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Factors That Shape Eating Patterns: A Consumer Behavior Perspective KENNETH J. ROERING, DAVID M. BOUSH, and SHANNON H. SHIPP Eating patterns are affected by a complex set of economic, social, and psychological factors. One approach to understanding these factors is to study consumer behavior that is, the acts by which persons obtain and use economic goods and services, including the decisions that precede and determine these acts (Block and Roenng, 19791. Although its roots can be traced to the great philosophers, economists, and psychological laboratones, consumer-behavior research is only about 30 years old, the most important research having occurred in the last 15 years. When Block and Roering (1976) published their first book on consumer behavior, there were perhaps four or five others available. Today the number of consumer- behavior texts is well into the 50s, and the number of new books is increasing dramatically. This growth in consumer-behavior literature re- flects both increased interest and research progress. Unfortunately, this literature is not well known by many groups, such as public policymakers, that might benefit from it. An understanding of consumer behavior can benefit a variety of users. For example, in marketing, where perhaps the most strongly held tenet is that products must meet consumer needs and desires, consumer research can help marketing managers make decisions regarding product offerings. Or in such areas as consumer protection and consumer education, understanding how consumers behave can aid public policymakers in their decisions. This paper examines consumer behavior by presenting the various phys- iological, social, economic, and cognitive perspectives of past consumer 72

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A CONSUMER BEHAVIOR PERSPECTIVE 73 behavior research and focusing on the information-processing approach- that is, how consumers acquire, organize, and use information to make consumption choices. CONSUMER BEHAVIOR THEORIES AND RESEARCH The Physiological Approach Since its inception, consumer-behavior research has focused on mea- sures of behavior at the molecular level. Most researchers have attempted to measure some physiological change that occurs when a subject is ex- posed to a stimulus, such as an advertisement (Krober-Riel, 1979~. Al- ~ough in some cases He magnitude of emotional response could be reliably measured, proponents of this approach were seeking measures (not yet reliably operationalized) of the direction of responses and persuasiveness of the message (Kassa~ian, 1982~. More specific descriptions of these physiological research approaches are given in the following paragraphs. Arousal and Activation. The assumption underlying arousal and ac- tivation studies is that cognition and behavior originate in physiological processes. Several authors, however, have documented the nonco~Te- spondence between measures of arousal and verbal responses (Bettman, 1979; Russo, 19781. Measures of activation, such as electroencephalo- graph studies, show promise for the analysis of basic cognitive processes, but they are expensive and difficult to apply to large samples. Eye Movement, Skin Response, and Voice Analysis. Results from stud- ies using galvanic skin response, pupil dilation, and voice pitch analysis to measure consumer response have not been very useful in predicting aspects of consumer behavior (Bettma~, 19791. Although data of high validity have sometimes been obtained in eye movement studies, they are expensive to obtain. Moreover, because of the time and equipment required to test each subject, the method is not feasible for large sample sizes. Brain Hemisphere Lateralization. Recently, the implications of hemi- spheric lateralization have attracted some interest (see, for example, Wein- stein, 1980~. Activities associated with He left side of He brain have been described as analytical and logical, and those associated with the right side as nonverbal, pictorial, and integrative (McCallum and Glynn, 1979~. Research in this area has not yet been developed to He point that results can be applied to consumer behavior.

