Free Choice


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Review of Thompson, C. J., Locander, W. B., & Pollio, H. R. (1990). The Lived Meaning of Free Choice: An Existential-Phenomenological Description of Everyday Consumer Experiences of Contemporary Married Women. Journal of Consumer Research, 17(3), 346-361. AND Zeithaml, V. A., Berry, L. L. & Parasuraman, A. (1993).

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Free Choice

  1. 1. Prepared by Michael Ling LITERATURE REVIEW SAMPLE SERIES NO. 7 Thompson, C. J., Locander, W. B., & Pollio, H. R. (1990). The Lived Meaning of Free Choice: An Existential-Phenomenological Description of Everyday Consumer Experiences of Contemporary Married Women. Journal of Consumer Research, 17(3), 346-361. AND Zeithaml, V. A., Berry, L. L. & Parasuraman, A. (1993). The Nature and Determinants of Customer Expectations of Service. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 21(1), 1-12. Prepared by Michael Ling Email: Note: Michael Ling is the sole author of this document. You’re welcomed to use its contents but, as a courtesy, please quote the source of this paper http// Page 1
  2. 2. Prepared by Michael Ling Introduction The following two articles are examples of „positivist‟ and „interpretive‟ styles of research in the marketing discipline. Section A provides a brief introduction about the two articles Section B compares and contrast the ways in which the „convincingness‟ of the field research is constructed and narrated in the two papers. Selected Articles (i) Thompson, C. J., Locander, W. B., & Pollio, H. R. (1990). The Lived Meaning of Free Choice: An Existential-Phenomenological Description of Everyday Consumer Experiences of Contemporary Married Women. Journal of Consumer Research, 17(3), 346-361. (ii) Zeithaml, V. A., Berry, L. L. & Parasuraman, A. (1993). The Nature and Determinants of Customer Expectations of Service. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 21(1), 1-12. Page 2
  3. 3. Prepared by Michael Ling SECTION A Thompson et al. (1990) – a case of ‘Interpretive’ research. One of the fundamental tenets of interpretive research is that the reality we know of is socially constructed and one of the ways to understand (verstenhen) it, as opposed to explain (erklärung) it, is through the lived experiences of those who live in them (Willis 2007). In exploring the everyday consumer experiences of contemporary married women with children, Thompson et al. (1990) employ an existential phenomenology approach in their research where emphasis is “placed on the perspective of the experiencing individual rather than on the cultural setting as observed from a third-person viewpoint.” According to Willis (2007), phenomenology is concerned about people‟s perception of the world and its focus is on the understanding of the person or persons being studied. Existentialism and phenomenology adhere to the basic principle that “there are no universals that humans can know without doubt”, which is in line with the interpretive approach to “understand the local context” rather than to “find universals or laws of human behavior.” Their research is based on the purposive sampling of ten interviews conducted with ten women who are married, have children, ranged in age from 27 to 42, and responsible for making purchase decisions for their families. The interview questions are not pre-determined. Each interview only begins with the question of “Can you think of a product that you have bought that you would like to talk about?”, and all other questions are open, unknowable in advance and depend on the interactions of the emergent dialogue, which are “formulated in concert with participant descriptions.” Following a hermeneutic approach, the interpretations by Thompson et al. (1990) are based on the transcripts of interviews that have been designed to follow “an iterative back-and-forth process of relating a part of a text to the whole” from which common patterns, or themes, of the interpretations can be identified. Thus, the researchers have taken a philosophical hermeneutics approach, which is appropriate to develop understanding with the rejection of any forms of foundationalism (Willis 2007). In the end, three themes have been identified by Thompson et al. (1990) and they consist of: (i) being restricted/being free from restrictions; (ii) being in control/being out of control; and (iii) Page 3
  4. 4. Prepared by Michael Ling being captivated/being deliberate. These three themes are interpreted, or theorized, by the researchers to be converging to an emergent property that encompasses them: the meaning of free choice in the consumer world. Zeithaml et al. (1993) - a case of ‘Positivist’ research. In positivists‟ views, the nature of reality is considered objective and external to the human mind and the purpose of research is to discover universals about an external reality, which is in contrast to the views of the interpretivists that reality is socially constructed and “there are no universals that humans can know without doubt” (Willis 2007). In exploring the nature of customer expectations in the service context, Zeithaml et al. (1993) have taken a positivist stance to conduct an exploratory (or qualitative) research to understand the “different types of customer expectations and their sources” in order to develop a conceptual model of customer expectations of service. The objective of their research is focused on the explanation (erklärung), as opposed to understanding (verstenhen), of human behaviors, which is the main thrust of positivist approach. Purposive sampling has been used to ensure that there is sufficient coverage for “contexts where different sources and types of customer expectations might exist.” In total, there are 16 focus group interviews that comprise of eight business firms from selected service industries, with customers of five of these firms representing the consumer segment and customers of the remaining firms representing the business customer segment. The focus group interviews are conducted “in a non-directive and unstructured fashion” which gives respondents the flexibility and opportunity to provide rich and detailed answers, which are important sources of “generating constructs and hypotheses” and theory building. For example, each interview commences with open-ended questions such as “What do you expect from a service provider?”, “Where do your expectations come from?” or “Have your expectations changed over time?” Thus, the researchers have been able to derive a theoretical framework and a total of 17 propositions through an inductive approach with “common themes emerging from the focus group interviews and insights from previous research.” Page 4
