The November/December issue of American Scientist provides an intriguing heads-up from Caltech neuroeconomist Antonio Rangel on impulse buying. His group randomly presented items to students in varying ways – by name, picture and with the actual object. Buyers paid 50 percent more for the real goods! However, when the item could be seen under glass but not available to be held, this difference in desirability disappeared. Expect to see even more irresistible items showing up at the checkout counters to entice you into an impulse purchase. : (
“Next time you’re stuffed and the waiter wheels around the dessert cart, know that the odds are against you. Just cross your fingers that the chocolate cakes under a glass dome, to help you resist the urge.”
- Christopher Intagliata, Scientific American reporter (from text of podcast here)
PS. While researching Rangel, I came across this article in the Caltech News on another study he did on buying behavior – in this case the propensity to confuse price with quality for wine. Here you can learn why Rangel is a “neuro” economist – he directly measures brain activity, which provides more reliable measures of consumer response than what they might admit when asked how they feel about something. See how MRI signals change in student brains confronted with money, trinkets versus snacks (can you guess which turns them on the most?) at this web-page detailing research by the Rangel Neuroeconomics Laboratory.