A psychologist explains why it’s so hard to resist the Christmas sale


With the holiday season just around the corner, retailers across the country are poised with Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday deals that consumers can’t ignore.

While retailers offering discounts during the holiday season is an age-old tradition, it has evolved since the 1950s into the celebration of Black Friday consumerism as it is today.

In 2005, as online shopping began to gain ground, the National Retail Federation coined the term “Cyber ​​Monday,” a day when online discounts would be made available to shoppers who couldn’t buy what they wanted on Black Friday. Goods.

Today, the commercial success of Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday has spawned an entire week of discounts and deals that have become an essential part of the holiday shopping experience.

In today’s world of targeted advertising and social media influencers, retailers have come up with sophisticated ways to instinctively get people to spend more during the holiday season.

As tempting as it may be, it’s important to understand that holiday shopping deals can be disastrous for many pathological spenders. In addition to the financial loss they cause, compulsive shoppers are also at risk of developing relationship problems and serious mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Here are two things that make us succumb to the loopholes in our rationality and cause us to overspend around the holidays.

#1. overexposure and exhaustion of the ego

a classic study published in Journal of personality and social psychology It turned out that when people are repeatedly exposed to a certain idea or object, their attitude towards it becomes more favorable. This is called exposure bias or ‘mere exposure effect’.

Marketing departments understand this and use risk bias to create need for us during the holiday season.

For example, regardless of whether we really need a new phone, if we repeatedly see an advertisement for a new and improved phone, an attraction arises for it that triggers the decision to buy it. Can do.

The holiday shopping season also promotes what psychologists call “ego depletion.” This is the state of suggestion we find ourselves in when exposed to too much information.

In a state of ego depletion, our ability to make conscious, well-intentioned purchases is compromised. We tend to take the path of least resistance, which often means we end up spending money on expensive things that are marketed as “the best.”

A good way to protect yourself from bias and ego depletion is to ask yourself what would happen if you didn’t buy the advertised product.

  • Will your quality of life suffer?
  • What can you do with the money you save by not shopping?
  • Are there cheaper alternatives that work just as well as the advertised product?
  • Is there a more appropriate time to buy the product?
  • Would it be good to buy just one product instead of the eight currently in your shopping cart?

By doing this, your purchasing decisions will be more conscious and your mental health and bank account will thank you for it.

#2. bandwagon effect

The bandwagon effect is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when people are more likely to do or believe something because others are doing it. This desire to conform to social norms is deeply rooted in human nature; It is part of what enables us to function as a united society.

a study published in Current issues in personality psychology found that people were more likely to buy luxury items and proudly display their logos when they saw ads with celebrities endorsing them. When we see happy or successful people using luxury products, the demand for these products increases.

Marketing teams use this basic human instinct during the holiday season to get the message across that buying more things brings families closer together and makes people happier. That’s why commercials around the holidays often show happy families giving each other expensive gifts.

Another study found that fear of missing out (FOMO) was also an important factor in people’s purchasing decisions. People with higher levels of FOMO were found to be more open to the idea of ​​buying luxury products when they saw others had bought them.

Here are some things you can do to avoid shopping cart rides for the holidays:

  • Take your time with purchasing decisions. The bandwagon effect is common among people experiencing ego depletion. Try to avoid making purchasing decisions when you are tired, overwhelmed, or in a state of uncertainty. Take twenty-four hours and come back to it once you’ve made an informed decision.
  • List the pros and cons. Sometimes writing down why a product is right or wrong for you can provide new insight into what you really need. You may find that the product is something you don’t need right now and that the money is better spent elsewhere.
  • Investigate the origins of the bandwagon effect for a particular product. When a product really adds value to people’s lives, you see it for yourself. If a product is endorsed by a celebrity or paid influencer, chances are you don’t really need it.


The holiday shopping season is a difficult time for those struggling with their spending habits. The first step to making informed shopping decisions is understanding that you can’t always do what you want, especially around the holidays. Once you accept this, it is a matter of working out the loopholes in your rationality. If you think you need help overcoming reckless spending habits, it’s always a good idea to discuss this with a mental health professional.

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