The Benefits of Retail Therapy: Making Purchase Decisions Reduces Residual Sadness

Forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Psychology

Ross School of Business Paper No. 1208

28 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2012 Last revised: 29 May 2015

Scott Rick

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Beatriz Pereira

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Katherine Alicia Burson

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Date Written: January 2014

Abstract

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

Rick, Scott and Pereira, Beatriz and Burson, Katherine Alicia, The Benefits of Retail Therapy: Making Purchase Decisions Reduces Residual Sadness (January 2014). Forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Psychology; Ross School of Business Paper No. 1208. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2119576 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2119576

Scott Rick (Contact Author)

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States

HOME PAGE: http://webuser.bus.umich.edu/srick/

Beatriz Pereira

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States

Katherine Alicia Burson

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States

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