PS456      Half Unit
Consumer Psychology

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Saadi Lahlou QUE.3.26


This course is available on the MSc in Organisational and Social Psychology, MSc in Psychology of Economic Life, MSc in Social and Cultural Psychology and MSc in Social and Public Communication. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is capped.

Course content

The objectives of the course are: 1) to provide students with an understanding of the social psychological and cognitive processes behind the consumption of goods and services; 2) to point at alternative modes of relationship with users/consumers than the current ones which are based on market and competition; and 3) to prepare students to build better business models or the sustainable provision of goods and services.

The course will address the social psychology of  consumption at different levels of analysis: individual, group and societal.  It will provide students with psycho-social theories which explain phenomena classically described in marketing and consumer science. It will also explore and present new and innovative research methods and business models.

This is not a standard marketing or consumer research course, it is oriented towards changing the world to a better place rather than moving brand territories and market shares. The students will learn how to analyse a consumption process and change the business models and providers' platforms to improve the world.

The narrative: the current consumer society and its Production Consumption System (PCS) are not sustainable. Happiness measures show that high happiness is not correlated with high GNP. There is a possibility for another PCS where happiness comes more from social factors and less from material consumption.

Changing the system is difficult because one must not only find new ways of consuming, but also a transition path which enables current suppliers to get to another regime.

There are however a series of emerging alternative models. The rise of multi-sided procurement platforms, especially using digital  technologies, enables new models where sociability can be used to leverage schemes.


15 hours of lectures and 5 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Essay plan submitted in the LT.

Indicative reading

Griskevicius, V. & Kenrick, D.T. (2013). Fundamental motives: How evolutionary needs influence consumer behaviour. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 23 (3), 372-386.

Cialdini, R.B. (2001). Influence: Science and Practice (4th Edt.). New York: Harper Collins.

Belk, R.W. (1988). Possessions and the Extended Self. Journal of Consumer Research, 15(2), 139-168.

Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J Richardson (Ed). Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (New York: Greenwood), 241-258.

Bendapudi, N.& Leone, R.P. (2003). Psychological Implications of Customer Participation in Co-Production. Journal of Marketing, 67 (January), 14-28.

Rysman, M. (2009). The Economics of Two-Sided Markets. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 23(3), 125-143.

Additional readings will be recommended throughout the course.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the LT.

The assignment is understood as part of the learning, to provide the transferable skills of analysing a real case and marking sound recommendations to make the world a better place.  In the first part, 'memorandum' (1,000 words), you will be asked to prepare a memorandum to the head of an organisation of your choice, with recommendations that make the business of that organisation more sustainable. The recommendations must be realistic. In the second part of the essay, 'justification' (2,000 words), you will justify the specific recommendations presented in the memorandum with reference to social psychological and consumer psychology literature and concepts. You can read examples of previous years assignments at  The best essays are sent to the CEOs.

Student performance results

(2014/15 - 2015/16 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 23.8
Merit 50
Pass 25
Fail 1.2

Teachers' comment

LSE offers two courses addressing consumer behaviour: PS456 Consumer Psychology and MG404 Behavioural Fundamentals for Marketing and Management. PS456 targets the (future) decision-makers and advisers in business and organisations dealing with consumers, including non-commercial.  MG404 is designed for the students of Management to complement their curriculum.  There are some similarities in the content of  PS456 and MG404. Broadly, both courses introduce the psychological theories to business situations. There are, however, important differences in the orientations of the two courses. PS456 provides a skillset and a toolbox of theories and methods for analyzing consumer demand, finding the levers for change and building sustainable business models. For assessment, students may choose a real case and write a set of (justified) recommendations to the CEO. PS456 may especially be of interest to students across a broad range of programmes who are interested in developing new modes of relationship with consumers or building sustainable business models as an alternative to the current consumer society. MG404 is intended for students studying management and related disciplines, who want to learn how to influence consumer behaviour (eg. how to construct persuasive advertising or sway purchase decisions. MG404 introduces the principles of consumer behaviour that firms need to recognise for successfully marketing their products and services, and which consumers themselves can use to make optimal decisions. The courses share some content where appropriate; other content differs in accordance with the different goals of the two courses.

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2016/17: 30

Average class size 2016/17: 15

Controlled access 2016/17: Yes

Lecture capture used 2016/17: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course survey results

(2014/15 - 2015/16 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 87%



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