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How children make purchase decisions: behaviour of the cued processors

Gunnar Mau (University of Siegen, Siegen, Germany, and Shoppermetrics GmbH & Co., Hamburg, Germany)
Michael Schuhen (University of Siegen, Siegen, Germany)
Sascha Steinmann (University of Siegen, Siegen, Germany)
Hanna Schramm-Klein (University of Siegen, Siegen, Germany)

Young Consumers

ISSN: 1747-3616

Article publication date: 20 June 2016



This paper aims to analyse how children behave during a purchasing process in a simulated shop and how they put their goals into effect at the Point of Sale (POS). The focus of this research is children in Germany aged between 8 and 10 years. The results reveal answers to the following questions: which criteria do the children consider important when buying groceries? How efficiently and effectively do children pursue the goals demanded of them at the POS? This knowledge can support parents, teachers and educational organisations in teaching children consumer literacy.


Data were collected through interviews and a subsequent observation of the behaviour in a purchase simulation. A total of 436 school children aged 8 to 10 years answered a questionnaire about their behaviour at the POS and perceived demands during the purchasing process as well as their understanding of purchase-relevant concepts. Subsequently, purchase behaviour and decisions in a digitally simulated shopping environment of a supermarket were analysed for a subsample (n = 170). This combination of methods enables the collection of observable decision-making behaviour as well as of the declarative knowledge and the purchasing habits of the children.


Children often act differently from the way they themselves intended and expected during the purchase decision at the POS. Only a small number of children behaved purposefully, whereas the vast majority was distracted by the great amount of stimuli in the simulated supermarket. The results reveal factors that helped children cope with the shopping task and shielded them against purchase impulses from the stimuli at the POS.


To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study to combine questionnaires about children’s declarative knowledge of the shopping process with observation of the real decision behaviour in a supermarket simulation task.



This research was financially supported by the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.


Mau, G., Schuhen, M., Steinmann, S. and Schramm-Klein, H. (2016), "How children make purchase decisions: behaviour of the cued processors", Young Consumers, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 111-126.



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