People using touch screens are more likely to make People using touch screens are more likely to make

Touch Screens Might Affect Impulsive Shopping Tendencies

Two woman shopping on a tabletPeople using touch screens are more likely to make emotion-driven purchasing decisions, according to a study published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services. The study found smartphones encourage “fun,” self-indulgent purchases, while people using desktop computers are more likely to make practical purchases.

Some people use impulse buying to ease feelings of depression and anxiety. They may also later regret these purchases. People with addictive shopping tendencies may be especially vulnerable to impulse purchases.

How Touch Screens Change Shopping Habits

To assess how touch screens affect purchasing behavior, researchers conducted three laboratory trials with college students. The trials compared students’ orientation toward purchases of pleasurable items, such as chocolate and massages, and utilitarian items, such as printers or bread.

Participants using touch screens scored higher on assessments of experiential thinking. Experiential thinking prioritizes elements of experience, such as emotion and pleasure. Students using desktop computers scored higher on rational thinking, which prioritizes logical, practical decision-making.

These different thinking styles changed participants’ purchasing habits. Students using touch screens who engaged in experiential thinking were more likely to purchase pleasurable items. Desktop users focused more on practical goods.

Changing Purchases by Changing Thoughts

The study did not explore whether using desktop computers could change purchasing habits in people who want to make fewer pleasure-seeking purchases. It does, however, suggest the purchasing medium might change people’s approach to buying things.

The link between experiential thinking and purchasing decisions could also be fertile ground for changing shopping habits. Other experiences that induce experiential thinking might also encourage people to make more self-indulgent choices.

Previous research has found experiential thinking might be a cognitive style, rather than just a way of thinking in a particular context. For example, research published in 2015 found people with an experiential thinking style may be more prone to certain cognitive errors.


  1. Lu, Y. (2015). Is experiential-intuitive cognitive style more inclined to err on conjunction fallacy than analytical-rational cognitive style? Frontiers in Psychology. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00085
  2. Trying to resist the urge to splurge? Ditch the smartphone. (2017, August 16). Retrieved from
  3. Zhu, Y., & Meyer, J. (2017). Getting in touch with your thinking style: How touchscreens influence purchase. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 38, 51-58. doi:10.1016/j.jretconser.2017.05.006

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  • Madeleine

    August 24th, 2017 at 2:38 PM

    The touch screen does tend to make snap decisions very easy, almost too easy especially for those with very little impulse control. I know that even for me, and I am pretty grounded and rational, this can be a real challenge from time to time. But at this point there is no going back, this is technologically where we are and things are going to get even more advanced. So now it becomes up to us more than ever to get those emotions under control and reined in.

  • Cal

    August 25th, 2017 at 7:45 AM

    Darn, everything has its negatives these days

  • Mills

    August 25th, 2017 at 2:29 PM

    So I think that those who are going to experience these issues are going to be the ones who are already predisposed to have impulse control problems. There are those people for whom they have very little control over their actions and they only realize that this is going to be a mistake long after they have made it. I don’t want to be too critical and say that it is the technology that is feeding the problem, but in some ways, the good old days really were a whole lot better.

  • Kaye

    August 28th, 2017 at 7:55 AM

    solution- no online shopping

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