The Benefits of Retail Therapy: Making Purchase Decisions Reduces Residual Sadness
Forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Psychology
28 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2012 Last revised: 29 May 2015
Date Written: January 2014
People often shop when feeling sad, but whether and why shopping reduces residual (lingering) sadness remains an open question. Sadness is strongly associated with a sense that situational forces control the outcomes in one’s life, and thus we theorized that the choices inherent in shopping may restore personal control over one’s environment and reduce residual sadness. Three experiments provided support for our hypothesis. Making shopping choices helped to alleviate sadness whether they were hypothetical (Experiment 1) or real (Experiment 2). In addition, all experiments found support for the underlying mechanism of personal control restoration. Notably, the benefits of restored personal control over one’s environment do not generalize to anger (Experiments 2 and 3), because anger is associated with a sense that other people (rather than situational forces) are likely to cause negative outcomes, and these appraisals are not ameliorated by restoring personal control over one’s environment.
Keywords: retail therapy, shopping, appraisal theory, sadness, decision-making
JEL Classification: M31, C91
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation