Shopping while hungry leads to more non-food purchases
Ever go shopping when you’re hungry and notice you walked out with a lot more than you were expecting to buy? While most people know that when you are hungry, you typically will buy more food (as illustrated by The Oatmeal above), new research shows that there is a clear link between hunger and buying non-food items. A team of international researchers has released a paper that describes five laboratory and field studies they conducted which showed how people respond to non-food objects when they are hungry.
Here’s a breakdown of their findings:
In the first study, the researchers asked volunteers to perform a word association task—some of the words on cards were related to acquisitions, others to food and others were not even real words. They were also asked before and after the tasks to rate how hungry they were. The data showed that people in the study were more likely to associate acquisition words with food words when they were hungry.
In the second study, the researchers stopped people entering or leaving a café (after eating) and asked them about their mood and how much they would like to buy certain items. They found that those who had not yet eaten showed a marked desire to purchase certain non-food products.
In the third study, people at a store were asked if they would like some free binder clips to try—if so they were asked to answer a few other questions that involved how hungry they were. Participants were then asked how many clips they wanted. The researchers found that hungry people wanted more clips than those that were not hungry.
In the fourth study, the researchers asked volunteers to not eat prior to arriving for an experiment—they then asked them to participate in a cake taste test, which was followed by the same binder experiment in the third study. They found that the hungriest volunteers took the most free binder clips.
In the fifth study, the researchers queried 81 people who had just left a department store who allowed them to scan their shopping receipts and then answered questions about how hungry they were. The researchers found that those who shopped when hungry, tended to buy more non-food items than did those who were not hungry.
In reviewing all their data, the team found that while hunger clearly caused an increase in non-food acquisition, whether people had to pay for it or not, it did not increase the level of satisfaction experienced by those people that had acquired such things.
Which just goes to show you, money can’t buy happiness. The implications of the study of course also means you probably shouldn’t shop when you are hungry, unless you have some extra money you don’t mind spending. Interestingly enough, since this is an international study, the implications are potentially global. Meaning that despite your cultural background, you may be susceptible to this.
Alison Jing Xu, Norbert Schwarz, & Robert S. Wyer, Jr (2015). Hunger promotes acquisition of nonfood objects Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America : 10.1073/pnas.1417712112