Theoretical and practical studies of ‘consumer innovativeness’ are currently beset by two problems. First is the proliferation of terms referring to ‘innovators’, ‘use-innovators’, ‘innovative personality traits’ and so on which are both confusing and conceptually inexact. Second is the failure to account for the mass of weak evidence on which the notion of an innovation-prone personality is based. The paper proposes a more coherent set of terms to designate the behavioural and psychological dimensions of innovative consumer behaviour, after which five empirical studies are presented of the cognitive style/personality profiles related to new brand/product purchasing and the use of computers for novel purposes. Contrary to the literature on adoption and diffusion, while many of the consumers with a propensity for these behaviours showed the cognitive/ personality styles widely attributed to ‘consumer innovators’, a substantial proportion, sometimes a majority, had the obverse profile. In terms of Kirton's adaption-innovation theory, so-called consumer innovators might exhibit either adaptive or innovative cognitive styles. Personal involvement with the product field also emerged as a powerful explicator of ‘innovative’ consumer behaviour. Hence purchasers of the highest level of food innovations were adaptors who were also highly involved in the product field; and while the heaviest users of software applications were those who were highly involved, both adaptors and innovators figured strongly among them. The findings suggest a more complicated psychographic composition of consumer innovators than is generally appreciated in managerial prescriptions for new product development and marketing, and in theoretical explanations of consumer behaviour which rely on conceptual abstractions such as ‘innate’ or ‘inherent’ innovativeness.