Psychology behind Impulse Buying

By: Cami Swafford

I recently purchased makeup brushes for $40. It all happened very quickly. One moment I was happily living my life, and suddenly I was $40 poorer. That night, I felt great about my purchase. However, when I woke up the next morning, I completely regretted it. “When am I ever going to use these things?” That was the question that continuously ran through my head. More importantly, this purchase spurred a new curiosity in me. Why do we impulse buy? What is the psychology behind such a regretful hobby?

After some research, I came upon the conclusion that there is no one single thing provokes impulse buying. As appealing as having one cause is, in reality everyone is different. However, there are a few main causes behind impulse shopping.

The first of these causes is a personality trait called impulse buying tendency. People with this personality trait typically are social creatures that are primarily concerned with their image and social status, though often subconsciously. Additional behaviors that accompany this personality trait are feelings of unhappiness and anxiety. This melting pot of emotions leads people to believe that buying new products will bring them happiness and improve their status in society.

Another driving factor behind impulse buying is the way that we are raised. Living in a consumer society has resulted in many Americans being brought up to associate new things with feeling good. Consumers also frequently create connections with their products. PsychologyToday.com reported, “When we’re connected to a product it literally changes the way our minds perceive it. Our minds essentially start acting like we already own the product, which makes it harder to go without buying it.”

A factor that we all encounter at some point is the marketing industry’s use of advertising and packaging to promote impulse buying. The majority of the population is susceptible to the loss aversion switch which is our deep concern about avoiding unhappiness in the future. Stores use this to their advantage by adding discounts to products and stating that certain sales are for a limited time only. This motivates customers to hastily buy these products without thinking their purchase through.

Ultimately, impulse buying usually leads to regrettable debt. It’s important to remember the factors that play a role in impulse buying in order to detect poor purchasing decisions before they happen. Moral of the story, check yourself before you wreck yourself.

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