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74 The Social Approach WHAT FACTORS SHAPE EATING PATTERNS? Social theories of consumer behavior emphasize the importance of other people in shaping a person's behavior Some authors suggest Rat We appropriate unit of analysis for much consumer behavior is the family rather than the person. For example, Davis and Rigaux (1974) examined the family decision-making process and found that wives seem to dominate in decisions about food products. Other researchers focused on children and consumer socialization (Adler et al., 1980; Ward and Wackman, 1974) and interpersonal influence (Churchill and Moschis, 19791. These social forces can also be integrated in the cognitive approach to analyzing con- sumer behavior (see below). The Economic Psychology Approach Economic psychology developed as a reaction to traditional economics. Katona (19S1, 1975) has substantially modified many predictions re- lating individual behavior to macroeconomic variables. For example, traditional economics predicts that when people expect prices to go up they save less and spend more. In contrast, Katona showed that people fee] pessimistic when they face inflation and delay the purchase of discretionary items so that more money will be available for necessities (Katona, 1951~. Interest in economic psychology has waned somewhat in the United States, but continues at a lively rate in Europe under the direction of such researchers as Reynaud (1984), Warneryd (1980), and Van Veldhoven (19801. The Learning Theory Approach In the behaviorist school, which dominated American psychology from the 1940s through the early 1970s, discussion of cognitive pro- cesses was believed to be too "mentalistic" to be useful because only behavioral hypotheses could be empirically tested (Lachman et al., 19791. Learning theorists viewed complex behaviors as aggregations of much smaller units of behavior for which a person had been rein- forced. Reinforcement led to perseverance of a behavior, whereas lack of reinforcement caused the behavior to become extinguished (Hill, 19771. Although reinforcement is implicit in most consumer-behavior theories, the need to consider complex cognitive processes is generally acknowledged (Assael, 1984~.

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A CONSUMER BEHAVIOR PERSPECTIVE The Cognitive Approach 75 Attitude Research. In the past 20 years, an enormous amount of lit- erature has been written on attitude i.e., a person's predisposition to behave in a particular way (Loudon and Della Bitta, 1979~. Much of this research focused on attitude change and on prediction of behavior from attitudes. For example, Fishbein and Ajzen (1975) developed, with con- siderable research effort, the multiattnbute mode} of evaluation, which predicted a consumer's evaluation of a product (the attitude object) by a summation, across attributes, of the importance of each attribute multiplied by the belief that the product contained Mat attribute. The extended Fishbein attitude-behavior model predicted a behavior from the person's attitude toward the behavior rather than just from the attitude toward the object of the behavior (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975~. The attitude toward a behavior is influenced by whether the person feels that significant other people approve of Me behavior. For example, adopt- ing a strict vegetarian diet is predicted by a person's attitudes toward vegetarianism rather than by attitudes toward vegetables. These attitudes, in turn, are affected by one's perceptions of approval of vegetarianism by significant persons in one's life. Cognitive Response. The assumption in cognitive response research is that persuasive communications evoke Noughts that mediate attitude change (Petty, 1977~. When incoming information conflicts with a per- son's beliefs, counterarguments are likely to be generated, and the cred- ibility of the information source may be derogated (see Cialdini et al., 1981, and Petty et al., 1980, for reviews). Information Processing. For the past 10 to 15 years, information pro- cessing has been the dominant approach in consumer-behavior research. A major assumption of this approach is that the ability of humans to consider all possible decision alternatives and to reach a utility-maximizing decision is limited. Instead, the choice process is characterized by bounded rationality (March and Simon, 1958) in which persons consider or process only a limited amount of the information available for decision making. The resulting decision is satisfying rawer than optimizing. The computer has played an important role in information processing; many of the con- cepts have resulted from attempts to model human intelligence with a computer. Since information processing is currently the most dominant perspective in consumer behavior research, it is discussed in much greater detail below.

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76 WHAT FACTORS SH~E EATING PA=E~S? INFORMATION PROCESSING Information processing focuses on the mechanisms of cognition: aKen- tion, perception, and memory. That is, it focuses on the factors that are the basis of a behavior rather than on the behavior itself. Consumer- behavior models that use information processing do not ignore learning effects; rather, they go beyond simple behavioral predictions to achieve more complex explanations of consumer behavior. The information-pro- cessing approach interprets consumer choices as a function of three pro- cesses: information acquisition, information organization, and information utilization. Figure 1 presents these three processes in a simplified form. Information acquired from external sources, as well as information recalled from memory, affects consumer behavior. If external information is to influence consumer choice, it must be perceived, represented in memory, and then organized so that the consumer can gain access to it when necessary. For example, Bettman and Kakkar (1979) showed that consumers tend to organize information regarding familiar products by brand. The consumer's personal characteristics, such as age, social class, and personal life-style, affect the way this information is organized (Capon and Burke, 1980; Henry, 19804. When making a product choice, consumers gain access to the organized information in their memory by using various decision rules. In a routine purchase situation, little information may be retrieved, and the consumer may invoke a simple decision rule, such as "buy the same brand as last time." In a more important purchase situation, consumers may attempt Personal Characteristics 1 Incoming L Information ~ 1 , 1 . ~ Information . ~ Acquisition - From Own Experience From Others _~ . ~ ~ 1 ~ Inforn ration ~ | Information ~~~ ~L~ 1 ___J FIGURE 1 Overview of information processing. Adapted from Sternthal and Craig, 1982.

