MKTG 4731 Spring 2008

Welcome to this consumer behavior class.  The class is intended to give you an insight into why consumers act the way they do and all the different influences on their behavior.  You will learn powerful techniques of influence that you must use ethically


Class Overview

This course is intended to provide you with a theoretical introduction to the field of consumer behavior. Emphasis will be placed upon understanding social psychological theory underlying consumer decisions. As theoretical understanding develops during the course of the semester, concurrent relation to important marketing issues will be discussed. Employers of college graduates recently have pointed to the importance of the ability to communicate ideas clearly and concisely. These skills are an important part of your education and an objective of this class will be to help you develop your analytical, writing, and presentation skills through the use of a project and presentation.

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The Professor

This class will be taught by Dr. Rajiv Vaidyanathan. Here is contact information for Rajiv:

Office: SBE 118 (MKTG/MGTS Suite)
Phone: 726-6817
Office Hours: Hours: Mo, Tu, We 9:00-10:00 AM  and by appointment

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Textbooks & Readings

Required texts:
Michael R. Solomon (2006), Consumer Behavior - Buying, Having and Being, 7th Edition, Prentice Hall.
Robert B. Cialdini (2001), Influence: Science and Practice, 4th Edition, Allyn & Bacon.

Recommended Reading:
The Wall Street Journal, Marketplace Section.
Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
Blink, Malcolm Gladwell
Why We Buy, Paco Underhill
Call of the Mall, Paco Underhill

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Grading and Grades

This semester, your final class grade will be based on the following components:

Component Points % of Grade
Exam 1 50 20%
Exam 2 50 20%
Exam 3 50 20%
Presentation 25 10%
Paper 65 25%
Assignments/Quizzes 10 5%
TOTAL 250 100%

Each component is discussed in further detail below.

Course grades are assigned based on the following scale and your performance relative to course requirements:

Final Points





Achievement outstanding relative to course requirements









Achievement significantly above average relative to course requirements









Achievement that meets course requirements in all respects









Demonstrated competence in some aspects of the course



Work completed but at a level not worthy of credit or did not complete enough work to merit credit

Workload Expectations

According to the University of Minnesota guidelines for undergraduate student workload expectations, you should expect on average (for an average grade) to spend two hours outside of class for each hour in the class.  For this semester, this means that you should expect on average to spend SIX HOURS A WEEK working on assignments and readings for this class outside of our class hours.  Obviously, if you are working a lot of hours during this time, it is bound to adversely affect your grade.  I urge you to start working on the background research for your projects immediately after the term starts.  That will make your life a lot easier as we near the end of the term.


The exams will be non-cumulative and will be conducted as noted in the class schedule. Uniform class policy is NO rescheduling of exams, quizzes, or late assignments. Since the dates are firm, please schedule your study time, trips, parties, job schedules, and other activities accordingly. However, recognizing that students sometimes have genuine and unexpected problems, all students have the option of replacing a missed exam with their score on a cumulative (comprehensive) final examination instead of exam 3.

The regular exams will normally consist of about 40 multiple choice questions (worth 40 points) and 2 essay questions (worth 10 points). The optional cumulative final will be longer.

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This term, you will have the option of working on a paper either individually or as a group.  There are two broad options for this paper.  The first is the EXPERIMENT option and the second is the BUSINESS CONSULTING option.


Either individually or in groups of 4-5 people, you will be responsible for designing and conducting a simple experiment to test the effectiveness of one influence principle. The instructions for this assignment are simple. Read the chapter to which your group was assigned. Then try and think of an experiment that you can conduct fairly easily that will test the influence principle. You should aim for a total sample size of about 100.  I would strongly urge you to have a sample size of 100 if your experiment is even minimally complex, but DO NOT exceed that size since our HRB approval is only for 100 subjects. You also need to make sure all your subjects consent to participation through either a written or verbal consent statement.  Here is a sample.  You are expected to conduct a rigorous, controlled, experiment. So, even if you use friends as subjects, make sure you ask them to complete your "questionnaire" seriously.  Also keep in mind that this is a business class, so it is important to relate your experiment to business and marketing.  You will write up a report on the results of your experiment and make a presentation to the class at the end of the term. Please keep your final paper to 20 double spaced typed pages or less (not including appendices and attachments). Here is a suggested structure for your paper that you are strongly encouraged to use. Here's a copy of the sheet I will be using to evaluate your experiment reports.


