzi 1973; Giorgi 1971), time (Dapkus 1985), and special possessions (Myers 1985). As Kuhn (1970) noted, understanding a paradigm different from one's own is a difficult task because it requires seeing the world from a new perspective. As a means of making this task easier, an analysis of met- aphors describing assumptions of the "traditional" view and those of existential-phenomenology will be employed. A benefit of this approach is that it pro- vides a means of describing a given paradigm's core assumptions, assumptions that are not put to empiri- cal test but are treated as unquestionable givens (La- © JOURNAL OFCONSUMER RESEARCH •Vol. l6»Scplember 1989

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Putting Consumer Experience Back intoConsumer Research: The Philosophy andMethod of Existential-Phenomenology

CRAIG J.THOMPSONWILLIAM B. LOCANDERHOWARD R.POLLIO*

Existential-phenomenology is presented as an alternative paradigm for conceptua^izing and studying consumer experience, Basic theoretical tenets of existential-phenomenology are contrasted with more traditional assumptions and methodsused in consumer research. The metaphors used by each paradigm to describe itsworld view are provided and their respective implications for consumer researchdiscussed. One phenomenological research method is detailed, and examples o1how the method is applied and the type of data it produces are provided. An episte-mological analysis reveals that existential-phenomenology can provide an empiri-cally based and methodologically rigorous understanding of consumer phenomena.

T his article presents existential-phenomenologyas a paradigm for studying consumer experi-

ence. A paradigm refers to a group of researchers shar-ing common assumptions about the nature of reality,utilizing common methodologies, and dealing withsimilar problems (Kuhn 1970). Adherents of a para-digm have both a philosophy of what the world is likeand investigative methods deriving from that per-spective. Existential-phenomenology is a paradigmthat blends the philosophy of existentialism with themethods of phenomenology (Valle and King 1978).The result is a contextually based, holistic psychologythat views human beings in non-dualistic terms andseeks to attain a first-person description of experience(Giorgi 1983).

Jacob (1987) notes that much confusion about de-scriptive methodologies has arisen from treating allsuch methods as though they were homogeneous. Inconsumer research, "interpretive" methods (Hudsonand Ozanne 1988) primarily have proceeded in the

•Craig J. Thompson is a Ph.D. candidate and William B. Lo-cander is Distinguished Professor of Marketing, both at the Depart-ment of Marketing, Logistics, and Transportation, University ofTennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996. Howard R. Pollio is Distin-guished Service Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychol-ogy, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996. The authorsgratefully acknowledge the invaluable assistance of the Universityof Tennessee's Learning Research Center. The authors also thankSarah Gardial, David Schumann, Paul Speck, Robert Woodruff,and three anonymous JCR reviewers for their helpful comments.

i33

ethnographic {Belk 1987; Belk, Sherry, and Wallen-dorf 1988; Hirschman 1986; Holbrook 1987; Wallen-dorf 1987), semiotic (Holbrook and Grayson 1986;Mick 1986; Sherry and Camargo 1987), or structural-ist (Levy 1981; O'Shaughnessy 1985) traditions. Al-though these approaches sometimes take a phenome-nological perspective, they are not per se existential-phenomenology.

Existentialism, the philosophy underlying existen-tial-phenomenology, is associated with the works ofDilthey (1958/orig. 1890), Sartre (1962/orig. 1943),Heidegger (1962/orig. 1927), and Merleau-Ponty(1962/orig. 1945). The research methods of existen-tial-phenomenology derive primarily from Gestaltpsychology (Koffka 1935; Kohler 1947; Wertheimer1945) and clinical practice (May and Yalom 1984;Van den Berg 1970). For example, existential-phc-nomenological methods have been employed in re-search concerning the experiences ofanxiety (Fischer1978), learning (Colaizzi 1973; Giorgi 1971), time(Dapkus 1985), and special possessions (Myers 1985).

As Kuhn (1970) noted, understanding a paradigmdifferent from one's own is a difficult task because itrequires seeing the world from a new perspective. Asa means of making this task easier, an analysis of met-aphors describing assumptions of the "traditional"view and those of existential-phenomenology will beemployed. A benefit of this approach is that it pro-vides a means of describing a given paradigm's coreassumptions, assumptions that are not put to empiri-cal test but are treated as unquestionable givens (La-

© JOURNAL OFCONSUMER RESEARCH •Vol. l6»Scplember 1989

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134 THE JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH

katos 1970). Metaphors have been used to highlightassumptions implicit in many different programs ofphilosophy, cognitive science, and natural science(Gerhart and Russel! 1984; Johnson 1987; Kohler1969; Lakoff 1987; Lakoff and Johnson 1980; Mor-gan 1980; Pepper 1942). Metaphoric analyses alsohave been used to examine research issues in market-ing science (Arndt 1985; Rosenberg 1984).

In this article, we will focus on basic tenets of exis-tential-phenomenology and will describe a researchmethodology based on them. The discussion will beorganized into four sections. First, the core assump-tions of traditional approaches to consumer behaviorwill be delineated to highlight areas where existential-phenomenology differs from them. Second, core as-sumptions of existential-phenomenology will be out-lined and their implications for consumer researchdiscussed. Third, a specific research method will bedescribed. And, fourth, a discussion of epistemologi-cai criteria for this methodology will be given.

THE CARTESIAN VIEWThe dominant paradigm in marketing and con-

sumer research is logical positivism (or a more cur-rent version known as modern empiricism), and theimplications of this philosophy for research method-ology have been widely discussed (Anderson 1983,1986; Arndt 1985; Bogdan and Taylor 1975; Hirsch-man 1986; Holbrook and Hirschman 1982; Hunt1983; Lincoln and Guba 1985; Peter and Olsen1983). Logical positivism has an epistemological fo-cus and seeks to determine the "truth value" of state-ments (Pepper 1942). Some have noted, however,that a broader set of assumptions underlies the use ofpositivist methods (Giorgi 1971; Van den Berg 1961).

