Please note! Course description is confirmed for two academic years (1.8.2018-31.7.2020), which means that in general, e.g. Learning outcomes, assessment methods and key content stays unchanged. However, via course syllabus, it is possible to specify or change the course execution in each realization of the course, such as how the contact sessions are organized, assessment methods weighted or materials used.


By attending the course, participants will be better equipped to analyze and interpret decision-making in varying consumption contexts, as well as the foundational elements of those contexts. In particular, after having attended the module, participants will be able to better understand:
1.    To introduce current knowledge of both substantive findings and theory about consumer behavior.
2.    To provide concepts for understanding consumer reactions to marketing stimuli and how consumer decision-making is structured
3.    To provide an understanding of how consumer research is conducted from a methodological perspective
4.    To improve the ability to identify potential applications of consumer behavior concepts and to utilize those concepts in analyzing marketing problems and determining marketing strategy.

Credits: 6

Schedule: 30.10.2018 - 04.12.2018

Teacher in charge (valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022): Ilona Mikkonen

Teacher in charge (applies in this implementation): Ilona Mikkonen

Contact information for the course (applies in this implementation):

CEFR level (applies in this implementation):

Language of instruction and studies (valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022):

Teaching language: English

Languages of study attainment: English


  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Consumer psychology, consumer culture, consumer research methods.

    Out of all the subjects that you as a business student might encounter during your studies, consumer behavior is the one you have the most intimate first-hand knowledge with. You were all consumers long before stepping into the hallowed grounds of Aalto University. Yet this familiarity with consumption sometimes makes it difficult to develop a necessary critical or analytical distance. The purpose of this course is to fundamentally challenge the way you understand consumption as an activity and as a topic of study. We will move you beyond colloquial or taken-for-granted understandings of consumption such as conceptually limited tropes like shopping. Understanding consumption is essential for marketing managers in developing effective marketing strategies. That said, we will repeatedly emphasize that to study consumption is not the same as studying customers. The class explores a multitude of concepts and theories from different behavioral sciences to fully appreciate what drives consumption choices and experiences. The course is split into two main paradigms of consumer research: consumer psychology and consumer culture.
    The consumer psychology side inform participants on psychological processes and biases underlying the decisions made by individuals, with a special emphasis on how to incorporate such insights into consumption-related decisions. As consumers, we are challenged by a large amount and variety of choices every day. These decisions can be as trivial as deciding between Cappuccino or Latte Macchiato for breakfast, but they can also be as impactful as deciding on a job offer or taking a loan for buying a new apartment. Current research estimates that an adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day. Each choice we make, i.e., a decision between various options, bears consequences, positive or negative. During decision-making, we generally attempt to estimate with varying degrees of intuition and elaboration the likelihood of an outcome as well as the ramifications of that outcome. Research analyzing such decision-making is typically referred to as Behavioral Science. The module gives participants a broad overview of important results from two major Behavioral Sciences: Behavioral Economics and Consumer Research. To do so, it discusses seminal theories from Economics and Cognitive and Social Psychology, which explore how people make decisions. Moreover, the module offers participants advice about applying these insights to topics in Marketing and Management. Although a number of important concepts will be covered throughout the module, the focus will be largely on understanding heuristics (mental shortcuts or rule of thumbs that are used to increase the efficiency of decision-making) and biases (a systematic error in thinking, in the sense that a judgment deviates from what would be considered a rational choice).
    In the consumer culture side, we move beyond the individual decision-making brain and investigate the cultural, social, and historical underpinnings of consumption. Here, culture is not to be understood in the colloquial sense ( Finnish culture is like this, Swedish culture is like that ). The view of culture we adopt in this course sees consumer culture as the way in which we, as consumers, make sense of and organize our lived experiences through the various resources provided by the marketplace. We investigate issues like how social class structures consumption, how consumption informs the construction of identity, how gender is performed through consumption, and the inner workings of consumer collectives like subcultures and brand communities, just to name a few.
    Though the concepts presented during the course will be numerous, we will actively encourage reflection, criticism, deeper exploration, and creative applications based on your own interests. This should also sensitize you to understand that when it comes to understanding consumer behavior, there is no one correct answer; rather different perspectives and explanations are often complementary.

Assessment Methods and Criteria
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    For period I course:

    Group work consists of setting up a research proposal, including pitching the idea, a written report and final presentation. Individual assignments consist of a learning diary and analyzing and presenting academic articles.


    The course grade will consist of the following components:

    • Research pitch (10%)
    • Written report of research proposal (25%)
    • Presentation of research proposal (20%)
    • Individual assignments (45%)

    The final breakdown and balance between these elements will be announced at the beginning of the course.

    For period IV-V course:

    Students will be evaluated based class exams on specified texts, analyses on the assigned readings, a lecture/presentation + student led class-activity or discussion, and group projects. Participation and contribution to discussion (in class and online) will also be taken into account in evaluation. The group project will be the largest contributor to the overall grade. In the final assignment, students will have to create a concrete for a large-scale consumer research project that addresses either a societal issue or solve a marketing challenge of a company.. Groups are expected to complete peer evaluations to ensure balanced participation.

    Class participation and class exams              20%
    (individually assessed)

    Consumer Research Article Analysis             20%
    (individually assessed)

    Student-led presentation and class activity 20%
    (done in groups)

    Research proposal project                            40%
    (done in groups)

    Contact session are highly interactive. Students are expected to contribute actively in classroom discussions and assignments. Active participation can earn extra credit.

  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    6 credits, 160 hours

    Contact sessions (compulsory)
    Group and/or individual assignments


Study Material
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Mandatory readings:

    Ariely, Dan. (2008) Predictably irrational. New York: HarperCollins.

    McCracken, Grant. (2011) Chief culture officer: How to create a living, breathing corporation. Basic Books

    Other readings assigned by the instructor during the course.



Registration and further information