The Truth About Retail Therapy: It’s A Dangerous (And Expensive) Trap

Researchers reveal the truth about shopping to feel better.

Researchers reveal the truth about shopping to feel better.

Shopping to try and recover from negative emotions can only make things worse, research finds.

Typically, negative events make materialistic people run to the shops — but it only helps them feel better in the short-term.

The results come from a study that examined how people coped with terrorist attacks.

Professor Rindfleisch, one of the study’s authors, said:

“Materialistic people cope with bad events through materialistic mechanisms.

People who are materialistic suffer higher levels of distress and are more likely to compensate for that through higher levels of compulsive and impulsive purchasing.”

The researchers found that people who were more materialistic had higher post-traumatic stress along with higher compulsive and impulsive consumption.

Professor Rindfleisch said:

“In times of stress, people often seek solace through shopping.

The idea here is that we need some form of a cultural-based coping mechanism, because the research suggests that there is actually a short-term fix with retail therapy.

Soon after purchasing something, there is a reduction of anxiety.

But it doesn’t last very long.

It’s fleeting.

Materialists seek that as one of their coping mechanisms.”

A separate survey carried out in the US found that low self-esteem made it harder to cope with difficult events.

Professor Rindfleisch concluded:

“If you’re a materialistic individual and life suddenly takes a wrong turn, you’re going to have a tougher time recovering from that setback than someone who is less materialistic.

The research is novel in that an event that’s unrelated to materialism will have a stronger impact on someone because of their materialistic values.

In other words, materialism has a multiplier effect.

It’s a finding that I think is especially interesting given our consumer-driven economy.”

The study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science (Ruvio et al., 2013).

Author: Dr Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004.

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