These meta-assumptions have been placed underthe more global philosophical rubrics of "Cartesian-ism" or "rationalism" (Giorgi 1983; Pollio 1982;Valle and King 1978; Zaner 1970). Some of the morewell-known tenets of Cartesianism are the distinctionbetween mind and body and the assumption that "re-ality" must be deduced and then rendered in mathe-matical terms (Zaner 1970). The legacy of Cartesian-ism affects the way in which consumer research isdone today. The following discussion will focus onthe Cartesian metaphors of the machine and the con-tainer.

The Machine MetaphorOne major metaphor of Cartesianism is that ofthe

machine (Pepper 1942; Van den Berg 1961), a theo-retical system in which all free dynamics in the systemare restricted by constraints taking the form of princi-ples and laws (Kohler 1969). Pepper (1942) notes thecertain assumptions that follow from the machinemetaphor:

1. Properties of the machine, such as psychologi-cal ones, can be calibrated and measured.

2. The machine has primary qualities that are es-sential to its function and are measurable,such as mass and motion. Any aspects ofthemachine not quantifiable are viewed as inci-dental to its function.

3. The machine is composed of independentcomponents. By taking the machine apart andstudying components in isolation, the essenceof its function can be determined. Analysisdoes not change machine function, since com-ponents in isolation are assumed to operatethe same as components in unison.

These assumptions are manifested in many norma-tive methodological prescriptions: (1) science shoulduse formalized language systems (mathematics andoperationally specified terms) to express knowledge;(2) science should uncover causal laws that explainthe functioning of phenomena; (3) science shouldemploy analytic procedures by which separate partsofthe phenomenon can be studied singularly and indetail; and (4) science should reduce a given phenom-enon to a set of necessary and sufficient properties.

Mechanism and its accompanying assumptionsmotivate a variety of research programs that haveemerged in psychology, including behaviorism,where behavior is determined by the mechanism ofstimulus-response associations (Bower and Hilgard1981; Howard 1965; Hull 1943); information pro-cessing, where cognition is determined by structuralmechanisms, such as short-term memory capacity(Bettman 1979; Miller, Galanter, and Pribram I960;Newell and Simon 1972; Wyer and Srull 1986); andcertain natural science approaches to psychoanalysis,where neurotic symptoms are determined by uncon-scious mechanisms operating within the person (Hor-owitz 1963;Pumpian-Mindlin 1952).

The Container Metaphor

Dualism, the proposed separation of the mentaland the physical worlds, has been one ofthe more en-during remnants of the Cartesian legacy (Pollio1982). The assumptions of dualism are described byanother Cartesian metaphor in which the body isviewed as a container for "mind," while the "mind"is viewed as a container for symbolic representationsand conceptual structures (Lakoff" and Johnson1980). These aspects have certain implications forstudying human cognitive activity.

1. External events, those occurring outside thebody container, are objective, while internalevents, those occurring inside the body con-tainer, are subjective. Experience is a private.

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EXISTENTIAL-PHENOMENOLOGY 135

internal, and, therefore, subjective event(Churchland 1985).

2. Mind is an entity that manipulates symbolsrepresenting the external world (Dreyfuss1982). These manipulations allow the externalworld to be brought into internal conscious-ness. Since the cognitive processes by whichthe symbol is manipulated are internal, cogni-tive structures and functions can be isolatedand studied in a decontextualized manner.

3. Objects in the world exist as a brute reality in-dependent of human experience and, thus,there is one true description ofthe world wait-ing to be discovered (Johnson 1987). This"true" description will be mathematically pre-cise and free of linguistic ambiguity.

THEEXISTENTIAL-PHENOMENOLOGICAL VIEW

The purpose of examining the metaphors of Carte-sianism is not to argue that they are wrong but topoint out that this is one particular world view. It maybe limiting for consumer researchers to conclude thatthis is the only perspective from which to view humanphenomena. There are alternative, epistemologicallyviable world views for exploring human experience.One such world view is that of existential-phenome-nology (Giorgi 1983; Merleau-Ponty 1962/orig.1945; Pollio 1982; Sartre 1962/orig. 1943). The coreassumptions of this alternative world view are de-scribed by the metaphors of pattern, figure/ground,and seeing.

The Pattern MetaphorA pattern is a segregated perceptual whole that

emerges from a context (Kohler 1947). While beingperceptually distinguishable, a pattern does not existas a complete and separate entity from its surround-ing context (Gibson 1979; Kofflca 1935; Kohler1947). In keeping with the pattern metaphor, existen-tial-phenomenology subscribes to a contextualistworld view. Existential-phenomenologists do notseek to study individuals separate from the environ-ments in which they live or the interaction ofthe two(which implies separation); rather, the study is ofthetotality of human-being-in-the-world (Heidegger1962/orig. 1927).

The differences arising from viewing experiencedualistically or as being-in-the-world can be pre-sented pictorially. Figure A appears to be a spiral. Bydecontextualizing the figure, such as by tracing overthe spiral with a compass, the diagram is decomposedinto a series of embedded circles. Spiralness is anemergent phenomenon of the perceptual context.The dualist would contend that explaining the dia-

FIGURE A

AN ILLUSTRATION OF EMERGENT PHENOMENA

Source: Fraser, James B, (1908), '"A New Visual Illusion of Direction," Br/[*s/iJournal of Psychology. 2 (January), 307-320 (figure appears on p. 318).Reprinted with permission from the British Journal of Psychology.

gram requires separating the circles from their sur-rounding context and that spiralness is a pseudo-ob-servation, one that may be avoided by employing an-alytic procedures. The contextualist would counterthat spiralness is a phenomenon appropriate for studyand that there is no epistemological necessity forholding that only an analytic view can be scientificand valid.

Existential-phenomenology seeks to describe expe-rience as it emerges in some context(s) or, to use phe-nomenological terms, as it is "lived." The concept ofLebenswelt. or life-world, is one manifestation of ex-istential-phenomenology's focus on lived experience(Valle and King 1978). The world of lived experiencedoes not always correspond with the world of objec-tive description because objectivity often implies try-ing to explain an event as separate from its contextualsetting (PolHo 1982). In the field of artificial intelli-gence, for example, some researchers contend that fu-ture breakthroughs in building expert systems will re-quire describing the life-world ofthe human expert sothat background (tacit) and common-sense knowl-edge can be modeled (Dreyfus 1982; Newell 1982;Searle 1982; Winograd and Flores 1987). The im-plication is that experts live their knowledge in a waythat is not fully representable by a set of decontextual-ized rules and statements.

