‘The consumer attention deficit syndrome: Consumer choices in complex markets’

At this week’s CCP seminar, we are delighted to welcome two distinguished guests in the form of Lisbet Berg (SIFO) and Åse Gornitzka (University of Oslo). On Friday 14th March, Lisbet and Åse will be presenting their paper entitled ‘The consumer attention deficit syndrome: Consumer choices in complex markets‘. An abstract for their article can be found below and the full paper is available for download for subscribers to the Acta Sociologica journal.


Consumers’ attention is a scarce resource. It is virtually impossible for a consumer to keep informed about all the markets he or she visits. This article describes a mechanism that is likely to evolve in sophisticated societies with multiple complex markets. Since the nature of consumer areas differs substantially and thus requires different kinds of consumer competences, such competences cannot be easily transferred from one consumer area to another. People therefore tend to give their limited attention to consumer areas of similar nature, while neglecting others.
This phenomenon is conceptualised as the Consumer Attention Deficit Syndrome (CADS). Empirically, if such a mechanism exists, this will be reflected in consumers’ tendency to develop specialised consumer competence profiles. In three nationally representative data sets collected in Norway in 2005, 2007 and 2009, specialised consumer competence profiles were distinguished. The following analysis indicates that, on an individual level, CADS is quite widespread. While it cannot be claimed that some social groups are more vulnerable to the syndrome than
others, different groups’ lack of attention is concentrated on different consumer areas. Leaning on choice and decision-making theories, the implications of CADS for the functioning of markets are discussed.

The seminar will take place from 13:00-14:00 in the Thomas Paine Study Centre, Room 0.1.

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