Lay Theories in Consumer Behavior: Theory of Mind and Theory of Machine

  • Zarema Khon

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Consumers rely on their intuitions to make sense of a complex and uncertain marketplace. Current research investigates (i) the factors and (ii) consequences of consumers’ intuitive theories about the market economy, companies, the use of smart algorithms, and marketing manipulation. The analyses of factors show that consumers’ beliefs about the marketplace are immensely affected by the evolutionary adaptations. Although consumers’ beliefs are accurate representations of the marketplace in most cases, they are oftentimes corrupted because humans’ mind has not changed much in the last 10,000 years when humans were living in small hunter-gatherer societies. Development of manufacturing, economic growth, technological advancement—all were too rapid and recent so that the advantages of modern economy might not only be beneficial to consumers, but also frighten them. This is because human cognition is not equipped to think about such complex and opaque phenomena. In addition, it is highly-attuned to threats (even though falsely). The analysis of consumer behavior showed that these intuitions have significant effect on consumers’ brand attitudes, choice, and sentiments around the entire market economy. The three papers not only examine the connection between evolutionary factors and consumer behavior, but also test the ways of making consumers’ beliefs more accurate. This has theoretical contributions to the corresponding literatures and important practical implications for marketers and policymakers.
Date of Award22 Jun 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorSamuel Johnson (Supervisor), Haiming Hang (Supervisor) & Yvetta Simonyan (Supervisor)


  • lay theories
  • consumer behavior
  • marketing decision-making
  • algorithm aversion
  • persuasion
  • brand attitudes

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