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136 THE JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH

FIGURE B

AN ILLUSTRATION OF FIGURE/GROUND PHENOMENA

Source: Rubin, Edgar (1921). Visuelle Wahregenommene FIguren.Copenhagen, Denmark: Glydendalske.

The major point deriving from the pattern meta-phor is that existential-phenomenology seeks to be adescriptive science that focuses on the life-world ofthe individual. Rather than separating and then ob-jectifying aspects ofthe life-world, the purpose is todescribe human experience as it is lived. On this view,the meaning of an experience is always situated in thecurrent experiential context and is coherently relatedto the ongoing project of the life-world {Sartre 1962).Experiences and their meaning may change but thesechanges are not arbitrary. This conception of experi-ence as being both dynamic and organized leads to asecond metaphor of existential-phenomenology, thatof figure/ground.

The Figure/Ground MetaphorFigure B offers a well-known example of figure/

ground that typically is presented in psychology textsas an interesting perceptual "trick" and little else.The important point to this, and other reversible fig-ures, is that certain aspects ofthe drawing stand outor become figural while other parts recede into thebackground (or ground). What is figural from oneperspective may be ground from another.

A particular setting can afford different experiencesas certain aspects ofthe context stand out while othersrecede and become background for the experience(Valle and King 1978). Consider a mother and child

shopping in a store. Initially, the mother is focallyaware ofthe store's offerings and the child is in thebackground of her experiential field. Let the child be-gin crying and, suddenly, the store recedes into back-ground as the child becomes the focal aspect ofthemother's life-world.

Three points may be derived from the figure/ground metaphor. First, experience is conceptualizedas a dynamic process in which certain events becomefigural (stand out) in the individual's life-world whileothers recede into ground. Second, the figure thatstands out is never independent of its ground and viceversa. Neither figure nor ground cause the other;instead, both are co-constituting. Third, all modes ofhuman experience, such as thinking, feeling, know-ing, imagining, and remembering, are viewed as in-tentional phenomena, that is, as having some focustoward which the experience is directed.

The figure/ground metaphor and its attendant con-cept of intentionality have two major implications forthe study of human experience. First, experienceemerges in a contextual setting and, therefore, cannotbe located "inside" the person as a complete subjec-tivity nor "outside" the person as a subject-free objec-tivity. The traditionally defined objective event is butone particular form of experience that seeks to view aphenomenon from the perspective of a detached ob-server. Second, experience is understood in the con-text of person-in-the-world. For example, the experi-ence of time changes as a person matures from child-hood to adulthood or moves from a boring task to aninteresting one (Dapkus 1985; Van den Berg 1961).A parallel can be drawn to the ecological school ofpsychology, which defines the perceptual unit as per-son-in-an-environment and holds that the nature ofperceiving varies across contexts (Gibson 1979).

The Seeing MetaphorExistential-phenomenology describes human expe-

rience as both unreflected and reflected (Pollio 1982).In clinical practice, for example, existential-phenom-enological therapists view phenomena, traditionallyclassed as unconscious, in terms of reflected and un-reflected experiences (Pollio 1982). The existential-phenomenological therapist locates the person'sdifficulties in the present life-world and not in an un-conscious mechanism determined by historical ante-cedents (May and Yalom 1984; Merleau-Ponty 1962/orig. 1945; Van den Berg 1961. 1970). The mecha-nism of repression is redefined as an existentialchoice: "the memory that is lost is lost only insofar asit belongs to a region of my life that I refuse" (Mer-leau-Ponty 1962/orig. 1945). An individual is seen asliving in the world in a repressed way and as havingto reflect on these experiences to see the pattern ofsuch repression.

Artificial intelligence has recently embraced thedistinction between reflected and unreflected experi-

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EXISTENTIAL-PHENOMENOLOGY 137

ence (Henley 1988). Consider the following quotefrom Winograd and Flores (1987, p. 97):

The essence of our being is the prc-reflective (unre-flected) experience of being thrown in a situation of act-ing without the opportunity or need to disengage andfunction as detached observers. Reflection and abstrac-tion are important phenomena, but are not the basisfor our everyday action.

The relationship between reilected and unreflectedexperience is one of figure/ground. Reflected mean-ings and symbols emerge from the ground of unre-flected experiences. The following excerpt from aphenomenological interview offers an example of arespondent reflecting upon what had previously beenan unreflected aspect of her shopping experiences.During the interview, the respondent realizes she ishappier with products bought on impulse than thosepurchased for practical reasons (her term). Prior tothe interview, the respondent had not seen the experi-ential pattern of liking impulse purchases more thanplanned ones. The respondent's reflecting on a spe-cific lived event allowed this pattern to emerge in theinterview.

R: But I am an impulse buyer. Say you go to a weddingor a christening and you are looking for a particularoutfit. You could go to 50 stores and never find any-thing, nothing looks interesting. But you could beabsolutely broke, overdrawn with your checking ac-count, and have two kids with you, and you justwalk by a store window and you see something thathas got your name on it and you just absolutely haveto have it. And the nicest things I have gotten arethings that I have bought like that. Oftentimes, Ihave purchased something that is right now the bestI have found, and you know, it never fails, after youhave worn it, you don't feel that great in it and itturns out to be wasted money.

I: Can you tell me about a time you made a purchaselike that?

R: I did that about two months ago. It was a skirt anda top and it was on sale. I got it because it was onsale. When I think back, it wasn't that striking. It fitwell and it was a very reasonable price. Honestly, Ithink it was on sale, it fit me, and I did need anotherskirt. But the bottom line was, it was not somethingI could take a look at and say 1 LOVE this. It wasalmost like I was being too practical. It's on sale,you need a summer skirt, and it fits you. Those arepractical reasons. What 1 would have enjoyed moreis if I had not been looking for something at thetime, and something caught my eye and, okay,maybe it wouldn't have been on sale and maybe Ididn't need a skirt but I really and truly loved theskirt and I would wear it a lot and I would feel goodevery time I wear it, that would have been a betterpurchase.

