Public Release: 

How constraints influence consumer behavior

University of Chicago Press Journals

Although many people do not consider themselves very creative, the opposite is actually true according to research in the June 2005 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research examining consumer creativity. In fact, Page Moreau (University of Colorado) and Darren Dahl (University of British Columbia) explain that not only are consumers creative, but they become more creative as they are faced with more constraints.

"Paradoxically, we find that input constraints encourage more creative processing, provided the individual is not under significant time constraints," note Moreau and Dahl.

Their study explored how constraints related to input and time influenced the creative processing of consumers. A common example of such constraints is the every day question of what to eat for dinner. "Assume that a consumer has the need to put dinner on the table in two hours. To solve this problem requires either the retrieval of a previously constructed solution (e.g., call Dominos) or the construction of a new plan (e.g., check inventory and, based on the inputs available, prepare something suitable for dinner)."

The study finds that we are all creative beings. This creativity is utilized through our consumerism and, in fact, flourishes when under pressure.

"The importance of constraints in creative tasks has been identified by researchers in cognitive psychology," Moreau and Dahl explain. "However, an examination of how constraints influence individuals' cognitive processes in these situations has not been undertaken [until now]."


Designing the Solution: The Impact of Constraints on Consumers' Creativity. C. Page Moreau and Darren W. Dahl. Journal of Consumer Research. June 2005.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.