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A CONSUMER BElIAVIOR PERSPECTIVE 77 to recall all the pertinent information stored in their memory, actively search for more information, and then use a complicated decision rule, such as comparing alternatives on a range of dimensions. The consumer's choice will affect future choices, as shown in Figure 1. (The arrow leading from consumer choice back to-information acquisition suggests that how a choice is reinforced will influence future choices.) Information Acquisition Figure 2 presents a more detailed representation of information acqui- sition. A consumer actively processes incoming information in four stages: exposure to information, information reception, cognitive analysis, and attitude formation. Each stage is influenced by long-term memory. Exposure to information can be either active or passive and can be affected by a consumer's judgment of the information's usefulness. A consumer on a strict weight reduction diet may actively search for infor- mation about a food's caloric content. To a consumer who is less concerned about weight reduction, caloric content information may not be actively sought. Information reception involves sensory arousal and attention. Research indicates that in order for a consumer to attend to information, a moderate INCOMING INFORMATION Cognitive Processes 1 1 1 | Exposure to information ~ Information Reception ~ . Arousal and Attention ~ . | Cognitive Analysis Attitude Formation _ 1 Long-Term Memory Analysis for Utility Analysis for Pertinence Previous Opinions FIGURE 2 The infonnation acquisition process. Adapted from Stern- thal and Craig, 1982.

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78 WHAT FACTORS S}IAPE EATING PATTERNS? level of arousal is optimal, whereas a high level limits breadth of attention and a low level limits depth of attention (Hansen, 1972~. Consumers are selective about He information that receives their attention: It must be pertinent and have a signal strong enough to arouse them. Cognitive analysis is required for information to influence a consumer's choice. Initially, the information must be comprehended; that is, the con- sumer determines the extent to which the meaning inferred from the mes- sage is the same as that intended by the source. Once the message is received, the consumer retrieves from memory thoughts relevant to the object or issue and evaluates them in relation to the message. A judgment is then made about the message, based on its integration with previously held opinion. If the previously held opinion differs from the present mes- sage, consumers generate counterarguments that impede message accep- tance. If He previously held opinion is consistent with the new information, consumers more readily accept the present message. Information Organization Once the information is acquired, it must be organized in a meaningful way in memory to facilitate utilization. Researchers have found that con- sumers organize information by brand, by attribute, or by some combi- nation of the two (Bettman and Kakkar, 1977; Biehal and Chakravarti, 1982~. Consumers prefer different means of organizing information under different conditions. A consumer's familiarity with the product, for ex- ample, is one variable that affects the preferred method of organizing information about that product (Johnson and Russo, 1984; Park and Lessig, 1981~. If consumers are familiar with a product class, they prefer to organize incoming information by brand. If consumers are less familiar with the product class, they seem to prefer organization of incoming information by attribute. Information Utilization Consumers employ heuristics (empirical rules of thumb) to facilitate making a satisfactory choice with minimum effort. Four models describe the use of these heuristics by consumers: the linear model, the lexico- graphic model, the conjunctive model, and the disjunctive model. (For a complete description of the four models, see Bettman, 1979.) Linear Model. Most investigations of information organization have tested the extent to which the linear model predicts preference. All linear models assume that two components account for a consumer's judgment:

