Shopping With Your Heart Makes Sense

Armen Hareyan's picture

Going with your "gut feeling" when making a major purchase isn't a bad thing after all, says Queen's University School of Business researcher Laurence Ashworth. In fact - contrary to popular belief - listening to your heart when shopping can make you happier in the long run.

And emotion can play just as big a part when purchasing a house or a car as when buying a bottle of shampoo.

The results of a series of studies, published in the December issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, suggest that people make "affective" purchases - based on their emotional reaction to a product - even when there is clear information suggesting an alternative product is better. And surprisingly, such choices can lead to greater long-term satisfaction for important purchases.


"This is the first time that longer lasting positive effects of using emotions in important purchase decisions have been shown," says Dr. Ashworth, an expert in consumer behavior. "In such instances, emotions make a lot of sense. People feel them for good reasons, not just inherent biases, and they can actually lead us to more satisfactory choices in the long run."

Co-authors with Dr. Ashworth on the paper are Peter Darke of UBC and Amitava Chattopadhyay of INSEAD in France. Funding comes from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada and R&D INSEAD.

One of the surprising findings from the study is that emotion has a strong impact on consumers' decisions to buy "high-involvement" products. These are products that are important to them, typically due to a high price tag or the way the product relates to their self-image. It is much more widely accepted that emotions affect the purchase of low-involvement items as consumers tend not to think about the decision as carefully.

This research challenges existing assumptions that consumer decisions based on feelings are erroneous or impulsive choices which the buyer often regrets in the long term, says Dr. Ashworth. So-called