Sadness Makes You Spend More

As the American Psychiatric Association prepares the fifth edition of the DSM—their official guide to what’s making you insane in the membrane—there’s some debate on whether to include compulsive shopping as a disorder, writes Melissa Healy in the Los Angeles Times:

Is [it] a biologically driven disease of the brain, a learned habit run amok, an addiction in its own right or a symptom of the other dysfunctions—most notably depression—that so often accompany it?

While the professionals discuss the matter, Healy points out something that may have more practical benefit to you: a recent study showed sad test subjects were willing to spend four times as much on a nonessential item (a water bottle) than non-sad subjects.

A theory that sadness might spur excess spending was neatly demonstrated in an experiment conducted by researchers at Harvard, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh and published in the June issue of Psychological Science.

Thirty-three subjects were offered $10 to participate in a study and divided into two groups: one that listened to a sad story and wrote an introspective essay about it and another that listened to an emotionally neutral story, then detailed their day’s activities.

Afterward, subjects in each group were offered the chance to buy a sporty insulated water bottle using some of their $10 payment and asked to state the price they would be willing to pay to buy it. The difference — by all appearances dictated solely by differing emotional states — was startling: Subjects in the sad-story group were prepared to pay almost four times as much to acquire the snappy water bottle as those who had entered the market in a neutral emotional state.

Maybe going shopping when you feel down is like going to the supermarket on an empty stomach—a really bad idea.

“Is compulsive buying a disorder?” [Seattle Times]
(Photo: Getty)