Forget retail therapy. New research suggests that happy people make wiser decisions than those who shop away their sorrows.
Note to impulsive buyers: Shop when you're happy.
A new study slated to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that mood affects our ability to make swift, balanced, and efficient assessments—and, as a result, to shop wisely.
Take the case of a person looking to purchase a luxury car. Paul M. Herr, the study's lead author and a professor of marketing at Virginia Tech, says such a consumer may consider only the attributes he likes if he's in a foul mood. He may purchase the car without considering some reasons to dislike or pass on it, such as its high price, its snobbish image, or its potentially exorbitant repair costs.
"We are remarkably good at coming up with after-the-fact justifications for how we arrive at our judgments," says Herr. "But left to our own devices and when in negative moods, we focus on liking questions only and tend to get confirming responses."
Herr and co-authors Christine M. Page, Bruce E. Pfeiffer, and Derick F. Davis measured the impact of "affect" (emotions, level of optimism/pessimism, etc.) on the decision-making abilities of 288 respondents across three experiments. In one experiment, the researchers primed the moods of the participants by asking them to recall and write about an extremely sad or happy event, or nothing at all. They then briefly showed each participant images on a computer of a likable object (a puppy, for example), an unlikeable object (a python), or a neutral object (a stapler), as well as an evaluative adjective (like, dislike, good, bad). The participants were instructed to press a "yes" key if the adjective matched their feeling toward the object or a "no" key if it did not, and to do so as quickly as possible.