Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Invited Paper Session #484

Behavioral Economics of the Marketing Firm: Bilateral Contingency, Metacontingency, and Agency

Monday, May 27, 2019
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Hyatt Regency East, Ballroom Level, Grand Ballroom AB
Area: OBM; Domain: Theory
Instruction Level: Intermediate
CE Instructor: Gordon Foxall, Ph.D.
Chair: Byron J. Wine (The Faison Center)
GORDON FOXALL (Cardiff University; University of Reykjavik)
Gordon R. Foxall is Distinguished Research Professor at Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University (UK), and a Visiting Professor in economic psychology at the University of Reykjavik (Iceland). He holds a Ph.D. in industrial economics and business studies (University of Birmingham); a Ph.D. in psychology (University of Strathclyde); and a higher doctorate (DSocSc) also from the University of Birmingham. He is the author of some 300 refereed papers and chapters and over 30 books. He has held visiting appointments at the Universities of Michigan, Oxford, South Australia and Guelph, and is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS); a Fellow of the British Psychological Society (FBPsS); and a Fellow of the British Academy of Management (FBAM). His principal research interests include consumer behavior analysis, the philosophical implications of the neurophilosophy of consumer choice, and the theory of the marketing firm.

The theme of this talk is the nature of the organizations that meet consumer demand, the susceptibility of their behavior to operant explanation, and the consequences of treating them as operant systems. All firms market. Marketing, moreover, provides the raison d’être of firms. Just as consumers can be shown to maximize the utilitarian and informational reinforcement they receive from commodities, so firms maximize similar sources of reward through the generation and implementation of marketing mixes that influence consumer choice. But over and above the operations involved in marketing functions, firms are compelled by the imperatives of modern economies to engage in customer-oriented management in order to compete within and between traditional industries for the dollars over which customers have discretion. This talk draws on ideas from microeconomics and marketing science, as well as behavior analysis, in a nontechnical exploration of the sensitivity of corporate activity to contingencies of reinforcement. I argue that the concept of metacontingency is central to understanding the behavior of organizations such as marketing firms and that the idea of bilateral contingency is central to understanding why they exist and what their function is.

Target Audience:

All those interested in the behavioral economics of organizations and their publics; organizational management; public policy with respect to business firms; the interaction of operant analysis and other disciplines and the implications of using economics to understand human behavior.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) discuss how organizations that meet consumer demand can be analyzed in operant terms; (2) discuss the economic and marketing imperatives that explain the existence of prevalence of these marketing firms; (3) discuss the concept of bilateral contingency and how the interrelationships of marketing firms and their customers can be analyzed as interlocking contingencies; (4) discuss marketing firms as metacontingencies and the implications of this for their acting as economic and social agents; (5) discuss the policy implications of marketing firms as they interact with different kinds of customer (e.g., other business organizations vs. aggregates of individual consumers.



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