Instead Of Returning Stuff That Doesn't Fit In, We Buy More

We’ve all been there. That purple end table that looked so fetch in the store is woefully out of place when you bring it back to your abode. The rational thing to do would be to return the item. According to a new study, instead, what we do is go out and buy more things like it to make it fit in.

The effect is highest for products that have high “design salience,” where aspects of their design are a key factor in the product. This is also known more commonly as “form over function.” When products with “design salience” come into a space where they don’t match their surroundings, we get bummed and try to go out and get more like them, what researchers in the study published in the Journal of Marketing Research call “aesthetic incongruity resolution.”‘

The study advises shoppers to ask themselves two questions before making a design-based purchase. Is it attractive and does it fit in what I already have? Unless the answer to both is yes, move on. Otherwise that little impulse purchase can end up costing you several hundreds in upgrades.

Aesthetic Incongruity Resolution (PDF) [Journal of Marketing Research]