Either individually or in groups of 2-4 people, you will be responding for evaluating a business and making recommendations for improvement based on consumer behavior principles.  For this assignment, you are expected to integrate what you have learned from the influence principles as well as from your textbook.  You should also make sure you read the two books by Paco Underhill listed under the "recommended reading" and draw on his vast research in shopping behavior.  Your job will be to closely analyze a business in terms of their environment and consumer interactions to see how they can make changes to better serve their customers and/or increase sales.  This may require you to actually experience the sales experience, but it is important to withdraw from the situation at the appropriate time without misrepresenting yourself or making any false promises to the salesperson.  For example, if you decide to examine the sales process at a car dealership, you should not go beyond the test drive stage unless you really are considering buying a car.  Your project must be approved by me before you  actually go out there and interact with a business. At no point during the process should you misrepresent yourself or pretend to be someone you are not. Here is a copy of the sheet I will be using to evaluate your consulting reports.

For this project, you will be required to (a) identify a business situation where there is an element of consumer influence, (b) check with me to have the business situation approved, (c) visit the business environment and experience the influence attempt, and (d) analyze the current use of influence principles in the experience, and (e) write a detailed set of recommendations on how the business could ethically alter the interaction or the environment to enhance the relationship with customers and potentially increase sales.  The key question you should attempt to answer: How can the business increase the effectiveness of signs, store layout, or salespeople to improve the business?  Your approach should be to view yourself as a business consultant and your goal is to use what you learn in this class to make recommendations on business improvement.  It will be almost essential for you to read additional books such as those by Paco Underhill.  You can check out some of his "case studies" at his company's web site. Additionally, you may learn a lot by looking at books in the arena of visual merchandising (the library has purchased several such books, so do a search of their catalog).


Make sure you include page numbers, and appropriate headings and subheadings. You are expected to use library research and computers (word processing) for the paper. This link will also help you read research articles to build on your background research.  To ensure you don't put this off to the last minute and to make sure you find out early exactly what I expect of you, I need to have a summary of your proposed paper in class on February 12, 2008. Please feel free to bounce ideas off me before then. Based on my reviews of reports in previous terms, I have some suggestions/tips for you to consider when preparing your reports.  It is also very important that you follow these guidelines for avoiding plagiarism. This site will also give you instructions on how to cite research in your papers. You are also required to submit your papers to TURNITIN.COM to check for plagiarism.  You should submit your electronic papers to the site and after revising it, submit your FINAL HARDCOPY to me for grading.  For, your classID is as follows: [Section 1:  2092012; Section 2: 2092013] and your enrollment password is [Section 1: mktg4731s081; Section 2: mktg4731s082]. Have one member of your group create an account and enroll for this class on the site as soon as your groups are formed.  Submitting your papers to is REQUIRED and you will lose 25% on your project grade if you do not submit the paper to the site BEFORE the deadline. Your final (hard copy) reports are DUE IN CLASS ON MAY 6, 2008.  This date is also the deadline for submitting the final version of your paper to  Along with the hardcopy of your paper, you should turn all the consent forms you used, all the actual completed paper questionnaires you collected, and a CD with the data file you analyzed (using SPSS, this would be the file with the .sav extension).  You need to submit all the information I need to replicate the results of your experiment.

You will also make a 10 minute presentation of your project on the assigned day. The presentation should basically follow the outline of the paper and should do a good job of covering your background research on the topic.  Remember the presentation will be evaluated not only by me, but also by your classmates. Keep your presentations interesting. For the experiment option, you should cover the background research and clearly explain your results.  For the consulting option, you need to focus on your analysis and your recommendations.

