Don’t touch when you are shopping, or the new endowment effect

by on January 21, 2009 at 7:43 am in Science | Permalink

Be careful how you reach out:

A new study suggests that just fingering an item on a store shelf can create an attachment that makes you willing to pay more for it.

Previous studies have shown that many people begin to feel ownership of an item – that it "is theirs" – before they even buy it. But this study, conducted by researchers at Ohio State University, is the first to show "mine, mine, mine" feelings can begin in as little as 30 seconds after first touching an object.

Here is the full story.  I thank Deron Bauman for the pointer.

1 Mobile Games Addict January 21, 2009 at 7:57 am

Useful reading. I personally have noticed that if i force myself to pass by a shelf with something i don’t actually need, but don’t mind looking – i manage to do the reasonable shopping. but when i indulge in touching/trying on/smelling – i just must buy it. Moreover, i feel kind of obliged (especially when it costs the vendor some time to serve me).

2 alexko January 21, 2009 at 8:24 am


3 TimP January 21, 2009 at 9:29 am

This is something that has been known for a long time in retail. I won’t mention the name of the store, but employees where I work have been, for at least the past three years, encouraged to put products in customers’ hands to create that feeling of “ownership”.

4 GVV January 21, 2009 at 10:28 am

But here in India, rational behaviour of the consumers is on the rise in these days of recession.Vegetable vendors say that house wives now purchase quarter Kg of beans,cabbage,carrot,etc instead of the usual one Kg.They now purchase fish only once in a week and meat consumption has declined drastically.But the surprising thing is that while this is applicable to only daily necessities, they exhibit high consumerism in the matter of purchasing cell phones,bikes,cars,jewellery etc.

5 eddie January 21, 2009 at 11:07 am

The article and the study leader both attribute the post-touching higher price to “attachment”:

“The amazing part of this study is that people can become almost immediately attached to something as insignificant as a mug,” said study leader James Wolf, who began the work while he was a graduate student at Ohio State. “By simply touching the mug and feeling it in their hands, many people begin to feel like the mug is, in fact, their mug. Once they begin to feel it is theirs, they are willing to go to greater lengths to keep it.”

The study design seems to offer no support to this conclusion. The only thing the study shows is that people will pay more for something after touching it. The study doesn’t shed any light as to *why* they do so; calling this effect “attachment” and saying that the touchers “feel like the mug is, in fact, their mug” is sheer speculation.

6 SkitzoLeezra January 21, 2009 at 2:11 pm

As a small child, I would touch and rub the picture of my most desired toy in the Sears Wish Book.

(I know what you were thinking.)

7 Michael January 21, 2009 at 11:31 pm

I was in an Apple store today and I was thinking about their focus on letting you play with all their gadgets. Suddenly, that iPod nano I just used feels like its MINE MINE MINE

8 john January 22, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Mine, mine, mine. My daughter has the gene.

9 Free Printable Coupons January 23, 2009 at 2:33 am

i think that it is common,and
you can cut your shopping bill by using printable coupons.

10 air jordan sneakers July 10, 2009 at 12:50 am
11 free mobiles games September 1, 2009 at 12:00 pm

That’s an excellent marketing trap. At first sight the product catches your eye, then you begin to imagine all the charm of possession and finally a complaisant manager or shop assistant or even both of them will willingly describe you all the advantages of the purchase. Their helpfulness will not leave

12 Mobile software October 2, 2009 at 11:32 am

Hi from Latvija

13 Printable Coupons May 28, 2010 at 11:33 pm

what a great marketing idea!

14 Cecald Evara August 31, 2010 at 8:12 am

I guess this is actually true and I’ve been feeling it on my own person multiple times. When I go shopping I usually have a list of things I need to buy but whenever I see something interesting like a cufflink box, if I pick it up, I must have it and I usually end up with a lot of things that weren’t on the initial list.

15 SammieR October 23, 2010 at 11:28 am

Well it’s difficult not to pick up an item you are interested in. Because you already like it. I like to hold the item like a shirt or something up to me or try it on. I guess that’s why I have easysaver complaints because saving really isn’t easy for me at all!

16 davec October 28, 2010 at 10:14 am

I actually agree! Particularly when feeling flushed with cash!. Its not as bad when you are buying items for low amounts but if you’re talking about expensive things like stairlifts for example, then we’re in a totally different ball game.

17 saibite November 23, 2010 at 1:03 am

the fare will be increased, but ticket prices have gone up very high this year, north face denalithe United States up to $ 2,000 round trip to the mainland is about the cheapest but also 1800-1900 dollars, while the normal price during the same period last year,only 1,400 U.S. dollars.

18 Jackie December 8, 2010 at 5:09 am

Good point Michael, Amazon are an excellent web site for cheap things. I would nearly always buy my electronics there but I recently got a really cheap 64GB USB stick at a site called GON Shopping

19 ArdenLindy February 20, 2011 at 3:52 pm

This is an intriguing study and I wonder if this applies only to cheap clothing or this lust doesn’t know the notion of price. If it’s true I guess the buyers should be more temperate in touching the clothes.

20 Keith February 23, 2011 at 9:12 am

LOL I’m in big trouble! My wife touches everything when she goes shopping guess that’s why my wallet is always empty. On a serious note I think you raise a good point and I have to agree you are more tempted to purchase something if you can physically hold the item for inspection Stairlifts

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