It’s Science: The Brains of Spendthrifts Fuction Differently Than Tightwads

We are a definitely a tightwad, but what does that mean, really? That we avoid buying things, even if we know we need them? That we still don’t own a microwave? What’s wrong with us? The New York Times has the answer, via Stanford and Carnegie Mellon Universities. It turns out that one’s shopping habits have a lot to do with how active two centers of the brain are, the “nucleus accumbens, a region of the brain with dopamine receptors that are activated when you experience or anticipate something pleasant, like making money or drinking something tasty,” and the insula, a “region of the brain activated when you smell something bad, see a disgusting picture or anticipate a painful shock.”

When a shopper sees something they want to buy, the nucleus accumbens is activated, which feels good, and so the shopper tends to buy. When the price is too high, the insula turns on and the good times are over. This explains why people prefer to “pay later” with credit, or otherwise eliminate or downplay the activity caused by the insula. This doesn’t work for us, so we assume that either our nucleus accubens is broken, or our insula is hyperactive, making us a tightwad. Neat. Which one are you?—MEGHANN MARCO

The Voices in My Head Say ‘Buy It!’ Why Argue? [New York Times]

PREVIOUSLY: Brain Scans Predict If You’ll Buy Something

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.