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A CONSUMER BEHAVIOR PERSPECTIVE 79 (1) belief that an alternative (a potential product choice) possesses some attribute and (2) evaluation of that atbibute's importance. In a typical product judgment, a consumer decides the importance of each product attribute, evaluates He extent to which a product possesses each attribute, multiplies the importance weights by the attribute evaluations, and sums across all attributes. For example, a consumer who is judging loaves of bread might decide Hat fiber content and freshness are the most important attributes in evaluating different brands. To use the model, the consumer assigns weights to these attributes based on their importance to the pur- chase decision and evaluates each brand's degree of fiber content and freshness. To derive a score for each brand, the consumer multiplies He two attributes weighted by their importance scores and the score of each brand on each attribute. The consumer selects the brand with the highest score. A basic feature of the linear model is that it views decision making as a compensatory process. That is, a low evaluation of a product on one attribute can be overcome by a high evaluation on another attribute. The linear mode} makes reasonably accurate predictions, especially when few attributes are used in making judgments. However, consumers' expla- nations of their own decision-making processes do not fit the linear model. In addition, when consumers are asked to apply various models con- sciously to the selection of products, Hey find He linear model difficult to use (Russ, 1971; Sheridan et al., 19751. The Lexicographic Model. The lexicographic mode} involves a se- quential evaluation that simplifies choice (Bettman, 19791. The decision maker compares alternative products by the most important attribute. If one product is superior on that attribute, it is chosen; if no product is superior, the products are Hen compared on the second most important attribute. The process continues until an alternative is chosen. For ex- ample, the consumer in He bread-purchasing example may rank freshness as the most important and fiber content as the second most important product attribute. If none of He alternative loaves is noticeably most fresh, the loaf with the highest fiber content, the second most important attribute, would be selected. The Conjunctive Model. In He conjunctive model, He consumer makes a choice that meets minimum criteria on all relevant attributes. For ex- ample, the consumer chooses a loaf of bread that is suitably fresh, contains fiber, and is low in price. Frequently, a second model must be applied because the conjunctive model may not produce a unique choice.

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80 WHAT FACTORS SHAPE EATING PATTERNS? The Disjunctive Model. The disjunctive model is often used to reduce the number of acceptable alternative products. As with Me conjunctive model, a minimum acceptable level is determined for each attribute. How- ever, the alternative products selected are Dose that surpass the minimum level on any attribute. Consumers can and do use the decision rules from more than one of the above models to make a product choice. They may use a disjunctive rule to narrow the set of alternatives, a conjunctive rule to limit that set further, and then a linear or lexicographic rule to make the final choice. Thus, no decision model is best; rather, each is used under different circumstances, depending on decision complexity, perceived risk, and the format in which information is presented. Decision complexity increases with the number of possible alternatives, the number of attribute dimen- sions, and the novelty of the choice situation Nutrition Information Processing Information Acquisition. In several survey studies (Daly, 1976; cf. Rudell, 1979), consumers reported a desire for more nutrition information, contending that they wood use.it. Laboratory studies, however, do not support those reports. In a series of experiments, Jacoby et al. (1977) found that only one-third of their subjects searched for such information in making choices related to nutrition. Furthermore, many consumers have poor knowledge of nutrition. In a recent survey (Clydesdale, 1984), only 4 of 700 students were aware of the nitrate issue, and two of those seemed to understand it. Information Misuse and Misunderstanding. Consumers often misun- derstand nutrition information. If they do understand it, they tend to misuse it. Several authors (Daly, 1976; Jacoby et al., 1977) reported poor nutrition information comprehension among subjects with varied demographic char- acteristics and low scores on tests of nutrition knowledge among college undergraduates. Consumers do not understand the implications of nutrient composition of foods or adherence to a particular diet. Asam and Bucklin (1973) found that subjects rated products as more nutritious when infor- mation on nutritional content svas printed on the package than when the same products were presented with less information on the package. Pro- prietary studies indicate that some consumers interpret the absence of particular ingredients, such as caffeine and sugar, as indicators of product quality. In short, consumers assess the nutritional content of food using, at best, inadequate information; moreover, they apply inaccurate, sim- plifying heuristic rules to make their product choices.

