Hutchinson, J. Wesley, Eisenstein, Eric M., Alba, Joseph W.
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Examines learning and expertise as they relate to consumer behavior
Systematically reviews prominent theories, methods, and applications in the research on consumer learning and expertise
This book integrates two related fields of study, learning and expertise, as they have been applied to consumer behavior. The first part of the book focuses on two central hypotheses that are seldom explicitly endorsed or rejected, but are lurking behind the scenes in the literature on consumer knowledge. In the normal course of everyday life, consumers become increasingly familiar with the products and service that they use. Possibly, over time people learn from these experiences and gain true expertise in a variety of product domains. Thus, the first hypothesis that increased familiarity leads to increased expertise: learning from experience (H1). Second, it seems reasonable that as expertise increases, people become better and more efficient consumers: increased consumer welfare (H2). The authors’ analyses reveal that these hypotheses are often, but not always supported, and sometimes opposite results obtain (i.e., increased familiarity leads to less expertise or increased expertise leads to lower welfare). Nonetheless, most people would agree that the world would be a better place if it worked according to H1 and H2. Hence, they have dubbed this pair of hypotheses the "perfect world" perspective. The remaining parts of the book provide systematic reviews of the theories, methods, and applications that have been prominent in research on consumer learning and expertise.