Washington: Are you a shopaholic? Do thoughts of death haunt you? A new study has found that thoughts of mortality can actually trigger your buying impulse as it makes you feel better about yourself.
The study has been published in the Journal of Consumer Affairs. Researchers from the John Molson School of Business (JMSB) and HEC Montreal in Canada found that the habits of spendthrifts do not change after contemplating their own mortality, instead compulsive shoppers, on the other hand, go out and buy more.
"Our expectation was that the anti-consumption individuals would become even more inclined to resist consumption. This would indicate that for them, resistance was an important source of self-esteem," said marketing professor Marcelo Nepomuceno.
"In fact, we found that anti-consumers were not influenced by thoughts of death, which suggests that they do not believe that resistance to consumption is a source of self-esteem. In other words, anti-consumers seem to care less about consumption than over-consumers," Nepomuceno added.
The team wanted to test this assumption with anti-consumers -- people who voluntarily resist consumption out of a sense of frugality or desire to live simply and with over-consumers -- folks who shop till they drop, no matter the season.
The researchers did two experiments with 503 participants and were asked to answer questionnaires identifying their tendency to resist consumption.
They were then randomly assigned to one of two groups-- one in the "death thoughts" group, where participants were asked to describe what they would feel if they were dying. In the control group, participants were asked to report what they would feel if they were submitted to a painful dental procedure.
They found that anti-consumers seem to care less about consumption than over-consumers. Afterwards, participants indicated their inclination to purchase a series of products.
By comparing the participants in each condition, the researchers were able to identify individual tendencies to increase or reduce consumption due to thoughts of death.
The researchers found that consumers inclined to over-consume, thinking about death made them even more likely to buy.
"This indicates that such consumers see purchasing and having goods and services as an important source of self-esteem. When they think about death, they become more inclined to buy because this helps them feel betterabout themselves," Nepomuceno explained.