Decision Making and Impulse Buying

Decision making is referred to as “the act of evaluating (i.e., forming opinions of) several alternatives and choosing the one most likely to achieve one or more goals.” You make decisions everyday, whether you realize it or not. What to eat for breakfast, should I go to class, should I buy this? The crazy thing, though? Sometimes the impulse to buy overcomes your cognition momentarily.

When making decisions, scientist have found that it is the frontal lobe that is activated in the brain when making choices. This was found not only during fMRIs, looking at what parts of the brain light up when activated, but also through research with those who suffer from a brain injury. When one has a brain injury they can see what is left impaired, and in this case it is  not being able to make decisions or choices.

So, now that we have gone through the basics–imagine this.

You are in your favorite store and they just released their new shoe line. You don’t necessarily have the money to spend on this, but you go over and these shoes are aesthetically beautiful and have great qualities (waterproof, comfort, etc.). You try and use your good, logical decision making, but next thing you know your leaving the store with a brand new pair of shoes and there you are wondering… how did this happen?

That my friend, is called impulse buying. Chances are this was an unplanned buy, meaning you had no intentions of making that purchase you just did at the beginning of the day and research shows it is usually due to your emotions overcoming your logical decision making. Impulse buying spans from smaller purchases, to much greater purchase that can lead to financial difficulties for the person buying and their respective families. This can lead to a cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is described as “the feelings of discomfort that results when your beliefs run counter to your behaviors and/or new information that is presented to you.” There are different levels of dissonance that depend on to what degree their beliefs vary. For example the site talks about if cognitions are more personal or beliefs that are highly valued, then the dissonance tends to be significant. Then the greater the dissonance, the more one feels the need to relieve this feeling of discomfort. This is especially true and can be hard for those who make financially large impulse buys.

On a final note, I read a very interesting journal on an experiment correlated with the The Influence of Affect and Cognition on Impulse Buying Behavior, in which the researcher, Youn, talked about what impulse buying was characterized as, who impulses shops, and why. Impulse buying is defined in the journal: “characterized by an urge to buy or feelings of pleasure and excitement, consists of unplanned and sudden purchases.” In this, Youn argues that “if the affective state overcomes cognition during decision making, impulsive buying behavior becomes more likely.”


5 thoughts on “Decision Making and Impulse Buying

  1. sierrahorton

    I would consider myself to be indecisive with a lot of decisions; therefore, your blog post was exactly what I needed to bring empirical research into my decision making. The way you tied decision making into impulse buying perfectly fit together and was very relatable. I have been guilty of this many times, even though I often try hard to thoroughly plan my shopping and give myself restraint, especially with big purchases. You did an excellent job of discussing the different levels of dissonance that occurs during this type of decision making and I found it easy to follow. I was aware that when our behavior goes against our strong beliefs, dissonance is greater, and I agree with you. Lastly, the article on impulse buying behavior that you brought in toward the end tied your blog post together nicely.

  2. nboigegrain

    Like sierrahorton, I also consider myself to be indecisive and sometimes impulsive. I often find that whenever I am impulsive, it is because I am indecisive about whether or not to buy something AND because I am either really tired, upset, or stressed. I find that my mood definitely affects my decisions and impulse levels, probably because I am overestimating how happy a purchase will make me (like discussed in chapter 12) and am really looking for that pick me up. Whenever I do make those “bad” decisions, I often find myself regretting it, almost immediately afterwards, so much so that I often return whatever I can. And the chance of me returning definitively goes up as the price of whatever I had brought does…all that being said, I think the articles you found were very good considering how much my experience matches what they say, but my confidence in them might be due to the availability heuristic, considering I am basing it off of my experiences, which make up most of the examples that come to my mind when I think about impulse buying.

  3. thares

    Your post was very relatable and I like how you tied in decision making with something that we all can relate to! I have found myself in this situation many times, but I have learned that once I have an impulse to buy something I usually keep walking around the store and then when I’m ready to leave I stop and look at what is in my cart and usually put many things back. I can think of countless times this has occurred when I am shopping in Marshall’s. When I go shopping, I try to give myself a spending limit so I don’t go crazy and spend way too much.

  4. chayes

    I can relate to this post! I can sometimes be and indecisive,impulsive buyer. It was so interesting how you found scientific evidence to back this phenomenon up with. the way your wrote this blog post flowed so smoothly and was a great read! I now have an excuse for my impulse shopping habits!

  5. afinegan

    While I have never considered myself an impulse shopping because spending any type of money usually stresses me out, I found this article to be very fascinating because it connected the lesson we have just learned with something that we see a lot in todays society. I usually saw impulse buying as a the of addiction because like you stated it has to deal with the emotion one feels when making these quick decisions. It was intriguing to now make the connections to cognitive psychology that while we usually make some detailed calculations in our brains about what purchases will be beneficial to us, emotions and impulses can get in the way and cloud our typical judgements.
    It would be interesting to see what kind of psychological training or conditioning one could undergo to try to fix this tendency. I wonder if people would find it more beneficial to treat it like an addiction or a psychological disorder in a way to try to correct or manage it.

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