The suffix '-ology' is used to mean either 'the study of' or 'the science of'. This chapter is about the science of consumption (or buying). In particular we address the role of the mind, how it influences buying and brand choice, and how to go about measuring it.
The last chapter peeked inside our 'necktop' computer to see how memory works. Memory consists of the firing or activating of an interconnected network of neurons. If our brain is touched internally at any point with a probe, a picture or a word, some part of our mental network is activated and we may recall a particular memory, meaning or feeling about that word or picture.
Like an electric current, the activation spreads out in all directions from the original point of activation, gathering up the meaning of the stimulus as it goes. The meaning of a thing is represented by the total pattern of the activation that the word or picture initiates. Knowledge is retrieved (or recalled) by activating the appropriate network in memory.
What we haven't discussed is the fact that there is more than just knowledge in these networks in our brain. Not all memory is knowledge. There is also memory for things that happen to us—of autobiographical events that are not knowledge per se. We remember episodes in our life—like driving to work this morning. Or perhaps we remember tasting a new brand of coffee yesterday. And we remember watching The Simpsons last night and seeing that great Missy Elliott ad for Pepsi again.
These are autobiographical events or episodes that are retained in our memory, at least for some time. They form memory networks that can be activated later to be re-triggered in our mind. Psychologists label memories for episodes like this 'episodic' memory, to be distinguished from remembering that is in the form of knowledge which is called 'semantic' memory.1 The two are seen increasingly to be related.2