Summary and OverviewThe Exhibit represents a summary of significant is-

sues that diflerentiate existential-phenomenological

EXHIBIT

TWO APPROACHES TO CONSUMER RESEARCH

Existential-Tenets of paradigm phenomenology Cartesianism

World viewNature-of-beingResearch focusResearch perspectiveResearch logicResearch strategyResearch goal

Contextualtn-the-worldExperienceFirst-personApodicticHolisticThematic description

MechanisticDualisticTheoretical structureThird-personPredictiveComponentialCausal reductionism

and Cartesian approaches to consumer research. Ex-istential-phenomenology's world view is a contexlu-alist view in which experience is seen as a pattern thatemerges from a context. The ontology (nature of be-ing) is in-the-world: experience and world are viewedas co-constituting. The research focus is on experi-ence as described from a first-person view. The re-search logic is apodictic. meaning that researchersseek to apprehend a pattern as it emerges (Husserl1960/orig. 1925). The research strategy '\^ holistic ^n(\seeks to relate descriptions of specific experiences toeach other and to the overall context ofthe life-world.The research goal is to give a thematic description ofexperience.

Cartesianism's world view is a mechanistic view inwhich reality is perceived as a machine-like eventdetermined by forces and constraints. The ontologyis dualistic: human beings exist independently ofthephysical world. The research focus is on determiningunderlying theoretical structures as described from athird-person view. The research logic is predictive: fu-ture manifestations of a phenomenon are deducedfrom theoretical laws and axioms or induced fromhistorical antecedents. The research strategy is com-ponential and seeks to understand phenomenathrough the analysis of component parts. The re-search goal is to reduce phenomena to an essential setof quantitative dimensions that adhere to determin-ing laws and principles.

Both approaches lead to different research goalsand methods for consumer research, but the distinc-tion is not just that one approach is qualitative andthe other quantitative. There are widely used qualita-tive research methods based on Cartesian postulates.For example, a major divergence exists between thephenomenological interview and the more Cartesianmethod of protocol analysis (Bettman 1979; Ericssonand Simon 1984; O'Shaughnessy 1987). Whereasprotocol analysis is interested in uncovering the un-derlying propositional structure of decision making,existential-phenomenological interviews focus onidentifying recurring experiential patterns. Althoughboth techniques are qualitative, different interviewoutcomes are sought.

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EXISTENTIAL-PHENOMENOLOGYAS METHOD

To benefit consumer research, existential-phenom-enology must provide not just an alternative set ofmetaphors, but also alternative methods for studyingconsumer phenomena. The following section detailsone such research method—the phenomenologicalinterview. Although there are other methods for con-ducting phenomenological research, such as the anal-ysis of written statements, the interview is perhaps themost powerful means for attaining an in-depth under-standing of another person's experiences (Kvale1983).

Throughout the ensuing discussion, data from ac-tual phenomenologicai interviews will be used to il-lustrate methodological considerations. These exam-ples are provided to aid the reader in "seeing" howthe method is implemented; they are not meant tooffer the results of a complete study.

The Phenomenological InterviewInterview Format. Due to the in-depth nature of

the phenomenological interview, ethical concernsarise. Before beginning an interview, informed con-sent is attained. Respondents are told ofthe study'spurposes and that the interview will be audiotaped,and are assured of anonymity. During all stages ofthestudy, a concerted effort is made to protect respon-dent confidentiality.

The goa! of a phenomenological interview is to at-tain a first-person description of some specified do-main of experience. The course of the dialogue islargely set by the respondent. With the exception ofan opening question, the interviewer has no a prioriquestions concerning the topic. The dialogue tends tobe circular rather than linear; the descriptive ques-tions employed by the interviewer flow from thecourse of the dialogue and not from a predeterminedpath. The interview is intended to yield a conversa-tion, not a question and answer session.

The Interview Context. The role ofthe intervieweris to provide a context in which respondents freely de-scribe their experiences in detail. The interviewerdoes not begin an interview feeling that he or sheknows more about the topic than the respondent.Since the topic is the respondent's experience, an op-posite assumption is probably more useful. An im-portant aspect ofthe interview is that the interviewerand respondent are in positions of equality (Kvale1983). The interviewer does not want to be seen asmore powerful or knowledgeable because the respon-dent must be the expert on his or her own experiences.

The questions and probes used by the interviewerfollow the course of the dialogue and are aimed atbringing about descriptions of experiences; they are

not intended to confirm theoretical hypotheses. Aquestion such as, "What does this product symbolizefor you?", is in most instances too theoretical and/orabstract for purposes of a phenomenological inter-view. A better line ofquestioning might be, "Can youtell me about a time when you used this product?"Such a question keeps the dialogue focused on a spe-cific experience rather than on an abstraction. Focus-ing on specific events enables the respondent to pro-vide a fuller, more detailed description of an experi-ence as it was lived.

The interviewer employs descriptive questions,such as "What was X like?", "How did you feel when. . . ?", and relies on the respondent's own wordsand phrases when asking follow-up questions. For ex-ample, if a respondent were to state, "Sometimes I getstressed out by shopping," an appropriate follow-upquestion might be "Can you describe a time when youwere stressed out by shopping?" Using respondentterms is an important means for remaining unencum-bered by conceptual predilections.

During the course ofthe interview, the interviewershould avoid asking "why" questions. Such questionsshift the focus of the dialogue away from describingthe experience as it was lived to a more distant andabstract discussion.

Why Not Ask "Why"? The emphasis on avoiding"why" questions is an area in which phenomenologi-cal interviews differ from traditional methods, andthis warrants further elaboration. "Why" questions,or an equivalent such as "What caused you to dothat?", are often ineffective for generating descrip-tions of lived experiences. "Why" questions can beperceived as requests for rationalizations and can en-gender feelings of prejudgment and defensive re-sponses {Argyris 1982). Such questions may also putthe respondent in the position of a "naive scientist"seeking to find a plausible explanation for his or heractions. For example, a respondent states, "I gener-ally don't compare prices much when I buy things." Afollow-up question such as "Why don't you compareprices?" demands a rationalization for not comparingprices. To answer the question, the respondent singlesout one aspect of his or her experience and designatesit as a cause. Perhaps the respondent might have an-swered, "I don't have time." This short, completelyplausible response isolates both the interviewer andrespondent from the experience as lived.

