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Thursday, October 14, 2021

On the Psychology of Panic Buying

 Good article here.   In Fortune.  There might be ways to integrate the notion of control in consumer decision making?  Never heard it mentioned in this way.

The psychology of panic buying: why we stockpile pasta, toilet paper and gas when we don't need it

in Fortune.

Whether we are packing the freezer full of microwavable meals or sitting in a long line for gas in London, our first question is probably a simple one: Why do we do this to ourselves? 

That question has felt like the backbeat of our days since the pandemic began. When the first hints of a fast-spreading contagion appeared in early 2020, people around the world greeted the news with an almost universal response: We bought toilet paper. Then we bought up hand sanitizer, masks, pasta and beans, gym equipment, lumber, video game consoles, even puppies.

Now, with an energy crisis gripping much of Europe and a labor squeeze wracking post-Brexit Britain in particular, so-called panic buying has moved into a new realm—one where it can be nearly impossible to tease apart the role and weight of disrupted supply chains and climate change feedback loops in rounds of frantic over-purchasing that seem to blend one into the next. Of course, whether we are packing the freezer full of microwavable meals or sitting in a long line for gas in London, our first question is likely not which of the intertwined causes is most to blame, but something much simpler: Why do we do this to ourselves?

Psychologists, as it turns out, have spent much of the past 18 months studying this question, mapping out what a typical stockpiler looks like and is motivated by; how governments can limit it (hint: they're not doing great); and why there's more of this to come in our future. But here's one surprising conclusion: Just because it's called "panic" buying doesn't mean we're actually being irrational.

The who and the why

When it comes to the archetypal extreme panic buyer, there are few hard-and-fast rules: Several studies have found they tend to be better off—because over-purchasing requires, well, money—and a U.K. study found they're more likely to have kids. Other studies, including one out of Singapore, found panic buyers are most likely to be motivated by fear, or be motivated by social pressure, as well as the perceived severity of the situation; age and gender didn't seem to be that indicative.  .... 

 ..... And a study  https://doi.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fxlm0000883  from Australia earlier this year in the Journal of Experimental Psychology posited that panic buying was a reaction to extreme uncertainty—suggesting it gave people an illusion of control, even when they would have been better off sticking with their usual approach. .... '

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