Since 1910, when John Dewey first introduced the five‐stage decision process, it has been a widely accepted concept and still serves as the central pillar of a popular consumer behavior model. These stages are Problem Recognition, Information Search, Alternative Evaluation, Choice, and Outcomes. The importance of these stages is attested to by the considerable attention devoted to most of them in numerous textbooks and journal articles. Such attention, however, has not come to the Problem Recognition stage. While some texts provide hypothetical descriptions of this “trigger” of the decision process, theoretical discussion and empirical support are surprisingly lacking. Journal literature fares even worse, with articles on the topic almost non‐existent. Lack of information on the topic is even more ironic when one considers that a purchase cannot occur unless a problem is recognized! The purpose of this article is to provide a detailed explanation of the Problem Recognition process. The results of the few empirical studies that have been done will be examined. In addition, a proposed model of the Problem Recognition process is presented. The implications of this material will be discussed as it relates to marketing.
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