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Extra Credit

For each class day we have the option of beginning with a 5-10 minute “Current Events” discussion based on news articles or other materials which students bring in from The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, from their personal experiences, or even from “surfing” the internet. In order to earn the maximum credit (3 points each), students must (1) discuss the article or other material in class and (2) turn in a one page summary including one paragraph summarizing the article and a second longer paragraph explaining how the article relates to the material we’ve discussed (or will discuss) in this class.

  1. In no case may students earn more than 15 points of extra credit for the semester.
  2. This offer is ONLY AVAILABLE during the first 10 weeks of the semester.  So, please do NOT put off these extra credit assignments until later in the semester.  I do not want a flood of these to come in during the end of the term.
  3. Each student may turn in a maximum of 1 extra credit assignment per class period. 

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I expect you to attend each class during this term.  Attendance will be taken on a regular basis. While there is no penalty for missing a single class, full attendance through the term will be rewarded.  I will add 2 points to your final points total if you attend EVERY single class of the semester (I will give you ONE excused absence per semester which will not count against your attendance record).  Remember, this is an absolute rule.  That is, even if you have to miss a class due to a family emergency or job interview, it will count against your attendance record.  You also need to attend *all* of a class period to get the bonus. Repeated absences through the term is likely to have a fairly strong negative effect on your grade.

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Peer Evaluations

To ensure some degree of fairness (Note: I realize, and so should you, that no system is perfect) in assigning grades, you are required to complete a peer evaluation during the course of this semester. The evaluation should be turned in along with your paper. The purpose of these evaluations is to force you to confront (as a group) up front your expectations of each other when it comes to group work. Try and set up an objective system by which you will keep track of each others' contribution to the report/presentation so that there is minimal disagreement at the end on who contributed more (e.g., you may assign points at each meeting for arriving on time, having things in writing, coming prepared, etc.). Also, by discussing schedules, course loads, etc. you may be able to come to some agreement early as to who will contribute more (or less) to the group work. You can use something like this to evaluate group members during the term, but this is optional. My only criterion is that your final peer evaluation be signed by each group member and be in this format.  Peer evaluations are DUE IN CLASS ON MAY 6, 2008.

Click here if you need more details on this peer evaluation system.

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There is one regular assignment that will become a part of your Assignments/Participation grade that is related to the Influence book.  At least 24 hours prior to our class discussion of each of the six Influence principles (i.e., Cialdini's Influence book - Chapters 2-7) you will be required to post a personal example of the principle that you have encountered to our class discussion group at  Go to my folder (listed by my name) and click on the folder for your section and then, click on the appropriate discussion (listed by Influence Principle) and post your example.  You will get 1 point for each appropriate and unique example you post.

Please give this some thought.  When you read the chapter, think about when you have encountered this principle in your life -- has it ever been used against you?  have you ever used it without knowing why and how it worked?  do you have an example of how this principle was used to influence someone you know?  Try to come up with a good example that actually highlights the principle.  Don't be superficial (e.g., trying to post an example without reading the chapter and just by reading other peoples' examples.)  I will grade your participation in this forum not just on whether you posted or not, but also by the quality of your example, so try to put *some* thought into this.

There may be some other assignments given to you through the term.  Some are in-class assignments and others are take-home assignments.  You will be informed as to how these assignments will be included in your final grade.

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You are expected to have done all the assigned readings prior to class. Absences will be easily noticed. Also, I assure you it will be abundantly clear to me and your peers if you come in to class without having done the readings assigned for the day. I expect a lot of active participation in class discussions. You will be asked by me to respond to questions on the readings for a given session. If you have no observations or clearly show lack of preparation, I will assume that you did not read the material. You will also be asked to evaluate the presentations made by your peers. Pop quizzes and in-class exercises will also become part of your final course grade. If you are not present in class on a day in which one of these is completed, they cannot be made up.

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Class Rules

On Classroom Laptop Use

In today's age, it is not unusual for students to want to use a laptop during class for taking notes.  However, I am very concerned by the distractions offered by having a laptop in front of you during class - especially when wireless internet access is the norm.  While I have no objection to your using a laptop for notes during class, I am going to appeal to your decency and honesty by asking you NOT to access the Internet in any way or form when class is in session.  That means no email, no web, and importantly no instant messaging.  Please do not violate this rule.  Just as answering a cell phone in class would be rude and disruptive, I personally consider it extremely rude when students are messaging each other or checking their email during class.  Of course, if I get tips that you may be using the Internet during class, it will affect your class participation grade, and perhaps more.  If you are one of the many people obsessive about online communications, I urge you to control yourself during this class.