A more useful follow-up question might be: "Canyou teil me about a time you bought something with-out comparing prices?" The aim ofthe question is tofocus the dialogue on a specific experience of "notcomparing prices." What emerged from an actual in-terview using this question was that the respondentchose not to compare prices on certain items that shedescribed as "have-to-buy products." For such items,she described feeling constrained and lacking an abil-

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EXISTENTIAL-PHENOMENOLOGY 139

ity to make a choice. The act of not comparing priceswas a means for minimizing the time devoted to pur-chasing these items. For other items Ihat were notseen as "have-to-buys," the respondent felt a choiceexisted, and comparing prices among these items was"fun and a high." This more extended description re-vealed the meaning of "not comparing prices" withinthe respondent's own life-world. From the descriptivedetail of how the respondent lived this experience, anexperientially based understanding of "not compar-ing prices" was gained.

Attaining a Phenomenological Dialogue. Opera-tionally, the interviewer desires to be a non-directivelistener. The interview guidelines of establishingequality among participants, having questions followfrom respondent discourse, employing short descrip-tive questions, and not asking "why" are some meth-odological procedures for preventing the interviewerfrom assuming an overly intrusive role. The tran-script is a record ofthe interview dialogue and shouldreveal whether the interviewer assumed a domineer-ing or directive role. In most cases, such an interviewwould not be acceptable as data. The ideal interviewformat occurs when the interviewer's short descrip-tive questions and/or clarifying statements providean opening for a respondent's lengthier and detaileddescriptions.

What Can You Do With "What"? It is often statedthat science must go beyond "mere" description—must move from the "what" to the "why"—to pro-vide a real understanding of a phenomenon. Thus,descriptive methods are seen as propaedeutic (prelim-inary steps) to scientific research (Deshpande 1983;Hunt 1976; MacLeod 1964). Some scholars, however,have asserted that such a view fails to appreciate thepower of description (Gibson 1979; Giorgi 1983;Merleau-Ponty 1962/orig. 1945; Wittgenstein 1953).In the usual sense of description, a researcher adoptsa detached third-person perspective and views somephenomenon in an objective (object-like) sense. Exis-tential-phenomenology, in contrast, seeks to render afirst-person description ofthe phenomenon as lived.

The differences between first-person and third-per-son description can readily be shown. For example, athird-person description of a phenomenon, such as asalesperson/customer encounter, might take the formof "the encounter lasted ten minutes," "the customerasked three questions concerning price, quality, and,service," "the salesperson responded by quoting thecurrent retail price," and so on. Such a descriptiondoes seem propaedeutic since it provides little insightinto the nature of the encounter. The emptiness ofthis description is not necessarily due to a lack ofcausal inferences; what is missing is experience.

Consider the following description of the experi-ences of encountering salespersons that emergedfrom a series of phenomenological interviews. When

shoppers felt knowledgeable about a product and en-joyed shopping for it, salespeople were viewed as co-ercive, intrusive agents, and shoppers did not wish tobe "helped" or even approached by them. Whenshoppers felt ignorant about a product and did notenjoy shopping for it, salespersons were seen as infor-mation providers who helped take the "nuisance" outof shopping—to use one respondent's phrase. In thiscontext, shoppers wanted salespeople to comequickly to their assistance rather than having to wait.In the first case, salespeople are seen as manipulativeand coercive. In the latter case, they are seen as beinghelpful and providing information that removes anunenjoyable feeling of ignorance.

Two points may be made in regard to this type ofexistential-phenomenological description. First, it isan experiential description, not an objective one.With an objective description, one five-minute inter-action with a salesperson is equivalent to another five-minute interaction. From an experiential point ofview, two five-minute encounters may be radicallydifferent. The customer not wanting assistance mayview the salesperson as intrusive or manipulative andtherefore may experience the encounter as agonizingand interminable. The customer wanting assistancemay view the salesperson as a knowledgeable guide,possibly experiencing the encounter as brief and plea-surable. The two encounters may be equivalent on anobjective temporal measure, but they differ experien-tially.

Second, the existential-phenomenological descrip-tion stays at the level ofthe respondent's life-world.In the previous example, there is no hypothesis as to"why" shoppers want to be left alone or want to behelped; rather, a description is provided of what shop-pers report experiencing when encountering sales-people. For those who would argue this description isin fact a causal analysis, one point needs to be real-ized. When engaging in a causal analysis, the re-searcher is abandoning the major tenet of existential-phenomenology that understanding must be at thelevel of lived experience. For example, an explana-tion that knowledgeable shoppers did not want salesassistance because they enjoyed shopping for theproduct leads to a subsequent question of why enjoy-ment of shopping causes people not to want saleshelp. After hypothesizing a cause at this level, anotherquestion arises. Why does this hypothetical constructcause people to enjoy shopping, which causes the ob-servable effect of not wanting sale help? At each level,the analysis moves from lived experience to a theoret-ical abstraction.

Existential-phenomenological understanding is at-tained by describing lived experiences and the mean-ings that emerge from them. Those who ascribe noscientific merit to description perhaps have only con-sidered descriptive research conducted and reportedfrom a third-person perspective. If experiential de-

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scriptions are considered, existential-phenomenol-ogy may be seen as a descriptive science (Giorgi1983).

Interpret ing the Ititerview

Afterinterviews have been transcribed from theau-diotapes, the interpretation phase begins. The tran-scribed interviews become the text from which inter-pretation ensues (Kvale 1983). The exclusive relianceon verbatim interview transcripts reflects three meth-odological criteria of phenomenological interpreta-tion—the emic approach, autonomy ofthe text, andbracketing.

