What Drives Us To Buy?

What Drives Us To Buy?

PsyBlog identifies some of the cognitive biases that predispose us to shop, consume, purchase and buy - with implications for both those that want to do less buying of their own, and for those that want to persuade others to buy more.

Paloma M. Vazquez
  • 5 april 2011

Why do we consume, shop, buy or purchase? The answer to this question of course bears implications for at least two sides: those who want to spend less can control it through an understanding of what drives them to do it, while those that want to do persuade others to do more of it can benefit from the same understanding. To that end, we found a post at PsyBlog on’10 cognitive biases that drive us to buy interesting. For the sake of brevity, we’ve summarized these cognitive predispositions below. You can decide whether to use them to convince yourself not to buy – or to persuade others to purchase.

Status Quo Bias: We stick to what we know – even though there are better options.

Post-Purchase Rationalization: Once we’ve made a decision, we convince ourselves it was the right one – and may attribute more value to it than it deserves.

The Relativity Trap: Price is always relative to what it’s compared to; restaurants, electronics & apparel retailers in particular realize this when they structure and organize their menu or portfolio of related offerings. Because a $400 pair of shoes may feel like a ‘bargain’ when up against a $1,000 pair, impartial price comparison sites are recommended. Also, compare across categories – what else could the $400 get you in terms of travel, dining out, or charity?

Ownership Effect: We value things more when we own them. This effect is visible when we bid on eBay, and feel attachment even before we actually buy an item, sometimes ultimately bidding above market value. So what’s one to do? Set limits (researched limits) – and stick to them.

Present Bias: Human nature prefers our pleasures now and our pains for later. So we’ll easily buy if they offer us 20% off now, or buy now & pay later. Not always wise if you think of how you’ll feel about that purchase 3 days, or 3 weeks from now. Smart, or regretful?

Fear of Loss: Even when something is losing value, we oftentimes don’t want to give it up before we lose further. Like a motorcycle or real estate – if it’s costing more to keep than to sell, you may be better off with the short-term loss.

Familiarity Bias: Much like the status quo bias (we’re not sure we understand the difference), we oftentimes buy what we’re comfortable with and feel we know – even if newer entrants can often a better (but less known) solution.

Rosy Retrospection: We have a tendency to make our past decisions feel better than what they actually were. Question your past decisions – there may be a better way to go about (and purchase) things.

Free: Are you exchanging something in return for that ‘free’ item? If you’re paying in order to tap into that ‘free’ offer, it’s definitely costlier than the promotional offer would imply.

Restraint Bias:  We’re simply not wired to excel at restraint. We tend to go overboard on the good stuff. Recognize this; so if you have to cut yourself off – do.

PsyBlog: “Why We Buy – How to Avoid 10 Costly Cognitive Biases”


The Story Behind How LYNK & CO Created A Car Brand From Scratch

Technology Today

Google’s Gyroscopic Camera Lets You Shoot VR Content On Android

The experimental device called Sprayscape takes photos inside a sphere to create 360-degree virtual images

Syndicated Today

Why Fashion Labels Are Moving Away From Overt Branding

New research suggests brand are shying away from logos and flashy displays


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Fashion Today

Scientists Have Developed A Furry Wetsuit Material Inspired By Beavers

MIT researchers created the lighter and warmer fabric to maximize speed in the water and to keep swimmers dry

Related Expert

Jason Silva

TechFilmmaker & Performance Philosopher

Advertising Today

Coca-Cola Has Created A Custom Gaming PC

Maingear developed a computer featuring a fully functional coke bottle water-cooling reservoir

Social Media Today

Chipotle’s New Weekly Show Broadcasts Over Snapchat

The Mexican fast food brand is trying to build goodwill with high school and college students through the social media platform

Media & Publishing Today

The NBA Is Filming Live Games With A Special Camera Just For Your Phone

Subscribers to League Pass can now access a feature called Mobile View, which is shot to be optimized for phones and tablets


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed Yesterday

General Electric: Lighting’s Impact On Sleep Is More Than The Off Switch

Jeff Patton, General Manager of Connected Home Products at GE Lighting, uncovers how lighting technologies can affect our sleep cycles

PSFK Labs october 25, 2016

The Keys For Exceptional Performance On And Off The Field

PSFK Labs' new report highlights five important insights for businesses to perform better than the competition

AI Today

Film Touchingly Portrays The Challenge Of Relying On AI To Combat Loneliness

Director David Wilson takes viewers on a journey of the benefits and ultimate deficiencies of replacing human interaction with robots

Travel Today

Delta Lets Flyers Track Their Luggage From The Airplane To The Airport

The airline's new app allows customers to see exactly where their baggage is throughout their journey

Food Today

Chef Turns Invasive Species Into Delicious Sushi

Creator Bun Lai is adapting strange new ingredients for his menu, which responds to the ecological impact of overabundant creatures in the local environment

Gaming & Play Today

Build Your Own Subway System In This Minimalist Game

Mini Metro lets you design your own fully functional transit network, simulating the flow of urban commuters with pared-down visuals

Work Today

Keyboard Designed To Help Women Use More Assertive Language

The device is a commentary on gender roles in the workplace, and features easy access to "power verbs" that help reinforce a habit of being direct in writing

Arts & Culture Today

Spanish Artist Dreams Up What Animals Would Look Like In Modern Clothing

Yago Partal's portraits depict the fantasized style preferences of creatures worldwide, from an Arctic wolf to a zebra

Fitness & Sport Today

New Data Technologies Make Hyper-Personalized Training A Reality

The Sports Debrief from PSFK Labs looks at how analytics tools are being developed to optimize human performance across all industries

Technology Today

IBM Watson Helps Grammy-Winning Producer Craft An EP

The computer system's data technology generated musical scores for Alex Da Kid's first solo project

No search results found.