Consumer researchers are interested in the responses of people to commercial stimuli. Usually, these stimuli are products and services, including all attributes, issues, persons, communications, situations, and behaviours related to them. Perception is the first bottleneck in this process: as consumers, we can only respond to a stimulus if our senses are actually stimulated by it. Psychologically speaking, a stimulus only exists for us once we have formed an internal representation of it. The objective of this chapter is to introduce the systems that are involved in this processing of perceptual information and to characterise the operations they perform. To avoid confusion, it should be stressed that the term "perception" is often used in a colloquial sense in consumer research. In concepts like perceived quality, perceived value, or perceived risk, the modifier "perceived" simply highlights the subjective nature of these phenomena. However, many of these phenomena are the result of rather complex evaluative judgments and should therefore be regarded as attitudes, not as perceptions in a narrow sense. In this chapter, the term perception will be used in its narrow sense, referring to the selection, organisation, and interpretation of stimulus features in such a way that they acquire meaning to us. The scientific study of perception began in the mid-19th century in Germany. The pioneering work by Ernst Weber and Gustav Fechner on the relationship between objective and subjective stimulus intensities ("psychophysics") can be considered the birth of experimental psychology. Today, most perception research is carried out in the interdisciplinary field of cognitive neuroscience. Only selected issues have made their way into consumer research. After a short general introduction, we will therefore focus on these two issues: the use of sensory analysis in product development, and the investigation of visual attention in advertising.
Consumer Behavior: A Nordic Perspective, 2010, p. 233-248