In an emic approach, the interpretation relies onthe respondent's own terms and category systemsrather than the researcher's (Kvale 1983). The goal ofphenomenological investigation is to describe experi-ence in lived rather than conceptually abstract terms.For example, in one interview, a respondent made re-peated references to wanting "good service" fromsalespersons. Whereas a conceptual definition ofgood service might include attributes such as cour-tesy, promptness, and knowledge about the product,this respondent had two particular meanings of"good service": not being made to feel "dumb" (herterm) by a knowledgeable salesperson, and being toldwhat to buy in a way that did not make her feel ma-nipulated. Using respondent terms is one method-ological procedure for staying at the level of lived ex-perience.

The text of the interview is treated as an autono-mous body of data comprised of respondent reflec-tions on lived experiences. "Autonomous" has twomethodological aspects. First, there is no attempt tocorroborate a respondent's descriptions with externalverification. If a respondent were to reflect that, "thiswas an important purchase for me so 1 went to X foradvice," a researcher could seek to verify the reflec-tion by some external criterion of whether the pur-chase was actually "important" or if indeed X's ad-vice was sought. From the perspective of existential-phenomenology, the relevant issues are that at thetime ofthe interview the purchase is seen as "impor-tant" and person X is seen as someone whose adviceis sought. The goal is to understand the meaning of"important purchase" and the role of person X in thecontext ofthe reflected experience. Respondent de-scriptions are not to be construed as recalled "copies"of past events, but as reconstructions emerging in theinterview.

A second methodological aspect ofthe autonomycriterion is that the interpretation should not incor-porate hypotheses, inferences, and conjectures thatexceed the evidence provided by the transcript. Forexample, if a respondent describes certain frustra-tions she has in shopping for her spouse, a conjecturethat the frustration "really" mirrors underlying mari-

tal difficulties is inappropriate unless a discussion ofmarital problems occurs in the text. Similarly, ex-plaining the respondent's frustrations in theoreticalterms, such as psychoanalytic mechanisms, is inap-propriate because theoretical explanations are ab-stractions rather than descriptions of lived experi-ence.

To treat the transcript as an autonomous body ofdata, preconceived theoretical notions about the phe-nomena must be bracketed (held in abeyance). Brack-eting does not imply a neutral view, as researchersmust always see and describe the world from someperspective (Merleau-Ponty 1962/orig. 1945). Theinterpretation will have as its ground the meta-as-sumptions of existential-phenomenology, such asthose summarized in the Exhibit.

Holding to these meta-assumptions does not pre-clude bracketing specific preconceptions, such as atheoretical model or hypothesis, about the phenome-non. For example, a respondent might describe thepurchase of a sports car. The researcher could enter-tain a Gofl"man-like hypothesis that the purchase isintended as a public symbol. Such a presumptionmust be recognized and bracketed. It may be that thepurchase is experienced as symbolizing and project-ing certain traits, but, then again, it may not. Whenbracketing, the researcher relates to respondent re-flections in a non-dogmatic fashion and attempts tograsp, rather than impose, meanings emerging fromthe dialogue.

Although bracketing is necessary for attaining anunderstanding of respondents' lived experiences, theability of researchers to bracket is sometimes doubted{Hudson and Ozanne 1988). Part of this doubt maystem from a lack of explicit methodological proce-dures on how to bracket. Without such procedures,bracketing seems vague and mysterious. One meth-odological procedure for bracketing is to conduct in-terpretation in a group setting. Aside from facilitatingbracketing, the interpretive group affords severalother advantages in conducting existential-phenome-nological research.

The Interpretive GroupAn interpretive group is composed ofthe research-

er(s) and other individuals familiar with existential-phenomenological research. Members of the group,however, are not required to be experts in phenome-nological research or with the phenomenon beingstudied. The major requirements are that groupmembers are willing to commit the time and effort tointerpret a series of interviews and that they seek toapprehend experiences as described in interview dia-logues.

The interpretive group facilitates bracketing byconscientiously questioning the assumptions eachmember employs. If one member is unaware that he

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or she has failed to bracket a preconception, othermembers ofthe group are in a position to see this fail-ure. Members ofthe group have available to them theinterview transcript and whatever interpretation isproposed. Each interpretation is always evaluated byreferring back to the transcript. For any interpreta-tion put forth by a member of the group, follow-upquestions are asked.

One question from the group should be, "Is the pro-posed interpretation at the level ofthe respondent'slived experience?" A theme must emerge from re-spondent descriptions rather than from abstract ortheoretical conjectures. Each group member must beable to show that the proposed interpretation de-scribes the respondent's experience. One means fordoing this is by showing in the transcript where therespondent's own words support the interpretation.Only interpretations that can be supported in this wayare considered.

Another question put forth by the group should be,"Does the proposed interpretation take into accountprevious passages of the transcript?" No part of aninterview is taken out of its overall context. Interpre-tation is a continuous back and forth process of relat-ing parts to the whole. Earlier sections of a transcriptmust be re-evaluated constantly in light of what fol-lows later in the interview.

Unlike critical hermeneutics (Ricoeur 1976),which allows the text to yield a multitude of equallyadequate interpretations, existential-phenomenolog-ical interpretation seeks to describe respondent per-spectives. The criteria employed by the group recog-nize that not all interpretations are equally adequatefor this purpose.

The interpretive group affords other benefits aswell. The perspective ofthe group is broader than thatof any one individual and. thus, a pattern that mightnot have been noticed by a single researcher may be"seen" by the group. Also, the perspective of a singleresearcher may become sedimented; that is, the re-searcher may become focused on certain aspects ofthe transcript while failing to see others. The group,which is comprised of multiple perspectives, main-tains a "fresh" vision and is less likely to approach thetranscript in a stereotyped fashion.

The group also offers a means for overcomingdifficulties arising from the sheer volume of data in-volved in dialogical research. For example, 10 inter-views easily may generate more than 200 pages of sin-gle-spaced text. The lone researcher is likely to be-come overwhelmed by the interpretive task and mayrush the interpretation, thereby overlooking detailsand interrelations in the transcripts. The lone re-searcher also may rely on "cognitive heuristics," suchas availability and representativeness (Kahneman,Slovic, and Tversky 1982). The interpretive groupoffers a meansof sharing the burden of interpretationbecause the ability of the group to remember aspects

of transcripts is greater than that of any one indi-vidual.

