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Anthropology and consumer research: qualitative insights into green consumer behavior

Mark Tadajewski (Department of Accounting, Finance and Management, University of Essex, Colchester, UK)
Sigmund Wagner‐Tsukamoto (Management Centre, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 1 January 2006



The purpose of this paper is to introduce a new qualitative method that is theoretically underpinned by cognitive anthropology. This research strategy is introduced to further advance the understanding of complex green consumer behavior – in this case life‐cycle analysis.


This paper examines the contextual aspects of problem‐solving behavior of green, environmentally concerned consumers. Cognitive anthropology develops a different, yet complementary, understanding of consumer cognition to a psychological approach. Through the concepts of practical thinking and bricolage, cognition and behavior are conceptualized on a contextual basis. Such an approach encourages a reassessment of how consumer research has traditionally conceptualized problem framing, information search, information processing and related concepts. The paper draws upon in‐depth, qualitative interviews with a wide range of green consumers from both the UK and Germany.


The findings provide some interesting clues regarding the nature of information search and information processing. In the sample, the green consumers of the top clusters were able to see and retrieve life‐cycle information as it was offered by a shopping context and it was this context, as it is perceived by the bricoleur that ultimately limits information search and processing. Within the “objective” bounds of a choice context, skilful practical thinking and bricolage was shown in different degrees amongst the clusters, with considerable creativity shown in “seeing” life‐cycle information.

Research limitations/implications

Given that the research outlined in this paper is mono‐paradigmatic, it is suggested that a future avenue for research in green consumer behavior would be the use of a multiple paradigm approach.

Practical implications

The paper outlines a stepping approach to marketing communications directed towards the green, or potentially green consumer, suggesting that some form of community based social marketing program might be a useful educational tool given the findings presented.


The introduction of a new research strategy – cognitive anthropology to the study of green consumer behavior.



Tadajewski, M. and Wagner‐Tsukamoto, S. (2006), "Anthropology and consumer research: qualitative insights into green consumer behavior", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 8-25.



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Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited