social sciences

Smart shoppers: more than sales and coupons

There is a lot of different and interesting literature on marketing strategies and sales. For instance, researchers have looked at the consequences of consumers learning about having bought products that went on sale, after they bought it. Thus they weren’t able to profit from the discount. Or, another big part of marketing research is decision-making processes. Do people with certain types of personality traits use different strategies to find out which products to buy and how to compare them? These findings are especially important since we live in a consumer-driven world. Every day, more options exist to choose from, when for example, buying a new smartphone. Garretson and Burton wrote a fascinating article on different types of consumers and how they react to sales.

First, they looked at different variables related to being sales and coupon prone. Price consciousness entails that buyers are actively on the lookout to pay the lowest price. But value consciousness is also imperative, as looking for the lowest price doesn’t mean that buyers are content with inferior quality. These types of consciousness mean spending more time looking for such deals, which coupon and sales prone individuals feel like is time well spent. These types of consumers should be more aware of ongoing sales and are less skeptic of retailers’ intentions behind sales.

In order to measure these variables and ideas, the researchers looked at data collected through questionnaires. They looked at the differences between two types of consumers, people who are sales and coupon prone and those that aren’t. The researchers found that consumers who are more sales and coupon prone tended to be price conscious and value conscious. However, they didn’t find any differences between the two groups of consumers in terms of price-quality associations. Overall, the participants didn’t think that higher prices meant higher quality products.

When looking at shopping enjoyment and market skepticism, those who are sales and coupon prone tended to enjoy shopping more and were less skeptic. They didn’t feel as if the bargain was a ‘scheme’ set up by the retailer to lure them in. These consumers don’t only feel good about paying a lower price, but they enjoy shopping and regard themselves as smart shoppers.

Thus the sale isn’t the only benefit for those actively looking to find the best deal, it also includes the act of shopping and being a smart shopping. The authors of the research article point out that the ego-related dimension is of importance to those who are sales and coupon prone.

Garretson, J. A., & Burton, S. (2003). Highly coupon and sale prone consumer: benefits beyond price savings. Journal of Advertising Research, 43(2), 162-172.

social sciences

Psychology is all around you

Not only in the literal sense, when you engage with people or don’t engage with people. It’s more than that. As it isn’t just internal stimuli that determine your actions, it’s also external stimuli. It’s mostly an interaction between the two. Our internal stimuli, such as the process of picking out an outfit for the day, are heavily influenced by external stimuli. What we buy at a supermarket might depend on how the products are positioned, or the environment you’re in. Psychology is all around you. Here I will list some examples how you are influenced by your environment and therefore demonstrate the importance of psychology.

The weather
You might or might not be aware of the effect of weather on your mood. To find out if different dimensions of the weather can have an affect on us, researchers collected 2 year’s worth of Tweets. Looking at the Tweeted content and the weather on that particular day, the found that, for instance, rain can put us in a negative mood.¹
What’s even more interesting is that people attribute their negative feelings to bad weather. In a study, people were asked to rate their moods. Those who were in a good mood left it at that and didn’t attribute it to anything in particular. However, those in a bad mood attributed it to the weather. Thus, actively trying to seek external causes for their feelings.²

Supermarkets. There are patterns in human behavior when it comes to supermarkets. For instance, researchers found that a crowd attracts more people. When there are other shoppers present at a certain aisle, it attracts new shoppers. But these new shoppers are less likely to buy something from that store zone. The researchers speculate that people change their behaviors in the presence of other shoppers. They are less likely to make unnecessary purchases and engage in fewer exploratory behaviors.³
Tricks. Retailers try to influence your buying behavior, preferably to increase their sales. They can do so by creating attractive labels for their products or interesting advertisements telling you their product is a necessity.  Another way is to elicit certain feelings among their customers. That is demand accelerates demand. This means that when we know that something is highly wanted by other consumers, we want it too. Researchers looked at shelves in a supermarket and found that people are more likely to opt for the ‘scarce’ product. When faced with two similar products, you’re gonna choose the one with the partially emptied shelf.4
Learn more about how we make choices and what happens if we’re faced with too many choices.

Other people
The presence of other people has a huge effect on our behaviors. One of those effects is called the bystander effect. According to this effect, the mere presence of others changes how we behave. This effect is often studied in situations were strangers need help. Why when someone falls down do people sometimes fail to help this person? Or even worse, there have been multiple cases of fatal cases and no one interfering. This is most likely due to the diffusion of responsibility. People might think: ‘why should I be the one to help? there are others, they can help too’. Or they might look at other people’s faces to determine the severity of the case. They see that everyone seems indifferent and decide that it’s not that bad. But unbeknownst to them, everyone is looking at each other for cues if it’s severe enough that they should step in.5
An interesting experiment on how others influence our behaviors is the groundbreaking research by Asch.People were put into groups and had to publically answer easy questions. For instance, the saw three lines and had to indicate which line was similar to a fourth line displayed on the side. This is an incredibly easy task and almost impossible to get wrong. However, each participant was put into a group of confederates. So they were surrounded by a group of actors. The group would purposively and collectively pick the wrong answer. The participants were very likely to go along with the answer the group gave. Even though they knew it was wrong. But people are afraid to stand out most of the time.
Learn more about helping behaviors.

As you can see, many of the patterns in human behavior are constantly studied by psychologists. These theories can help explain human behavior. People often think they’re unique in the choices they make or their actions. But it turns out, we’re not so different after all. And the proof is all around us.

