Everyone loves a good sale, but should we? Here’s what bargain shopping does to your brain.

SeekerPublished: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018
Published: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018

I’m sure we’ve all been there, boasting about how amazing that deal was and how much money we saved on that 52 inch T.V. or pair of shoes. It happens to the best of us. But is it the new gadget that makes you happy? Or the great deal? Kit Yarrow, a consultant and consumer psychologist says it’s the latter. She says, customers are caring all too much about the price of an item instead of valuing the item itself.

Before 2008, stores naturally put items on sale at the end of a season, but now? There are sales through every single part of the year: 4th-of-July sales, semi-annual sales, weekly sales. You name it. There’s a bargain to be hunted. Stores changed the psychology of shopping when they appealed to the cheaper needs of patrons during the recession.

And one Nielsen survey shows, some people like the “hunt” for a bargain more than the item itself. And researchers say shopping a sale can trigger the same parts of the brain as love or drugs.  The mere action of walking into a store can get your dopamine levels going, but much like a real addict, you go home with feelings of guilt, because like maybe you didn’t need that game console, even tho it was $100 off and you sort of wanted it.

Shopping increases activity in your nucleus accumbens-- the reward circuit of your brain. You anticipate purchases, and get excited about them, and, according to one study, “excessive prices … activate circuits associated with anticipated loss.” But a sale? That’s a whole different thing. And stores know this.


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