What Your Shopping Impulses Reveal About Your Brain

196461Have you ever laid your eyes on those marvelous shoes, amazing clothes, or that stunning handbag and you just simply knew: I have to have it! You knew it without even blinking. There was just something about that product you just couldn’t live without.

But why? Why do we feel this unstoppable power that convinces us that we can’t live without it? (it always starts in our subconscious brain) Isn’t it weird that we feel this unstoppable desire and yet, have no clue where that feeling comes from?

Let me give you an example:

It’s the morning, you’ve just poured your first cup of coffee and you realize all the work that needs to be finished. There is some paperwork, emails that need to be answered, phone calls have to be made and oh, did I forget to mention the load of laundry still pilling up in the laundry basket? You make a promise to yourself that by the end of the day, you will have finished everything on your list. But first, you have to make it to the appointment you made with your dentist. You’re going in for just a quick checkup, but the dentist found a cavity that he conveniently had time to fix during your time there so…hooray 🙁

This whole “fun” experience (which took way more than one hour) didn’t fit into the time schedule you made this morning. You start to feel slightly disappointed and stress is already building up in your body – just thinking and knowing you will never get the list finished by the end of the day.

Now it happens that the dentist office is conveniently, or inconveniently (however you see it) located next to the shopping mall. Because your time schedule is already messed up, you convince yourself that taking a quick look around the mall wouldn’t hurt.

Have you ever noticed that while walking in the mall there are special scents that encourage your desire to buy something? Okay, I’m wandering off here…

Passing by the windows you take a glance inside, you see all the clothing and shoes for the upcoming season. Your heart makes a little jump and a debate starts with yourself. You are weighing your pros and cons to go in the store or not.

And before you know it, the pros win out and there you are – picking up the most beautiful pair of shoes you’ve ever seen. You don’t know what it is exactly, but YOU HAVE TO HAVE THEM! Or like I always say, “My name was written all over it :)” You feel energized and start thinking of all the endless possibilities that can happen, there are so many outfits you can wear with those shoes!

Now there are no thresholds anymore, these shoes were definitely made for you! Before you know it you are outside the store with a bag in your hand containing those beautiful “have to have them” shoes.

You feel happy and energetic and all the worries from earlier that day seems so far, far away.

So why is it that when you’ve gone from such a negative start of the day, something so small as buying shoes can take the day to a whole new level? How does that work in our brain?

To put is simply, it is not the shoes itself, but specific details of the shoes that activate particular comparison material in our brain.

It could be a color, or a specific part, or shape of the shoes, or even the smell in the store or the music playing in the background that triggered a specific experience from your past that’s been stored in your subconscious brain (your subconscious brain processes about a million times more information than what you will ever become aware of). The feelings attached to that past experience caused your present excitement to skyrocket – and before you knew it, you had to have those shoes!

In most cases, the triggered subconscious past experience doesn’t have anything to do with shoes, but was solely triggered based on a color, smell or sound you experienced in the store. So for today’s Wellness Wednesday, by understanding how these daily tricks happen in your brain, you will be much more balanced during your shopping trips, and be more aware of the purchases you make, and why.

And no, I don’t need to buy a larger closet for my beloved family of shoes 😉

Image credit: Roberto Cavalli


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