People 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 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.
- 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
- Trying to resist the urge to splurge? Ditch the smartphone. (2017, August 16). Retrieved from https://phys.org/news/2017-08-resist-urge-splurge-ditch-smartphone.html
- 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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