Information Search
A liturature review produced by James Meharry

Executive Summary  
The purpose of this literature review is to find new additional information, on the topic of information search, which is not covered by Hawkins in consumer behaviour, implications for marketing. 
The findings of the research into this topic have lead to the discovery of the parallel-processing model. This model assumes that the human brain operates in a parallel fashion, and is capable of processing a large number of complex tasks simultaneously. The brain is able to form relationships and then make connections between information and experiences. 
People usually have prior expectations about a product and they avoid the types of information that do not coincide with their initial beliefs and therefore make inappropriate decisions. 
The elaboration likelihood model has a central route, where their is motivation to process information and the ability to process the information. The peripheral route assumes that there is either no stimuli or no motivation to process the information. 
Consumers tend not to seek additional information for services, as it becomes scarce, difficult to access and costly. Consumer observations and trails for services become limited, due to the fundamental nature of services. 
Advertising executional cues are used to enhance consumers motivation, opportunity and ability to process information. They are effective in enhancing brand attitudes and recall. Knowledge that is already stored in the memory will influence whether new information will be processed. 

 Road Map 
Curriculum Vitae : James Meharry


Consumers will search for information as it will lead to : a lower price , higher quality, a preferred style, confidence in choice. 

Once need recognition has occurred, the internal search by the customer is carried out. The memory is used to located past searches and personal experiences that the person might have had about the product. 

If additional information is required, the consumer will carry out an external search, and this additional information will be added into the memory. If this information is sufficient the consumer will go ahead and purchase the product, although the consumer can do an ongoing search if more knowledge is required or if the process was pleasurable. 

Consumers need to collect appropriate information on a group of alternatives, and these alternatives are selected through the evoked set ( possible solutions to the problem ). Consideration of these alternatives will help them reach a decision to solve the problem. A small percentage of consumers go on to external search, as this is extensive search mainly for expensive / important decisions. 


  • Internal  Memory : Past search, experiences, low involvement learning. 
  • External  Personal sources : Family , friends. 
  • Independent sources : Professionals. 
  • Marketing : Advertisements , sales personnel. 
The marketing team has direct access to consumers through the external search process. This includes: 
  • Store visits 
  • Consideration of alternatives 
  • Personal sources used 
  • Combination measures. 
Most consumers only do a limited information search, but this doesnít mean that they are following a sound purchasing strategy or that they are using substantial amounts of internal information. 

Why donít more people engage in external search ? The cost of the search may exceed the perceived benefits.  Costs include: 

  • Expenses related to search, 
  • transport, 
  • parking, 
  • time factor. 
  • Physical and psychological strain 
Influences in the expected benefits and perceived costs of search : 
Market characteristics (Price, stores, No of alternatives), product characteristics (price level, product differentiation, positive influence), Consumer characteristics (learning, social status, age, risk ), Situational characteristics (Time, surroundings, energy) . 
                                                                                           (Hawkins, 1994, Consumer Behaviour). 
back to the road map 

Parallel-Processing Model 

Current models on information processing assume that processing occurs in a serial or sequential fashion. However a new model based on parallel distributed processing, has been developed. This new model assumes that the human brain operates in a parallel fashion, and is capable of processing a large number of relatively complex cognitive tasks simultaneously. The underlying configuration is that it does have an impact on how information is processed. (Martin, 1990). This development has lead to a reconceptalization of memory structure and knowledge representation. (Feldman 1985). 
Memory is distributed across relationships, rather than associated with a particular place in long term or short term memory. Thus memory allows traces to interact, with the result that memory tends to focus on the connections between information or experiences. Individuals are then able to form generalisations from previous experiences, when faced with new circumstances. ( Martin, 1990). 
The model will have an impact on the research techniques used by marketing, as in old designs in research meant that they restricted the participants into a serial processing mode, or at least require them to represent their decision processes as serial. The new model assumes that comparisons can be made between attributes ( in parallel ), rather than application of specific rules. ( Martin, 1990). It should allow for memory relationships between past experience and current task. (Rumelhart, et al. 1986). 

back to the road map 

Beliefs and Information Processing 
People have a tendency to process information in a manner as to sustain their initial beliefs. Consumers will selectively search for aspects of a product that will confirm their expectations. Therefore a consumer with different expectations about a product or a service may experience identical performance and still emerge with their divergent expectations confirmed. A concern is that consumers will avoid the types of information that donít coincide with their expectations, and therefore make inappropriate decisions. (Hill, 1988). 
The type of information plays a role in how consumers interpret information, word of mouth is generally held to be more credible than commercial messages. Beliefs based on usage experience are held much more confidently than beliefs based on external sources. (Hill, 1988). 
If a consumer has a specific belief about a purchased product, and it is contradicted by a competitorís advertisement, then customer dissatisfaction might be increased due to the operation of changes in beliefs which in turn, would influence attitude toward purchasing the brand again. (Kasmer, 1989) 

back to the road map  

Elaboration Likelihood Model of Persuasion 

If a consumer has the motivation and ability to analyse the arguments, then the attention of the customer will be high, in processing and rationalising the argument. Attitudes that result from examining and thinking about the arguments is called central route induced persuasion. Therefore persuasion functions of the central route are, motivation to process the arguments and the ability to process the argument. (Kasmer 1989). 