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A CONSUMER BEHAVIOR PERSPECTIVE 81 Limits to Information Processing. The notion that people are limited in their capacity to process information is a basic assumption of infor- mation processing. One implication of this assumption is that consumers can experience information overload (Jacoby, 1984; Jacoby et al., 1974), a condition that seriously inhibits information processing and results in less-effective consumer decision making. Improving Information Processing. The ability of consumers to pro- cess nutrition information can be improved. When product information is presented in a manner consistent with the way similar information is organized in the consumer's memory, considerably less effort is required for the person to process it adequately. Scammon (1977) reported that consumers understood and used nutrition information more when it divas presented descriptively than when the same information was presented as Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) (NRC, 19801. Descnptive presentation of nutrition information, however, may have We disadvantage ~ . . . 01 1mpreclslon. Future Research The information-processing approach to consumer behavior has pro- duced some useful insights. Many questions remain, however, and the following priorities for future research are suggested to help answer those questions. Develop methods to increase consumer attention to nutrition infor- mation. Develop methods to enhance consumers' understanding and use of nutrition information. Particularly needed is exploration of various deci- sion rules, including the circumstances tander which consumers use dif- - ferent rules. Determine the limits on the consumer's capacity to process nutrition information. The amount of information that can be adequately processed appears to depend on the context of the situation. Therefore, researchers should establish the optimum amounts of presented information for various situations. ~ Determine how use context and purchase context affect processing of nutrition information. That is, information may be processed differently, depending on whether a food is consumed as a meal or a snack and whether it is consumed by family, self, or guests. Also, consumers may use dif- ferent decision rules when ordering food in a restaurant than when buying food in a supermarket.

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82 WHAT FACTORS SHAPE EATING PATTERNS? Determine nutrition information needs of various consumer groups, particularly those at nutritional nsk. Goals in making choices pertaining to nutrition differ for various groups. Some consumers may, for example, require more detailed specification of fiber, sugar, or vitamin content than do others. CONCLUDING COMMENT Nutritionists and other researchers agree on Be importance of improving the American diet and monitoring nutritional intake. However, rawer than simply describing nutritional problems, relevant theory should be applied to solving them. Studying consumer behavior and, more specifically, consumer information processing can improve our understanding of how nutritional choices are made. To date, research has shown that consumers do not adequately obtain or comprehend nutrition information and that the information they do understand is often misused. A research agenda that focuses on information processing, such as that proposed here, could ultimately help consumers make better nutritional choices. REFERENCES Adler, R. P., S. Ward, G. S. Lesser, L. K. Meringoff, T. S. Robertson, and J. R. Rossiter. 1980. The Effect of Television Advertising on Children: Review and Recommendations. Lexington Books, Lexington, Mass. Asam, E. H., and L. P. Bucklin. 1973. Nutritional labeling for canned goods: A study of consumer response. J. Mark. 37:32-37. Assael, H. 1984. Consumer Behavior and Marketing Action. Kent, New York. Bettman, J. 1979. An Information Processing Theory of Consumer Choice. Addison Wesley, Reading, Mass. Bettman, J., and P. Kakkar. 1977. Effects of information presentation format on consumer infonnation acquisition strategies. J. Consum. Res. 3:233-240. Biehal, G., and D. Chakravarti. 1982. Information presentation format as determinants of con- sumers' memory retrieval and choice processes. J. Consum. Res. 8:431-441. Block, C. E., and K. J. Roenng. 1976. Essentials of Consumer Behavior, 1st ed. The Dryden Press, Hinsdale, Ill. Block, C. E., and K. J. Roering. 1979. Essentials of Consumer Behavior, 2nd ed. The Dryden Press, Hinsdale, Ill. Capon, N., and M. Burke. 1980. Individual, product class, and task-related factors in consumer information processing. J. Consum. Res. 7:314-326. Churchill, G.' A., and G. P. Moschis. 1979. Television and interpersonal influences on adolescent consumer learning. J. Consum. Res. 6:23-35. Cialdini, R. B.? R. E. Petty, and J. T. Cacioppo. 1981. Attitude and attitude change. Annul Rev. Psychol. 32;348-404. Clydesdale, F. M. 1984. Culture, fitness, and health. Food Technol. 38(11):108-111. Daly, P. A. 1976. The response of consumers to nutritional labeling. J. C:onsum. Affairs 10:170- 178.