On Make-Up Exams and Quizzes

Uniform class policy is NO rescheduling of exams, quizzes, or late assignments. Since the dates are firm, please schedule your study time, trips, parties, job schedules, and other activities accordingly. However, recognizing that students sometimes have genuine and unexpected problems, all students have the option of replacing up to one exam with their score on the cumulative (comprehensive) final exam. If you are exercising the option of taking the comprehensive final exam, you need to come and see me during my office hours AT LEAST the week before the last week of classes.

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On Attendance

Please try and let me know in advance if you will not be able to attend class on a certain day. Note, however, that you are still completely responsible for any material covered in class on a day when you are absent. Make sure you get all the class details from someone who attended class on the day you missed. Also, let me know in advance if you have to leave halfway through the class for any reason. On such days, you should also sit at the front of the class so that the flow of the class is not disrupted when you leave. If you cannot make my office hours, see me right before or after class to set up an appointment. DO NOT call me at home for any reason (unless it is truly a matter of life and death).

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On Cheating & Ethics

My level of tolerance for any kind of cheating is extremely low. If I can reasonably establish that you have cheated on any exam, you will automatically get an F in the course. During examinations, don’t even GLANCE at your neighbor's exam. If you need to stare in order to think or concentrate, stare ONLY at the ceiling. I am serious about this rule. Please DO NOT try and cheat on any exams or quizzes in my class. If I see you looking at someone else's exam (even if it was just an accident), I will ask you to move to another location. This is simply a precaution -- asking you to move is not an accusation of unethical behavior.

Our department is also starting to take a close look at plagiarism in papers and assignments.  Make sure you understand appropriate conventions on copying sections from published sources and appropriate citation.  Make sure you read this document outlining some key issues surrounding plagiarism as it relates to your papers.  Any evidence of plagiarism will result in an automatic F on the paper even if you say you didn't realize you were plagiarizing.  Thus, it is important for you to understand what is considered plagiarism.

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On Disability Accommodations

It is University policy to provide, on a flexible and individualized basis, reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities that may affect their ability to participate in course activities or to meet course requirements. Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact Disability Services & Resources to discuss their individual needs for accommodations.

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Class Resources

I hope to provide several resources here that would help you with this class. If you have suggestions of additional resources I can add here, drop me a note.

Selected Handouts

Here are some handouts that you may want a copy of:

VALS-2 Segment Characteristics (VALS Framework - PDF) (VALS Applications - PDF)
Freud's Division of the Mind (PDF)
The Gorn Experiment
Subliminal Perception Readings Notes
New Cialdini article (good starting point for references)
Interesting Cialdini radio interview (14 minutes)

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PowerPoint Slides from Class Lectures
Guidelines for Avoiding Plagiarism in your Papers
(Section 1 Class ID: 2092012; Password: mktg4731s081)
(Section 2 Class ID: 2092013 Password: mktg4731s082)
Sample Outline for your Paper (based on Experiment)
Tips To Improve your Report Grade
My Presentation Evaluation Sheet
My Report Evaluation Sheet (for experiment option; for consulting option)
Peer Evaluation FAQ
Peer Evaluation Sheet (Print out, complete, and turn in)

Our Departmental Mission

I truly believe in the mission our department has adopted. If you feel I can do anything in this class to better meet this mission, please let me know without fear of negative reprisal!

University of Minnesota Duluth
The Department of Marketing

Through our commitment to the creation, interpretation, application, and dissemination of knowledge about organizations, their behavior and management. By working to create an environment in which students are encouraged to consume knowledge, think, ask questions, analyze and explore problems and their solutions, and to articulate their own emerging theories of organizations, their behavior, and management.
Copyright © 1996 Rajiv Vaidyanathan. All rights reserved.
Information in this document is subject to change without notice.
Last Updated: May 09, 2008.