The group approach also offers a means of avoidingany sense of monotony and doubt that may plaguea lone researcher. Interpretation involves going overeach interview transcript a multitude of times. Theglamour and excitement of phenomenological re-search soon gives way to repetition ofthe task. Moreproblematical, the lone researcher receives no im-mediate feedback on the adequacy of a proposed in-terpretation, which is not only discouraging but mayhave high costs in terms of time. Several monthsmight be spent working on an inadequate interpreta-tion that does not describe lived experience before ex-ternal raters note some problem. The interpretivegroup circumvents these difficulties by serving twofunctions. The dynamic ofthe group has an energiz-ing effect on the interpretive process and brings thetranscript to "life" by its being read and discussedamong people who share a common interest, and thegroup serves a recognition function. If an interpreta-tion describes a pattern in the data, then other indi-viduals will be able to see this pattern {Giorgi 1983).Group members provide the researcher(s) with Im-mediate feedback by noting whether they can also seethe interpretation in the transcript.

Hermeneutical Circles and Global ThemesThe hermeneutical circle refers to a part-to-whole

mode of interpretation {Bleicher 1980). In existen-tial-phenomenological interpretation, the part-to-whole process occurs in two phases. First, the inter-pretive group seeks an idiographic (individual) un-derstanding of each interview, which involvesviewing each transcript as a whole and relating sepa-rate passages ofthe transcript to its overall content.After each transcript has been interpreted at the idio-graphic level, a new part-to-whole phase begins inwhich separate interviews are related to each otherand common patterns identified. These patterns ofcommonalities are referred to as global themes (Kvale1983; Wertz 1983). This is not to imply that globalthemes offer exhaustive descriptions of'the phenome-non, only that they capture figural aspects emergingfrom a given set of experiences.

Identifying global themes across interviews is an-other methodological means for improving interpre-tive vision, not a means for attaining some type ofconvergent validation. The interpretation seeks to de-scribe common patterns in experiences. A pattern canpresent itself in many ways; for example, a songplayed in two different octaves exhibits the same per-ceptual pattern even though every note has beenchanged (Valle and King 1978). In terms of experi-ence, "different" situations (as seen from a third-per-son perspective) may be experienced in the same way,or the "same" situation (as seen from a third-person

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perspective) may be experienced differently. One re-spondent may experience money as a restriction onwhat they can do as a consumer while another mayexperience time as a like restriction. Both consumersexperience restriction even though the specifics differ.Seeing such a pattern involves a type of "seeing as"(Wittgenstein 1953). That is, researchers are seeingwhere one situation is experientially similar to an-other or, in phenomenological terms, where respon-dent intentionalities are the same.

Although global themes are identified across inter-views, support for each theme must be available inindividual transcripts. A researcher must continu-ously refer back to individual transcripts to ensurethat global themes are not rendered in abstract termsremoved from respondent experience. Even at thelevel of global themes, the researcher should be ableto point to specific passages in the transcripts thatafford a clear statement ofthe theme.

EPISTEMOLOGICAL CRITERIA OFEXISTENTIAL-PHENOMENOLOGY

A Positive Look at Positivism

Logical positivism provides epistemological cri-teria for evaluating research. It is sometimes assumedthat qualitative research, by definition, cannot meetthese positivist criteria and, therefore, must employalternative standards of "truth" (Lincoln and Guba1985). A concern of logical positivists is that allowingsuch a relativistic construal of truth will lead to con-clusions that are not empirically based, open the wayfor dogma and superstition to pass as knowledge, andresult in the absence of usable criteria for evaluatingknowledge claims (Hunt 1984).

The use of non-positivist research methods, how-ever, does not preclude existential-phenomenologyfrom addressing and/or sharing some of logical posi-tivism's epistemologica! concerns. If certain philo-sophical assumptions and methodological con-straints that often accompany logical positivistthought are bracketed, it can be seen that positivism'sbroad evaluative criteria are reasonable standards forexistential-phenomenological research. That is, re-search conclusions should be empirically based; re-search should strive to be free of personal biases, prej-udices, and dogma; other individuals should be ableto agree that conclusions are justified by the data; andcriteria should be provided for evaluating competingknowledge claims.

Existential-phenomenological research is empiri-cal. Its evidence is respondent descriptions of livedexperience. In addition, all aspects ofthe method areaimed at maintaining fidelity to interview transcripts.Any proposed interpretation must be supported byevidence. Existential-phenomenologists do not wishfor prejudice, dogma, and superstition to pass for

knowledge any more than their positivist counter-parts do. Moreover, the group interpretive methoddoes not violate any doctrine of intersubjective cer-tifiability. A major requirement of an interpretationis that it can be "seen" by others. Lastly, criteria existby which one interpretation can be judged as moreviable for existential-phenomenological purposesthan another.

In this so-called era of "post-positivism," there is atendency by interpretive methodologists to treat allaspects ofthe positivist program as completely anti-thetical to their own. It is, nonetheless, a categoricalmistake to contend that the broad epistemologicalconcerns of one paradigm cannot be relevant to analternative paradigm. Although the ontologicai andmethodological assumptions of existential-phenome-nology and logical positivism differ, both share acommon commitment to conducting rigorous, em-pirical research that is open to careful scrutiny.

Discovery as VerificationNoting that existential-phenomenology shares

some of positivism's broad epistemological concernsdoes not mean that a methodological eclecticism isbeing advocated. Pepper (1942) observed that eclecti-cism often suffers from problematic inconsistenciesarising from an uneasy juxtaposition of differingworld views. Attempts to synthesize methods (i.e.,"hardening" interpretive methods with a dose of pos-itivist procedures) often result in failure to reach theaims of either approach. Although existential-phe-nomenology and logical positivism may share somebroad epistemological concerns, their differing worldviews necessitate a methodological pluralism.

A major facet of existential-phenomenological phi-losophy is that experience is not partitioned into thecategories of objective and subjective. No methodsare seen as purely objective in the sense of being freeof human experience nor are any methods seen aspurely subjective in the sense of being free of worldlyphenomena. It is from this perspective that the posi-tivist distinction between discovery and justificationbecomes inapplicable to existential-phenomenologi-cal research.

