Communication Assumptions in Consumer Research: An Alternative Socio-Cognitive Approach

Research output: Journal contributionsJournal articlesResearch


Although communication appears natural to most people, the successful act of transferring meaning relies on an alignment of intricate interpretive processes between the sender and receiver. Yet the full range of these intricate processes is often oversimplified, homogenized, and molded according to each paradigm's narrow epistemological assumptions, leading to contradictory representations across paradigms. For example, within cognitivist and structuralist research the communicative act is portrayed as unproblematic as it engages objectified meaning structures embedded in the structures of texts, symbols, and social practices, which remain independent of (i.e., disembodied from) the interpreting mind. In contrast, in postmodernist research, communication is regarded as implausible as meaning is uniquely created by the receiver (regardless of what is intended by the sender). Although each major perspective provides some insights to the communicative act, the elegance of each camp's reasoning is undone by it not addressing the full complexity of communication as it actually exists. To provide a more comprehensive and internally consistent understanding of meaning transfer (i.e., communication) we introduce a socio-cognitive model that accounts for apparent objectivist and subjectivist outcomes. This framework situates meaning production within the mind, driven by the interaction between mental (private and/or cultural) models, cognitive (reflective and/or categorical) processing, and environmental feedback mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
JournalConsumption Markets & Culture
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)173-189
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 01.11.2008
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Management studies - communication theory, cognitivist, culturalist, socio-cognitive, private/cultural models, reflective/categorical thinking