Impulse – Why We Do What We Do Without Knowing Why We Do It
We all behave impulsively from time to time.
We fall in love at first sight, change careers or jobs on an impulse, take risks without thinking through the consequences or buy something we can’t really afford and don’t especially need.
Impulses lie at the root of most personal and social problems ranging from obesity, alcohol and drug abuse, overspending, unwanted pregnancies, smoking, emotional problems, dysfunctional relationships, and school underachievement to a failure in achieving cherished life goals.
Did you know, for example that the length of a mans’ fingers offers a reliable guide to how impulsive he is…or that holding a warm drink impulsively increases our liking for strangers ?
That impulsive eating is a major cause of over eating or that even glimpsing a fast food logo makes people more impulsive?
That we decide whether or not we fancy someone on an impulse lasting less than a hundredth of a second or that the secret of female beauty is the ratio 0.7?
While, in my book, I discuss all aspects of impulsivity one of my primary research interests is impulsive buying. In seeking to understand those spur of the moment decisions to take one product home whilst leaving and equally good, possibly even superior one, on the shelf?
The economic importance of such decisions is beyond question. In the UK and USA alone, shoppers currently spend more some £24 billion a year on what some retailers refer to as ‘splurchases.’ In Britain these account for between 45 and 100 percent of retail turnover while in the United States approximately 62 percent of supermarket sales and 80 percent of luxury good sales are made up of impulse purchases.
Studies have shown that nine out of ten consumers impulse buy at least one item per shopping trip, with more than half admitting to as many as six. This is estimated to amount to a lifetime spend of around £50,000 for each individual.
Understanding the psychology and neuroscience of impulse buys is essential for anyone working in advertising, marketing, retailing and, indeed, any form of selling whether in the high street on line or both.