Emotion and Reason in Consumer Behavior: Chapter 1: Introduction

Chaudhuri starts his introduction with some uncontroversial points. Namely that advertising can evoke both emotional and rational responses. Furthermore, the responses of the individual are the result of other factors such as environment, genes, and individual characteristics such as attitudes, perceptions, personality, and needs.

Next Chaudhuri wants to clarify what he means by emotion and reason. He does this by claiming that emotion and reason are two distinct but complimentary ways of gaining knowledge (p. 2). To buttress this claim he cites two well known figures. First, he quotes William James who said “I know the color blue when I see it, and the flavor of a pear when I taste it…but about the inner nature of these facts or what makes them what they are I can say nothing at all” (p. 22). This Chaudhuri takes to be knowledge by acquaintance or emotion. Reason, he says, is knowledge by description. To this point he references Bertrand Russell who said that his “knowledge of a table as a physical object…is not direct knowledge. Such as it is, it is obtained through acquaintance with the sense-data that make up the appearance of the table” (p. 73-74). From this Chaudhuri states, “[t]hus, the brain appears to involve two functionally different ways of knowing” (p. 3).[7]

To further illustrate the distinction between emotion and reason, Chaudhuri discusses the communication of these concepts. He says that emotion is communicated spontaneously and reason is communicated symbolically[8]. Importantly he says that spontaneous communication is possible without symbolic communication, but symbolic communication can never occur in the absence of spontaneous communication. So, when spontaneous communication occurs it activates the emotional part of the brain and may be accompanied by symbolic communication which activates the rational part of the brain. However, when symbolic communication occurs it must be accompanied by spontaneous communication and thus the emotional part of the brain is always activated, even when the form of communication is primarily rational.

Chaudhuri then draws out three forms of emotion based on research by Ross Buck. They are: Emotion I (EI) which consists of physiological responses, Emotion II (EII) which is spontaneous expressive behavior, and Emotion III (EIII) which is the subjective experience of the individual. I want to briefly focus on EIII. Chaudhuri states that this form is what he refers to as affect and that there are different types such as “joy, sorrow, fear, envy, anger, pride and so on” (p. 5). He then goes on to say that EIII is what he previously referred to as “knowledge by acquaintance”.[9]

After discussing Buck’s forms of emotions, Chaudhuri talks about two different psychological views on emotion. First is the psychophysiological view. This is the view that emotion is the result of the visceral and skeletal response. The other view is the psychosocial view. In this view emotion is derived from the environment and the stimulus. In his words the psychophysiological view is that arousal is a sufficient and necessary condition for emotion, but in the psychosocial view arousal is necessary, but not sufficient.

Chaudhuri thinks both views might be right. Consider Bucks three types of emotions outlined earlier. It might be the case that the psychophysiological view refers to emotions of one form and the psychosocial view refers to emotions of another form. Chaudhuri also tries to reconcile the conflicting findings for each view by appealing to the knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description distinction.[10]

Chaudhuri then devotes the remainder of the chapter to MacLean’s triune brain concept. This is the idea that our brain is literally made up of three regions: (1) a reptilian region remaining from our evolution from reptiles, (2) a paleomammalian region remaining from our evolution from early mammals, and (3) a neomammalian region.[11],[12]

  1. [7] Notice that it’s not Russell’s view that knowledge by acquaintance is emotion and knowledge by description is reason.
  2. [8] This, along with some of the other views on emotion, Chaudhuri borrows heavily from Ross Buck’s work.
  3. [9] So “knowledge by acquaintance” consists of emotions such as joy, sorrow, fear, etc. Now recall the quote from William James that Chaudhuri took to be an example of this. “I know the color blue when I see it” (p. 22). This type of knowledge is an affect. But what sort of affect can it be? Is knowing the color blue something like joy? Sorrow? Fear? If not then it looks like we should throw out some part of what Chaudhuri has been developing up to this point and I contend that it should be the knowledge distinctions as conceptually identical as emotion and reason. It doesn’t strengthen the view. Rather it weakens the view because it introduces dubious claims.
  4. [10] It becomes clear at this point that Chaudhuri is attempting to reconcile the tension between all of the views he’s presenting. But to do so it looks like he’s going to have to present the views superficially. Upon a close look it’s clear that the views are just incompatible.
  5. [11] This view has been discredited. So, I won’t talk more about it.
  6. [12] Overall Chaudhuri is looking to fit his and the other researchers’ research into a comprehensive cognitive science or psychological view. Unfortunately, he strings together a handful of loosely related ideas to give the appearance of a comprehensive view, but it just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. He completely misses what the distinction between knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description is, he inconsistently tries to incorporate the distinction into Buck’s forms of emotion, he fails at reconciling the psychosocial and psychophysiological views in a coherent way, he frequently mentions the left-brain/right-brain distinction with no support for his use of it, and then he purports that the dubious triune brain theory has some explanatory power.
  • Chaudhuri, Arjun. (2006). Emotion and Reason in Consumer Behavior. Burlington, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.
  • James, Williams. (1890). The principles of psychology (Vol. 1). New York: Henry Holt.
  • Russell, Bertrand. (1912). Problems of Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press.
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2 Responses to Emotion and Reason in Consumer Behavior: Chapter 1: Introduction

  1. Nasla says:

    The chapter provides three different definitions of emotions, how can someone use each of these definitions to research and market a product?

  2. robertjneal says:

    Hi Nasla,

    First, notice that they are three forms, not three competing definitions. I think one of the more useful takeaways from this chapter is Block’s distinction between the three forms of emotion.

    When testing the emotion elicited by a product or campaign it is useful to break them into physiological responses (EI), spontaneous expressive behavior (EII), and the experience of the consumer (EIII). EI can be tested quite well as you can record physiological responses pretty easily and they aren’t subject to worries such as those with self-reporting. EII is less precise, but given the right environment should be able to be captured in a measurable way. EIII is the most difficult to get at. Self-reporting is problematic for a number of reasons and we can’t measure the consumer’s experience directly.

    But I hope that helps you see how the three forms can give us insights on how to measure consumer emotions, i.e. what the metrics we should attend to are when testing a product or campaign.


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