Hungry Shoppers Also Buy More Non-Food Stuff

It’s a long-held belief that shopping while hungry leads to a larger than normal grocery bill. A new study claims that you might want also want to avoid hitting the department store on an empty stomach.

HealthDay News reports that a new study found hunger may push consumers in to buying more nonfood items than they normally would on a full stomach.

The report, aptly called “Hunger Promotes Acquisition of Nonfood Objects,” is based on five experiments that aimed to determine if people’s biological drive to acquire food goes beyond edible products, making consumers want more “stuff in general.”

“Hunger is assumed to motivate eating, which satisfies the caloric needs underlying the motivation,” a summary of the report states. “However, hunger’s influence extends beyond food consumption to the acquisition of nonfood items that cannot satisfy the underlying need.”

The experiments, which included 76 participants each, found that hunger increases consumers’ intention to acquire not only food but nonfood items regardless of whether they are free or must be purchased.

In the first experiment, the participants were asked to recall and make note of flashcards depicting either actual words or gibberish, HealthDay News reports.

Those who said they were hungrier during the test were more likely to correctly identify real words related to hunger or acquisition, such as “famine” and “obtain.”

A second group was asked to gauge their craving for both food and nonfood items while entering a cafe to eat, and again when they left. Most participants indicated a greater desire for both food and nonfood items before entering the cafe.

The third and fourth groups took part in experiments that attempted to quantify consumers’ desire for nonfood items while hungry.

One group was asked what they thought of binder clips and how many they would like to try for free. Members of the group that said they were hungry tended to ask for more free clips. However, researchers say that hunger did not have an effect on consumers’ thoughts about the clips.

Participants in the second group were told to not eat for four hours before the experiment. Upon entering the room, some were told to eat a provided cake, while others were not. Those who ate the cake asked for fewer binder clips while those who did not eat wanted more of the free office supply.

For the fifth experiment, researchers went outside the lab and polled actual department store shoppers when they exited the store – which sold mostly nonfood products.

The shoppers were asked to gauge how hungry they were, while the researchers scanned their receipts. In all, the experiment found that shoppers who were hungrier purchased more nonfood items from the store.

While the researches tell HealthDay News that the study doesn’t prove cause-and-effect, it does show that hunger can influence consumers’ shopping habits for nonfood items.

“I think consumers should be aware of this — that they may spend more money online or in a store if they’re hungry while they shop,” the study’s lead author Alison Jing Xu, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, says. “If you’re hungry, think twice.”

Hungry in the Department Store? Your Spending May Rise [HealthDay News]