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A CONSUMER BEHAVIOR PERSPE~E 83 Davis, H. L., and B. P. Rigaux. 1974. Perception of mental roles in decision processes. J. Consum. Res. 1:51-62. Fishbein, M., and I. Ajzen. 1975. Belief, Attitude, Intention, and Behavior. Addison-Wesley, Reading, Mass. Hansen, F. 1972. Consumer Choice Behavior: A Cognitive Theory. New York Free Press, New York. Henry, W. 1980. The effect of information processing ability on processing accuracy. I. Consum. Res. 7:4248. Hill, W. F. 1977. Learning: A Survey of Psychological Interpretations. Harper and Row, New York. Jacoby, J. 1984. Perspective on information overload. J. Consum. Res. 10:432~35. Jacoby, J., D. E. Speller, and C. A. Kohn. 1974. Brand choice behavior as a function of information load. J. Mark. Res. 11:63-69. Jacoby, J., R. W. Chestnut, and W. Silberman. 1977. Consumer use and comprehension of nutritional information. J. Consum. Res. 4:119-128. Johnson, E., and J. E. Russo. 1984. Product familiarity and learning new information. J. Consum. Res. 11:542-550. Kassarjian, H. H. 1982. Consumer psychology. Annul Rev. Psychol. 33:619-649. Katona, G. 1951. Psychological Analysis of Economic Behavior. McGraw-Hill, New York. Katona, G. 1975. Psychological Economics. Elsevier, Amsterdam. Krober-Riel, W. 1979. Activation research: Psychobiological Approaches in Consumer Research. J. Consum. Res. 5:240-250. Lachman, R., J. Lachman, and E. Butterfield. 1979. Cognitive Psychology and Information Processing: An Introduction. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, N.J. Loudon, D. L., and A. J. Della Bitta. 1979. Conswner Behavior: Concepts and Applications. McGraw-Hill, New York. March, J. G., and H. A. Simon. 1958. Organizations. Wiley, New York. McCallum, A. S., and S. A. Glynn. 1979. Hemispheric specialization and creative behavior. J. Creat. Behav. 13:263-273. NRC (National Research Council). 1980. Recommended Dietary Allowances, 9th ed. A report of the Food and Nutntion Board, Assembly of Life Sciences. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C. Park, C. W., and P. V. Lessig. 1981. Familiarity and its impact on consumer decision biases and heuristics. J. Consum. Res. 8:223-230. Petty, R. E. 1977. The importance of cognitive responses in persuasion. Adv. Consum. Res. 4:357-362. Petty, R. E., T. Ostrum, and T. Brock, eds. 1980. Cognitive Responses in Persuasion. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, N.J. Reynaud, P. L. 1984. Precis de Psychologie Economique. Presses Universite de France, Pans. Rudell, E. 1979. Consumer Food Selection and Nutrition Information. Praeger, New York. Russ, F. A. 1971. Consumer Evaluation of Alternative Product Models. Ph.D. dissertation, Camegie-Mellon University. Russo, J. E. 1978. Eye fixations can save the world: A critical evaluation and a comparison between eye fixations and other infonnation processing methodologies. Adv. Consum. Res. 561-570. Scamman, D. L. 1977. Information load and consumers. Consum. Res. 4:148-155. Sheridan, J. E., M. D. Richards, and J. W. Slocum.1975. Comparative analysis of expectancy and heuristic models of decision behavior. J. Appl. Psychol. 60:361-368. Sternthal, B., and C. S. Craig. 1982. Consumer Behavior: An Information Processing Perspec- tive. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

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84 WHAT FACTORS SHAPE EATING PATTERNS? Van Veldhoven, G. M. 1980. Psychological Aspects of Taxation. Presented at the 5th Am. Colloq. Eur. Econ. Psychol., Leuven, Belgium. Ward, S., and D. B. Wackman. 1974. Children's information processing of television advertising. Pp. 119-146 in P. Clarke, ed. New Models for Communication Research. Sage, Beverly Hills, Calif. Wa~neryd, K. E. 1980. Taxes and Economic Behavior. Presented at the 5th Am. Colloq. Eur. Econ. Psychol., Leuven, Belgium. Weinstein, S. 1980. Bram wave analysis in attitude research: Past, present and future. Pp. 41- 47 in R. W. Olshavsky, ed. Attitude Research Enters the 80's. American Marketing Asso- ciation, Chicago, Ill.