March 22, 2004
Sadness, Disgust Motivate People To Buy And Sell

Jennifer Lerner and colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University showed people movies that portrayed events that were either emotionally neutral, disgusting or saddening. While disgust caused people to be willing to sell at a lower price it also caused them to be less willing to buy unless the price was also low. By contrast, sadness caused both an increased desire to sell and an increased desire to buy.

Sadness, too, cut people's selling price, to $3.06, compared with what emotionally neutral volunteers demanded. Feeling blue made people so desperate for change that they held a fire sale. Sadness also raised, to $4.57, the price people would pay for the pens.

Sad people are therefore more likely to sell things for less than the best market price they could getand to buy things for more than the market price. Is this caused by a desire to change one's suirroundings in hopes of relieving the feeling of sadness? Or does a sad person just place a low value of their own money?

Physical disgust may have evolved to cause people to avoid things that are toxic or infectious to them.

"Disgust is a form of evasive action to protect us against signs of threat, such as disease," says Val Curtis, who led the research. "Women need to have a higher level of sensitivity to infection or disease, because they are the main carers of infants. And, as reproductive ability declines with age, so does disgust."

Avoid shopping or selling things when you are sad.

Update: Sadness makes people want to change their circumstances while disgust makes people want to get rid of what they have.

"We're showing for the first time that incidental emotions from one situation can exert a causal effect on economic behavior in other, ostensibly unrelated situations," said Jennifer Lerner, an assistant professor of social and decision sciences and psychology. Lerner co-authored the study with Economics Professor George Loewenstein and Deborah Small, a doctoral student in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences who soon will be joining the faculty at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

To study the effects of sadness on economic behavior, Lerner and her colleagues had one group of participants watch a scene from the film "The Champ" in which a young boy's mentor dies. The researchers elicited disgust in another group by showing a clip from the movie "Trainspotting" in which a man uses an unsanitary toilet. To augment their emotional states, the participants were asked to write about how they would feel in situations similar to those portrayed in the movies. Individuals were then given the opportunity to either sell a highlighter set they were given, or set a price that they would be willing to pay to buy a highlighter set. The study participants then actually bought and sold the highlighters.

The researchers concluded that sadness triggered an implicit need for individuals to change their circumstances, thus a greater willingness to buy new goods or to sell goods that they already had, while disgust made people want to get rid of what they had and made them reluctant to take on anything new, depressing all prices. When asked whether emotion played a role in their decisions, participants said no, indicating that they were unaware that their emotional state could be costing them money. The researchers already have replicated their results in another experiment.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2004 March 22 02:38 AM  Brain Economics

Stefan Jones said at March 22, 2004 10:24 AM:

This just in: Prozac declared enemy of a healthy economy.

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Will this mean that shopping malls will start playing sombre classical music and country tunes about dead hound dogs?

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