Retail therapy is proven to work, but at what psychological cost?
Retail therapy has been proven to make us happier, but is there a catch?
- Retail therapy is a process of shopping for the purpose of making yourself feel better.
- According to financial psychologists, there is a psychological connection between your emotions and how you spend (and save) money, which explains how retail therapy can have such a positive, uplifting effect on our state of mind.
- However, retail shopping often happens when we are vulnerable, and that is when our impulse control often goes unchecked.
Retail therapy is a process of shopping for the purpose of making yourself feel better. Retail therapy is much more common than you think - in fact, many of us are guilty of therapy shopping without even realizing it.
Some examples of retail therapy can include:
- Having had a bad day at work, you stop at the mall on your way home and buy several new items that you weren't considering purchasing beforehand.
- You receive bad news over the phone that puts a damper on your Saturday, so you decide to order pizza to make yourself feel better.
- You are sick, feeling anxious or depressed, and decide to purchase a big-ticket item (such as a new TV, laptop, a vacation) to cheer yourself up and have something to look forward to.
According to online counseling service platform Better Help, retail therapy shopping can be considered a positive thing if you have the means to allow for big splurges - but if you're living paycheck to paycheck and putting these retail therapy purchases on credit, it will only cause problems in the future.
Whether it's a big purchase like a flat screen TV during a big sale, a dress that makes you feel beautiful, or an investment into remodeling a part of your home, there are many situations where spending money adds value to our lives.
Financial psychologist Dr. Tracy Thomas explains that there is a psychological connection between your emotions and how you spend (and save) money, which explains how emotional purchasing can have such a positive, uplifting effect on our state of mind.
What are the psychological effects of retail therapy?
Retail therapy is proven to work - but is there a negative psychological cost?
Photo by Dean Drobot on Shutterstock
Lead researchers (Meloy and Atalay) of a 2011 study on retail therapy explain that therapeutic shopping can be considered a strategic effort to improve our mood. The results of the study prove that the idea of buying items to make yourself feel better (window shopping) improves your mood as much as actually purchasing the items do.
How does retail therapy prevent sadness?
Sadness is a situational experience that results from things we sometimes have no control over. When we're overcome by sadness, sometimes we want nothing more than to be happy, but can't seem to pull ourselves out of the emotion that's dragging us down. A separate 2013 study explains that retail therapy is most impactful when we're sad, but not necessarily when we are angry. The choices involved in retail therapy offer restored personal control over your environment, which makes us feel better in certain situations.
The potential negative consequences of retail therapy
It's common for people to feel as if they are indulging a bad habit when they make unplanned purchases - but is retail therapy really that bad for you?
It all depends on your financial situation, explains mental health professional Crystal Raypole. If you maintain purchases that are within your spending budget, you are not likely to see the negative impacts of that in your life.
However, retail shopping often happens when we are vulnerable (feeling sad, upset, threatened, etc.) and these are moods where our impulse control is often unchecked. If you are spending outside of your means, you may end up with significant levels of debt due to purchases that were originally supposed to make you feel happier.
While they may serve that purpose in the beginning, if the purchases lead to further debt, the happiness will be short-lived and stress over unpaid bills will soon follow.
Are retail therapy and compulsive shopping the same?
Compulsive shopping (or compulsive buying disorder) and retail therapy are both about spending money to make yourself feel better, but beyond this they are wildly different.
Compulsive shopping, unlike retail therapy, is a momentary pleasure. The happiness involved in the purchase doesn't typically last past the moment of purchase.
With compulsive shopping, you may:
- Purchase things you don't need or want because you like spending money
- Not be able to control your shopping impulses
- Feel the need to hide purchases
- Not actually use the things you purchase because you have no reason for buying them
- Need to shop more and more as time goes on, not feeling satisfied with one purchase to boost your mood
Retail therapy, on the other hand, is more likely to:
- Be a strategically planned purchase, even if you don't necessarily need it, you purchase something you know will add value to your life
- Involve you purchasing something that has been on your "wish list" for a while instead of buying something you have never considered buying before
- Consist of buying something you have reason to buy (a phone or new planner to help you stay organized, a new bed to help you sleep better, etc.)
Raypole further explains that the key to determining whether you are retail shopping or compulsive shopping lies in how you feel about the purchase afterward and whether you have the ability to say no to yourself in the moment of purchase.
- LifePower: Credit, Debt, Saving, Investing, and Buying a Home ... ›
- A Topography of American Grocery Shopping - Big Think ›
- Shopping addiction: why does it feel so good to buy things? - Big Think ›
What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.
Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.
New experiments find weird quantum activity in supercold gas.
Quantum Mechanics, Onions, and a Theory of Everything<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="036ae7b8dd661df2d125a3421a0299ba"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bcVruA0AJ-o?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Researchers say that moral self-licensing occurs "because good deeds make people feel secure in their moral self-regard."
Books about race and anti-racism have dominated bestseller lists in the past few months, bringing to prominence authors including Ibram Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo, Reni Eddo-Lodge, and Robin DiAngelo.