Not all persuasion occurs by the central route. Peripheral route induced persuasion occurs when the customer is unmotivated to and/ or unable to process the arguments. When the peripheral route to persuasion is travelled, persuasion occurs due to peripheral cues. These cues can cause persuasion but do not necessarily involve examining the arguments. (Kasmer 1989) A famous celebrity in an advertisement results in consumers experiencing a positive attitude change towards the product, is an example of a peripheral cue. 

ELM Model 

Marketing stimuli 
    yes                                                       no 

                                       Motivation to 
                                  process information 

                                              yes                       no 

                                                               Peripheral cue 
                                  Ability to process 
             yes                                                        yes 
Attitude change 
towards brand 
 need activation 
The central route induced persuasion creates both more enduring and more resistant attitudes towards the position advocated in the persuasive message. (Kasmer 1989). 
back to the road map 

Information Aquisition for Services 

There has been little attention, on understanding the purchase process and the information needs of the service customer. 

Perceived risk represents consumer uncertainty about loss or gain in a particular transaction. In general, the greater the degree of perceived risk in a prepurchase context, the greater the consumer propensity to seek information about the product or service. It is logical to expect that consumers acquire information as a strategy of risk reduction in the face of specific uncertainty (Murray 1991). 
Previous research has implied that service customers are inclined to seek additional prepurchase information. For services, this finding tends to contradict the expectation that as information sources become more scarce, difficult to access, and costly in terms of consumer expenditure of time and effort, consumer preference for seeking additional information decreases. (Murray 1991). 

Previous findings suggest that as perceived risk of a purchase increases, individuals seek to reduce risk by means of direct observation and trail. The fundamental nature of services means the opportunity for consumer observation and trial is logically limited and finding divergent to this would be difficult to explicate fully. (Murray 1991). 
back to the road map 

Processing Information from Advertisments  

Consumers are unlikely to deeply process brand information from stimuli, when they are prominent , affect-loaded , executional cues. However consumers will process the information deeply if the cues lead to favourable brand attitudes. The role of advertising executional cues is to enhance consumerís motivation, opportunity and or ability to process information, but if these are present prior to ad exposure their levels can be enhanced by ad design strategy. They should also enhance the level of processing, as it will be more effective in enhancing brand attitudes and recall. It should also be an important communication objective of the firm. (MacInnis et. Al., 1991). 
Consumers can have extensive usage experience but have little understanding of brand attributes , benefits, attribute correlationís, and related information that can be communicated in advertising. Objective Knowledge is actual knowledge stored in the memory, and it has the greatest conceptual correspondence to the processing ability, as it is actual knowledge that should influence whether encoded information can be processed. (MacInnis et. Al., 1991). 
back to the road map 

Future Research 

Ongoing search was discussed in the chapter in Hawkins, But in considering future investigations of ongoing search, several promising avenues of inquiry exist. Ď one concerns the demarcation line between prepurchase search and ongoing search.í (Bloch et. al. 1986). Future researchers must focus on the exact beginning of the purchase process, as this will enhance the understanding of consumption activities thought to be outside the buying domain. Future research in determining whether ongoing search consultation in a given product class, differs from those consulted during prepurchase search. As certain sources of information may be preferred. (Bloch et. al. 1986). 

A goal of future research might be to manipulate independently the different types of uncertainty in an experimental study of search behaviour to establish unambiguous causality and reduce any potential suppresser effect problems. (Urbany et. al. 1989). 

The article on parallel processing, had some limitations as the comparisons have been limited to two assumptions, nature of processing & memory structure. Therefore more alternative methods, based on parallel processing models are needed in future research. (Martin 1990). The major problems which will impact consumer researchers are associated with the current level of development of the models. The models have been focusing on lower levels of cognition, and other questions such as inference have yet to be fully addressed, therefore the model warrants further research in the future. (Martin 1990.) 
Research on information acquisition for services has been limited, and further investigation is needed especially in identifying how prospective service customers make observations from visible cues and service trial. (Murray 1991.) 

Brand name is an important cue in retrieval of advertisement, and there is evidence to suggest that brand association can serve as a peripheral cue for low involvement decisions. However further research on these effects is obviously needed. (Douglas et. al. 1991). 

