This book employs and assesses one of the most parsimonious approaches to explanation in psychology, radical behaviorism, in order to ascertain its relevance to the interpretation of consumer behavior. Although some rather obvious observations can be made about the routine nature of much consumer choice in terms of its habitual nature, and while some again rather obvious interpretations of marketing tactics such as those that retailers use can be made in terms of alleged conditioning of consumer behavior, there is a much deeper reason for taking an interest in the relevance of radical behaviorism to marketing phenomena. This is the necessity to explain consumer and marketer behavior as a part of social and behavioral science, to understand their nature as pervasive elements of human endeavor; this entails determining the usefulness of social scientifi c paradigms to this task. It is usual to jump in at this point with whatever one’s favorite school of social thought or technique of analysis might be and to apply these to some aspect of consumption and management in the hope that something will come out that will advance the quest for theoretical knowledge. The reason I have chosen to use radical behaviorism is that it presents a fundamental
approach to the explanation of behavior, one that assumes that when the environmental stimuli that predict and control behavioral phenomena have been discovered, the behavior has been explained. This assumption, though naïve in the better sense of the word, is invaluable because it enables us not only to evaluate the claim that it makes by establishing the degree of usefulness of the paradigm of which it is a part to the explanatory endeavor (perhaps it will prove to have none), but also to use it as a standpoint for the evaluation of other, more elaborate means of explanation. A key question, for example, is at what stage does this most basic approach to behavioral science break down and require the addition of further paradigms if consumer behavior is to be adequately explained? It helps us defi ne at each stage in the research program the nature of explanation and to determine the nature of consumer behavior itself as a social, economic, and biological phenomenon by viewing it through the lenses of competing sources of understanding.