For logical positivism, the discovery/justificationdistinction holds that the means by which knowledgeclaims are generated must be independent of themethods used to verify them (Hunt 1976). The viewseems to be based on the assumption that discovery isa subjective process and verification is an objectiveone, f̂ ree of human experience. The distinction's con-sequence for qualitative research is that the methodsused to verify an interpretation are separated fromthe interpretive process. For example, with a typicalverification procedure, such as an inter-rater reliabil-ity estimate, verification occurs after the interpreta-tion has been rendered and is external to the interpre-tive process.

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For a descriptive methodology, where no concep-tual distinction is made between discovery and justi-fication, the method of interpretation affords its ownjustification (Giorgi 1986). The descriptive meta-phors of existential-phenomenology (pattern, figure/ground, and seeing) are all perceptual metaphors,which implies that verification procedures should beinternal to the interpretive process. From such a per-spective, verification procedures should capitalize oninsight and intuition instead of replacing them withexternal criteria.

Intuition and insight are empirically based: the"seeing" is of things-in-the-world (i.e., empirical phe-nomena) and not of things-in-the-head of the ob-server (Gier 1981; Wittgenstein 1953). For example,when a problem is solved by insight, an understand-ing emerges from grasping the pattern or organizationpresent in the phenomena (Kohler 1947). The prob-lem and the pattern yielding its solution are not sub-jective entities but are in-the-world. The correctnessof an insight is experienced because it allows the prob-lem to be solved and, once informed ofthe insight,other individuals are able to see the solution as well.

In verifying an insight, first-person experience can-not be removed from the process. When other indi-viduals see a pattern describing some event, they aredoing more than providing intersubjective certifica-tion; they are experiencing the understandingafforded by the insight. Verification is given in (he di-rect experience of seeing a meaningful pattern.

The group interpretive method was designed totake advantage of the experiential nature of insightdescribed as a Wittgensteinian process of "seeing as."The group does not seek a compromise interpreta-tion, but one that is seen as correct by all members.The fact that different patterns initially may be"seen" is not problematic since group members candiscuss each proposed claim in terms ofthe transcriptdata and the following evaluative criteria: (1) inter-pretations must be based on respondents' own terms;(2) passages must be taken in their proper context; (3)theoretical explanations and abstractions must beavoided; and (4) support for proposed themes mustbe available in all transcripts.

An internal verification procedure, such as the onejust outlined, is not an idiosyncratic judgment. In thisprocedure, there are criteria by which claims shouldbe evaluated and judged by all members of the group.Although this method does not necessarily precludemore conventional verification procedures such as in-ter-rater reliability, its use of such "internal" verifi-cation does frame human insight as a methodologicalresource rather than as a liability.

Viewing interpretive insight as a "seeing as" pro-cess also helps overcome the potential problem ofvariability in interpretive methods. Unlike quantita-tive research, where standardized statistical proce-dures are used, there is no reason to expect that all

existential-phenomenological interpretations areproduced in the same manner or with the same rigor.The answer to this problem seems to be that, like allresearch, results ofthe procedure will become publicand other people will judge whether the themes areviable, useful, and meaningful. True to its roots in ex-istential and phenomenological philosophy, the finaluse and value of any given piece of research is deter-mined by the scientific consumer who will either seeand agree or will not see and agree with the themes ofa specific existential-phenomenological analysis.

FINAL REFLECTIONSThe term "consumer behavior" is an anachronism

reflecting an era in which psychology was dominatedby behaviorism (Howard 1965; Hull 1943). At theheight ofthe behaviorist movement, it was assumedthat human beings could be reduced to "nothing but"behavior (Kohler 1938). That is, when a full under-standing of behavior was attained, concepts such as"mind," "thinking," and, "imagining," would be un-necessary (Skinner 1974). Indeed, the use of suchterms was deemed patently unscientific. The domi-nance of behaviorism has been overturned by cogni-tive psychology, and mentalistic terms have been re-stored to the scientific vocabulary. The majority ofcontemporary consumer research should be moreaptly labeled "consumer cognition."

Although cognitive psychologists now talk freely of"mental structures," "information processing," and"decision making," the term "experience" is stillviewed with some of the same metaphysical suspi-cions behaviorists held for "mind." The "nothingbut" hypothesis is again at work. Cognitivists believethat when a full understanding of cognitive structureand process is attained, terms such as experience willbe unnecessary. After all, isn't experience really"nothing but" an epi-phenomenon of cognitivestructure?

To this question, existential-phenomenology an-swers no. Studying human experience is differentfrom studying an epi-phenomenon of cognitive struc-ture. Other theorists have also noted that much ofconsumer research ignores experience (Belk 1984;Fennell 1985; Holbrook and Hirschman 1982; Levy1981; Mick 1986). Proponents of ethno-methodolo-gies, such as naturalistic inquiry, have similarly notedthe inadequacies of conventional methods for study-ing consumer experience (Belk et al. 1988; Hirsch-man 1986; Hudson and Ozanne 1988; Wallendorf,Belk. and Heisley 1988).

One response to these critiques is the "embryonicdefense": consumer research is a young and develop-ing field that will eventually fill in these gaps as it ma-tures. The difficulty is that maturation alone solvesnothing. Few would argue that Hullian behaviorism,given sufficient time to mature, would eventually

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have come to understand cognitive phenomena, be-cause its methods and assumptions did not allow forsuch phenomena even to exist. For consumer re-searchers to understand experience, they must firstemploy methods and assumptions that allow for ex-perience to exist.

Existential-phenomenology employs a "somethingdifferent" hypothesis: experience is something dif-ferent than response patterns or cognitive structures.As such, existential-phenomenology provides a philo-sophical base from which to explore consumer experi-ence in non-dualistic terms. It seeks to develop anduse methods that allow for a first-person descriptionof lived experience. In both philosophy and method,existential-phenomenology offers a means for puttingconsumer experience back into consumer research.

[Received March 1988. Revised February 1989.]

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