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Thursday, 13 September 2018

Stimulus Discrimination

One of the important questions concerning the effect of marketing stimuli in perception is whether the consumer can actually discriminate between differences in stimuli. Does the consumer perceive difference between brand in taste,in feel,in price,in the shape of the package?

The ability to discriminate between stimuli is learned by the consumer. Generally those who frequently use a product are better able to discriminate small differences in product characteristics between brands. However in most cases ,sensory discrimination of physical difference between brands is small. As a result marketers rely on advertising to convey brand differences that physical characteristics alone would not impart. They try to create a brand image that will convince consumers that one brand is better than another .

To understand how consumers are able to discriminate between stimuli we have to explain the following concepts namely absolute threshold and differential threshold.


The lowest level at which an individual can experience a sensation is called the absolute threshold. The point at which a person can detect  a difference between "Something" and "nothing" is that person's absolute threshold for that stimulus. For instance the distance at which a driver can note a particular billboard on the highway is that Person's absolute threshold. Two people in this case may be riding together but spot the billboard at different time( that is,at different distance). This means they have different absolute thresholds.

In marketing strategy,package designer try to determine consumers absolute threshold to make sure their new product designs exceed this level,so that new products will stand out from competitor's products on retailers shelves. Marketers employ competent packaging consultant who use research to determine which colours and which shapes will be perceived more readily.


A basic principle of stimulus discrimination is that differential threshold exists in comparing two stimuli. The consumer will not  be able to dectect any difference between stimuli below his differential threshold. The minimal difference that can be detected between two stimuli is called the The differential Threshold,the j.n.d(meaning just noticeable difference).

Since most consumers can not detect small changes in price,package size or physical characteristics of a product,a relevant question for marketers is what degree of change is required for consumers to take notice. A principle developed by two German physiologists known as Webers's law provides some insight into this question. According to Weber's law,the stronger the initial stimulus, the greater the change required for the stimulus to be seen as different. In other words the additional level of stimulus equivalent to the j.n.d.must be added for the majority of people to perceive a difference between the resulting stimulus and the initial stimulus. Translated in marketing terms,this would mean that the higher the price,the greater the change in price required for the consumer to take notice. For instance, the price of five hundred naira text book would have to increase more significantly than that of fifty naira in other to be noticed.

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