Can hunger lead to bad purchases?

Can hunger lead to bad purchases?

Ever walk into a store needing to purchase one item and then walk out with a armful of goodies? Perplexed by how you racked up the credit card bill after stopping at the mall? A new study finds that your stomach may be motivating you to make purchases, particularly nonfood items.

New research from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management finds that hunger may cause us to buy things we didn’t intend to purchase.

“Hunger makes us think about seeking, acquiring, and consuming food,” said Alison Jing Xu, assistant professor of marketing at the Carlson School in a press release.

For the study, experts involved participants in a series of experiments.

First, participants played a word game where they had to identify if the flashcards were actual words or gibberish. Participants who were hungry were more likely to correctly identify words that had a common hunger theme like “starve,” “appetite,” “hunger,”and “famine.” The group also pointed out words that had a theme about acquiring like “want,” “obtain,” and “gain.”

The second experiment had participants enter a café to eat. Researchers took a poll before the participants entered the café and after they ate to better understand their desire for food and nonfood items. Every single one of the participants indicated they had a greater desire for food and nonfood items before they ate their meal.

The last experiment proved most conclusive. After exiting a department store that sold mostly nonfood items, researchers polled shoppers and asked how hungry they were and then compared the shoppers’ receipts to how much they purchased. They found that hungry shoppers spent 64 percent more at the department store than those who were less hungry.

Dr. Joanne May, director of outpatient behavioral services at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago understands the influence hunger can play on booth food and nonfood products.

“If one is feeling uncomfortable, then one is more likely to address the discomfort in the moment and end up buying something that feels good,” says Dr. May.

The behavioral psychologist also has witnessed how savvy retailers have become with tempting customers with smells, colors and layout of products.

“My suggestion to shoppers is to bring a list to the store and purchase only from the list. Also, do not carry cash or a credit card if you don’t have something you need to buy.”


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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.