You know that buzz we get from shopping? It’s a real thing.
We buy because it makes us happy, albeit only temporarily. Knowing what motivates us starts with the understanding that when it comes to making that purchase decision, your brain has a lot to say about it.
So, just why do we love to buy so much? Here’s the brainy lowdown:
It gives us pleasure
Doing something we find rewarding lights up the brain's pleasure centre, the nucleus accumbens, which when activated leads to a surge in the release of dopamine the neurotransmitter that makes us feel good, and motivates us to repeat the behaviour. It’s why we can even get addicted to the pleasure of buying.
It’s the anticipation of reward
But it's not what we buy that makes us happy it's the shopping experience and the anticipation of the reward to come. That’s why it feels so great to buy that new handbag you’ve hankered after for ages, or that special gift to show someone how much you care. Wanting is far more motivating than needing. You might need more toothpaste or a flea bomb because the cat’s got fleas again, but it’s much harder to get as excited about those kinds of purchases.
Fulfilling those smaller wants has also been shown to be more satisfying and a better predictor of our happiness than saving up to get that one really big thing like a new car.
We love keeping our pleasure of buying topped up
Our brain is adaptive, meaning that today’s shiny new purchase like todays headlines will be old news tomorrow. Queuing up in line to get that latest upgrade for your smart phone or tickets for an Adele concert might feel as if it makes sense at the time, though the thrill of the chase will have dimmed in a few weeks time.
We like to cheer ourselves up
Retail therapy is alive and well. Buying like eating provides comfort when times are tough or you’ve had a bad day. Research has shown how buying is far more effective than window-shopping in reducing our funk and restores a sense of control over our life.
It makes us feel special
We appreciate that nod of acknowledgment by the barista in your favourite café who starts preparing your favourite beverage without having to be asked. We love being addressed by our name, when booking in for a haircut or massage. We are grateful for the attention to detail, “Would you like that gift-wrapped Madam?” because it validates our choice and adds to our level of satisfaction.
It’s to create a social impression
We buy to influence how others see us. We buy a new outfit to impress that new significant person in our life. We buy more expensive items to show off our status and that we can afford them. Or we buy raffle tickets at a fund-raiser or goods for a worthy cause to show we care.
It’s to grab a bargain
We hate the thought of missing out or paying too much. Getting a discount is always appealing and can override the logical and analytical question of do I really need this? When’s it an obvious bargain, that half price pair of Jimmy Choo shoes will somehow find it's way into your wardrobe even though they're not quite the right size and in a colour you wouldn't normally wear.
Buying, we love it. Whether it’s a want or a need, being able to buy simply gives us pleasure.
Dr. Jenny Brockis is a speaker, author and mentor specialising in the science of high-performance thinking. Visit www.drjennybrockis.com