1. Li, J., Wang, X., & Hovy, E. (2014, November). What a nasty day: Exploring mood-weather relationship from twitter. In Proceedings of the 23rd ACM International Conference on Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (pp. 1309-1318). ACM.
2. Schwarz, N., & Clore, G. L. (1983). Mood, misattribution, and judgments of well-being: Informative and directive functions of affective states. Journal of personality and social psychology, 45(3), 513.
3. Hui, S. K., Bradlow, E. T., & Fader, P. S. (2009). Testing behavioral hypotheses using an integrated model of grocery store shopping path and purchase behavior. Journal of consumer research, 36(3), 478-493.
4. Van Herpen, E., Pieters, R., & Zeelenberg, M. (2009). When demand accelerates demand: Trailing the bandwagon. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 19(3), 302-312.
5. Latane, B., & Darley, J. M. (1968). Group inhibition of bystander intervention in emergencies. Journal of personality and social psychology, 10(3), 215.
6. Asch, S.E. (1951). Effects of group pressure on the modification and distortion of judgments. In H. Guetzkow (Ed.), Groups, leadership and men(pp. 177–190). Pittsburgh, PA:Carnegie Press

social sciences

Are you a maximizer or a satisficer?

Those of you who happened to be a part of the research I conducted for my bachelor thesis, might have filled in a survey related to maximizing. This was one of the important constructs for the hypotheses I came up with. But what exactly is maximizing and what are its implications? Maximizing is the tendency of going for the best option out there. This means that you will keep looking for newer and better options, despite having already found something that is “just good enough”. Whereas someone else might adopt a satisficing strategy, using this method, you will stop looking after having found a good enough option (Misuraca & Teuscher, 2013).

If you are a consumer who is always looking for better products, even if you have already found something you like, you might be a maximizer.

Whether you adopt maximizing or satisficing strategies has implications for several cognitive abilities and perceptions.

  • First of all, Misuraca et al 2013 found in one of their experiments that maximizers and satisficers have different perceptions of time. Those who want to skim through all of the available options (maximizers), seem to underestimate the time that they spend checking out all options. Whereas satisficers overestimated their used time! In conclusion, in a decision-making task, maximizers will end up processing more information.
  • But it is also interesting to look at other constructs that might be correlated with maximizing. A team of researchers looked at regret, neuroticism, indecisiveness, avoidance, neuroticism, and life satisfaction. They found that maximizers are just as happy as satisficers! The only difference, according to them, was that maximers are more likely to experience regret (Diab, Gillespie, & Highhouse, 2008). Here you could reason that after having made a decision, maximizers will still be on the lookout for better options. Therefore the chances of experiencing regret are much greater.
  • Different research has indicated that maximizers tend to be more future orientated. Thus they might also be more likely to strive for achieving higher goals in order to create a better future for themselves. Another finding from the same study covered the hypothesis that maximizers are just better numerically. Their capacity to understand numerical information might be better because they are often involved in compromising to get the best available option (Misuraca, Teuscher, & Carmeci, 2015).
  • Chang, et al (2011) found that maximizing is related to perfectionism.
  • Another fascinating article looked at maximizers as sports fans. What they found is that maximizers identified more strongly with unsuccessful sports teams. In the article there doesn’t seem to be a clear explanation as to why this could be the case. They further explain that maximizers are more engaged with their team and buy more tickets and attend more games (Norris, Wann, & Zapalac, 2015).
  • But maximizing can also have negative implications. For example, in a World Cup betting experiment, maximizers were overconfident and worse in betting than satisficers (Schwartz, et al 2002).
  • Lai, L. (2011) found that maximizers tended to be less loyal consumers, they are more likely to switch to a different provider.

These are just a fraction of the findings on the implications of maximizing, and a lot of research still needs to be done on this decision-making strategy. From a seller’s perspective, it could be interesting to incorporate this into marketing campaigns. By ensuring maximizers that they have found the best possible option or deal, it could be easier to persuade them to buy your product. And from the perspective of a maximizer, it could be beneficial to know that you have these tendencies and are aware of where your regret is coming from when you have bought a certain product. And if there are any detrimental outcomes to adopting a maximizing strategy, mental health care practitioners should also be aware of this implications. For example, if there is a correlation between shopping addictions and/or materialism and maximizing.


Chang, E. C., Lin, N. J., Herringshaw, A. J., Sanna, L. J., Fabian, C. G., Perera, M. J., & Marchenko, V. V. (2011). Understanding the link between perfectionism and adjustment in college students: Examining the role of maximizing. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(7), 1074-1078.

Diab, D. L., Gillespie, M. A., & Highhouse, S. (2008). Are maximizers really unhappy? The measurement of maximizing tendency. Judgment and Decision Making, 3(5), 364.

Lai, L. (2011). Maximizing and customer loyalty: Are maximizers less loyal?.Judgment and Decision Making, 6(4), 307.

Misuraca, R., & Teuscher, U. (2013). Time flies when you maximize—Maximizers and satisficers perceive time differently when making decisions.Acta psychologica, 143(2), 176-180.

Misuraca, R., Teuscher, U., & Carmeci, F. A. (2015). Who are maximizers? Future oriented and highly numerate individuals. International Journal of Psychology.

Norris, J. I., Wann, D. L., & Zapalac, R. K. (2015). Sport fan maximizing: following the best team or being the best fan?. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 32(3), 157-166.

Schwartz, B., Ward, A., Monterosso, J., Lyubomirsky, S., White, K., & Lehman, D. R. (2002). Maximizing versus satisficing: happiness is a matter of choice. Journal of personality and social psychology, 83(5), 1178.

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