  5. 5. Prepared by Michael Ling Page 5
  6. 6. Prepared by Michael Ling SECTION B Prior to comparing the ways in which the „convincingness‟ of the field research are constructed in the two papers, it is important to understand the issue of quality in qualitative research, which is broadly considered and evaluated from two stances. One stance involves employing the concepts of reliability and credibility as commonly used in quantitative research but adapting them to suit the methodologies of qualitative research. However, the stance has been argued to be problematic because reliability and validity are criteria that are developed to suit the methodology of quantitative research. For example, reliability is a potential problem as it is unlikely that researchers are able to replicate results of focus groups or unstructured interviews in qualitative research. Measurement validity is another problem because measurements are not normally taken in qualitative research. External validity or generalization is not necessarily a criterion in qualitative research because it normally use single case study or small samples, which is based on purpose sampling and not statistical sampling, to obtain rich data rather than to satisfy the requirements of statistical inference. Despite these issues, there are qualitative researchers who might be inclined to use validity and reliability, with or without adaptations, to suit the contexts of their research. For example, Hammersley (1992) has generalized the meanings of validity and credibility in the qualitative research parlance to mean an account that is “valid or true if it represents accurately those features of the phenomena that it is intended to describe, explain or theorise”. Another stance considers that alternative criteria are needed for qualitative research. Lincoln & Guba (1985) and Guba & Lincoln (1994) propose the criteria of trustworthiness and authenticity, which have been adopted by researchers in the marketing discipline (Belk et al. 1989; Hirschman 1986). Trustworthiness is made up of four criteria: credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability. Investigating the „convincingness‟ of ethnographical research, Golden-Biddle & Locke (1993) propose the criteria of authenticity, plausibility and criticality. Other criteria include integrity, member checks and triangulation (Heath 1992). Taking a health research perspective, Yardley (2000) propose a different set of criteria: sensitivity to context, commitment and rigor, transparency and coherence, impact and importance. Engaged by the UK Government, Spencer et al. (2003) develop a list of criteria for assessment of the quality of evaluation research. Page 6
  7. 7. Prepared by Michael Ling To achieve „convincingness‟ in qualitative research, it is reasonable to expect that there are multiple criteria at the disposal of the researchers. The choice of criteria is influenced by the disposition and orientation of the researchers. For example, positivist researchers might find it meaningful to adapt the reliability and validity criteria because they view that social reality can be captured through their theories. Interpretive researchers, on the other hand, embrace the idea of multiple representations of reality and prefer to adopt alternative criteria. Thompson et al. (1990) Thompson et al. (1990) have adopted the alternative criteria in constructing „convincingness‟ and refrained from making any references to validity and reliability in their research. To increase credibility of their research, the researchers have laid out the process of respondent validation in detail by using one of their respondents, Samantha, as a case for illustration. For example, when referring to the case of Samantha, “this case study interpretation was returned to Samantha for commentary. She was informed that her comments, critiques, and suggested changes were very important to the investigations.”, “member check was employed to assess the interpretation’s credibility”, and “it was emphasized to Samantha that she was the expert when it came to describing her lived experiences.” The benefits of member check as a verification (or audit) tool is illustrated when one of the respondents, Samantha, admits that her responses might be inadequate during the interview. For example, “Samantha felt, however, that certain important issues were not emphasized strongly enough I the original interview.” To establish credibility of their interpretations, the researchers quote “Samantha found the case both descriptively adequate and enlightening. Specifically, she noted that the desire for completeness was the story of my life.” In addition, the researchers emphasize the robustness of the interpretive process by pointing out that “the circular process of interpretation is evident in the movement from the single case to all interviews considered as a whole. Each individual interview is used to gain a better sense of shared experiential meanings, which in turn affords a more informed understanding of each individual case.” Page 7
  8. 8. Prepared by Michael Ling The researchers also emphasize the accuracy of their interpretations by drawing to the fact that “Samantha found “especially” true the discussions…” and “in sum, Samantha found the interpretation highly credible and most of her comments concerned placing a stronger emphasis to certain facets of the interpretation.” Regarding dependability of the research, the researchers ensure the readers that a complete record of interview transcripts are kept at a high standard in case other researchers need to audit their findings. For example, “a single case-study description of Samantha will be presented to offer a concrete demonstration of the hermeneutic process used… and to provide a conceptual background for more encompassing theme description…” To establish credibility in the derivation of the three themes, the researches draw out their process in detail by pointing out that “the experiential gestalt is contextualized by the life-world settings of the participants” and “to provide a clearer sense of how such life-world issues shaped the meanings of participants’ consumer experiences, we will present illustrative excerpts from a subset of the 10 interviews.” Zeithaml et al. (1993) Although Zeithamal et al. (1993) have taken a positivist approach in their research, they have also used the alternative criteria and refrained from drawing references to validity and reliability. In selecting samples, the researchers explain at great lengths the process of purposive sampling of 16 focus groups emphasizing on (i) their rationale, for example, “First, “pure services” may generate different expectations than services associated with tangible products. Second, business customers’ expectations might differ from those of end customers. Third, experienced and inexperienced customer could have differing expectations because...(Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry 1985)”, and (ii) their conformance to the service marketing literature, for example, “the selection of a diverse set of service categories for the focus groups was motivated by a desire to generate insights that would transcend specific services, consistent with Lovelock’s (1983) call for more cross-industry research in the services section” and “the Page 8
  9. 9. Prepared by Michael Ling selected industries vary along key criteria used by Lovelock (1983) to classify services.” As a result, the researchers have established a high degree of confirmability (or objectivity) and plausibility (making sense to readers). Regarding data collection, the researchers provide a summary of the process involved in order to establish a high degree of authenticity and integrity. For example, “an extensive written transcript of each focus group was prepared by one researcher as the interview was being conducted by another”, “all focus groups were also audiotaped” and “the written transcripts, supplemented by the audiotapes, formed the basis for the model of expectations developed in this article”. In terms of interpretations of the interview findings, the researchers have shown us how they have assured the accuracy and credibility of the interpretations by providing details of the process involved, for example, “at the conclusion of each focus group interview the researchers informally discussed their impressions about the interview to identify emerging themes for verification in subsequent groups and for potential use in the model. This procedure is similar to what Belk, Sherry, and Wallendorf (1988) term memoing”, “to maximize the benefits of this memoing-type process, and to verify that members of our research team were interpreting the focus group interviews consistently, all three researchers took part in the first 5 of the 16 focus group interviews. Two of the three researchers took part in each of the remaining focus group interviews.” In addition, the researchers have increased credibility of the interpretations through triangulation by which “each researcher independently reviewed the written transcripts and developed a list of constructs and hypotheses after all 16 focus groups were completed”, and “the researchers then shared their inferences with one another and discussed them in several lengthy meetings to achieve “triangulation across researchers” (Belk, Sherry, and Wallendorf 1988) and identify key components of the model.” In terms of deriving theories and hypotheses from their interpretations, the researchers have made use of trusted authority to increase its credibility and objectivity by drawing references from “several recommended guidelines for theory construction through qualitative research (Belk, Sherry, and Wallendorf 1988; Thompson, Locander, and Pollio 1989)”. They have also Page 9
  10. 10. Prepared by Michael Ling detailed the verification process to assure us a high degree of credibility and trustworthiness, for example, “consistent themes identified from initial focus groups through the memoing process were informally verified in subsequent interviews”, “the themes emerged on their own during the discussion and reinforced the preliminary insights” and “the moderator introduced the themes to check whether they were consistent with the respondents’ experiences.” Page 10
  11. 11. Prepared by Michael Ling REFERENCES Belk, R. W., Wallendorf, M., & Sherry, J. F. (1989). The Sacred and Profane in Consumer Behavior: Theodicy on the Odyssey. Journal of Consumer Research, 16(June), 1-38. Bhaskar, R. (1979). The Possibility of Naturalism. NJ: Humanities Press. Golden-Biddle, K. & Locke, K. (1993). Appealing Work: An Investigation of How Ethnographic Texts Convince. Organization Science, 4(4), 595-616. Guba, E. & Lincoln, Y. (1994). Competing Paradigms in Qualitative Research. In Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y.S. (Eds), Handbook of Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 105-17. Hammersley, M. (1992). By what Criteria should Ethnographic Research be Judged? In Hammersley, M. What’s Wrong with Ethnography. London: Routledge. Heath, T. B. (1992). The Reconciliation of Humanism and Positivism in the Practice of Consumer Research: A View from the Trenches. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 20(2), 107-118. Hirschman, E. C. (1986). Humanistic Inquiry in Marketing Research: Philosophy, Method and Criteria. Journal of Marketing Research, 23(August), 237-249. Hudson, L. A. & Ozanne, J. L. (1988). Alternative Ways of Seeking Knowledge in Consumer Research. Journal of Consumer Research, 14(March), 508-521. Hunt, S. D. (1989). Naturalistic, Humanistic and Interpretive Inquiry: Challenges and Ultimate Potential. In Hirschman, E. C. (Eds) Interpretive Consumer Research. Provo: Association for Consumer Research, 185-198. Hunt, S. D. (1991). Positivism and Paradigm Dominance in Consumer Research: Toward a Critical Pluralism and Rapprochement. Journal of Consumer Research, 18(June), 32-44. Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. (1985). Naturalistic Inquiry. California: Sage. Rosenberg. A. (1988). Philosophy of Social Science. CO: Westview Press. Spencer, L., Ritchie, J., Lewis, J., & Dillon, L. (2003). Quality in Qualitative Evaluation: A Framework for Assessing Research Evidence. London: Government Chief Social Researcher‟s Office. Willis, W. J. (2007). Foundations of Qualitative Research: Interpretive and Critical Approaches. London: SAGE Publications. Yardly, L. (2000). Dilemmas in Qualitative Health Research. Psychology and Health, 15, 215-228. Page 11