The paper based on belief perseverance and characteristics of information, proposed that if expectations are strong and outcome evaluations are ambiguous then information biases are likely to operate. There are important implications for both marketing strategy and those involve in helping consumers make better decisions. This is an under researched area and it is hoped that future direction and research will be conducted. (Hill 1988). 

back to the road map 


The introduction of new models on how the brain works, and how it processes and stores information, has open the door for further research into this field. Its necessary for marketing to understand how consumers interpret and store this information, and what triggers memory recall so need activation occurs. Models such as the parallel processing model and elaboration likelihood model have been introduced leading the way for future research. The elaboration likelihood model should be introduced into diagrams on information search and the decision process, as its an important element in how consumers think and behave in the processing of information. 
The consumer search for information is largely concentrated on tangible products and little attention has been paid to search in the service industry. Consumers search varies in the service industry basically due to the restraints of time, limited access to information, cost of search, and basically due to the nature of the industry. In the future there should be an addition to text and future extended research done on the topic. 

A lot more attention has been paid to consumers motivations,  opportunities and ability to process information. This is because these factors have a huge bearing on communication effectiveness of advertisements. This information impacts on design strategy and the marketing strategy of the business, so basically getting the message across effectively is a major concern for a business. A lot more research in this area will be seen. 

Future direction on ongoing search seems to be on the beginning of the purchase process and understanding the consumption process. This means that a lot of grey areas are evident in the research and therefore need to be looked into. The ongoing searcher is a consumer that gathers a lot of information, to make an informed decision, marketers need to reach these people as they are the most motivated to process relevant information. 

Consumers most important source of information has been largely ignored in consumer research. It may be due to the simplistic nature. Researchers have little understanding of the motivations for and dimensions of interpersonal influence. ignoring interpersonal information exchange could be a mistake that might need to be rectified. Ignoring it results in an absolute underestimation of the extent of consumer external search. Ignoring it also leads to an overestimate of the relative importance of non interpersonal sources. These sources could play a much smaller relative role in decision making than would be assumed when interpersonal sources are not considered. (Price et. al. 1984). 

Future direction in my view is in greater knowledge of the human brain and its impact on how we hold information and retrieve it. The methods of how we go about gathering information should also be looked into, need recognition and activation. 

back to the road map 

Bibliography and References  

Bloch, p.h., Sherrell, D.L. & Ridgway N.M. (1986). Consumer Search: An Extended  Framework. Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 13, pp 119-126. 

DeBono K. G. (1989) Processing of Functionally- Relevant Consumer Information:  Another look at source factors. Advances in Consumer Research, Vol 16 pp.  312 -317. 

Feldman, J. A. (1985) Massive Parellelism in Natural and Artificial Intelligence. Byte, April, pp227-284. 

Hawkins, Neal, Quester. (1994) Consumer Behaviour : Implications for marketing  strategy, 1st Australasian edition, pp. 72 - 98. 

Hill, D. (1988)  Consumer use of Product Information and its Impact on Satisfaction Evaluation. Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining  Behaviour, Vol. 1 pp. 107-115. 

Kasmer J. A. (1989). An Elaboration Likelihood Model Explanation of Consumer  Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behaviour. Journal of Consumer  Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behaviour, Vol.2 pp. 22 - 27. 

Maclnnis  D. J., Moorman C. & Bernard J.J. (1991) Enhancing and Measuring  Consumers Motivation, Opportunity, and Ability to Process Brand Information  From Ads. Journal of Marketing, Vol. 55 pp 32-53. 

Martin D, & Kiecker P. (1990). Parallel Processing Models of Consumer Information  Processing: Their Impact on Consumer Research Methods. . Advances in  Consumer Research, Vol. 17 pp. 443-447. 

Midgley D. F. (1983). Patterns of Interpersonal Information Seeking for the Purchase  of a Symbolic Product. Journal of Marketing Research, pp. 74-83. 

Murray K. B. (1991). A Test of Services Marketing Theory: Consumer Information  Acquisition Activities. Journal of Marketing, Vol. 55 pp. 10-25. 

Price L. & Feick L. (1984). The role of Interpersonal Sources in External Search: An  Informational Perspective. Advances in Consumer Research, Vol.11 pp. 250- 255. 

Rumelhart D., Smolensky, McClelland & Hinton (1986) Schemata and Sequential  Thought Processes in PDP Models. pp 7-57 

Stayman D. M. & Batra  R. (1991).Encoding and Retrieval of Ad Affect in Memory.  Journal of Marketing Research, pp. 232-239. 

Tellis G. J. & Gaeth G. J. (1990). Best Value, Price-seeking, Price Aversion: The  Impact of Information and Learning on Consumer Choices. Journal of  Marketing, Vol.54 pp 34-45. 

Urbany J. E. Dickson P. R. Wilkie W. L. () Buyer Uncertainty And Information  Search. Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 16 pp.208-215. 

Curriculum Vitae : James Meharry