Means-end relations are generally assumed to be hierarchical, and, by implication, asymmetrical. That is, if A is a means to achieve B, B is not at the same time also a means to achieve A. Literature casting doubt on this directedness of means-end relations is reviewed, and the hypothesis of means-end relations having direction is tested in two empirical studies. In these studies the means-end relations turn out to be symmetrical rather than asymmetrical. Means-end structures may therefore better be conceptualized as semantic networks rather than as straight hierarchies. Consequently, for the presentation and interpretation of the results from means-end studies, the emphasis should be on elements that derive from the network nature of the cognitive structure and not from the (possibly misleading) notions of hierarchy.

consumer behavior, hierarchy, laddering, means-end relations, semantic relations
Statistical Decision Theory; Operations Research (jel C44), Firm Behavior (jel D21), Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting (jel M), Marketing (jel M31)
Erasmus Research Institute of Management
ERIM Report Series Research in Management
Copyright 2002, J. van Rekom, B. Wierenga, This report in the ERIM Report Series Research in Management is intended as a means to communicate the results of recent research to academic colleagues and other interested parties. All reports are considered as preliminary and subject to possibly major revisions. This applies equally to opinions expressed, theories developed, and data used. Therefore, comments and suggestions are welcome and should be directed to the authors.
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

van Rekom, J, & Wierenga, B. (2002). Means-End Relations (No. ERS-2002-36-MKT). ERIM Report Series Research in Management. Erasmus Research Institute of Management. Retrieved from