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Why do we buy more things than we need?

Why do we buy more things than we need?

May 21, 2024

Your little six-year-old son asks you to buy him a bicycle and you, who have not yet received your monthly payment, refuse. But there are also other reasons that justify his decision: this month he has exceeded the costs of the credit card, and has not yet finished weighing the advantages and disadvantages of buying a bicycle to his son at such a young age.

But as you well know, the child can be very insistent. Again and again he asks, begs him, begs him to buy him a bicycle . But it seems that before each new negative response you give, the child, far from discouraging and forgetting the initiative, returns to the burden with greater force.

Each new onslaught of your little boy is a little more irritating than the last, and you feel that you are beginning to cross your threshold of patience.

After a long and tedious process, the child begins to give some signs of understanding and, finally, ends up accepting that he will not have the bicycle; He chooses to ask him with his best angel face: "Well, do you buy me a chocolate then?"

How could you refuse such a petty order? Of course, in this context, you decide to buy her a chocolate.

The million dollar question is this: Would you have bought the chocolate for your child if you asked for it in the first place, instead of the bicycle? Most likely, no.

Do we buy what we do not need? Community Services

As part of an experiment, a psychology teacher asked his students if they would be willing to work for free two hours a week for the next two years as part of a juvenile rehabilitation program. Of course, nobody accepted. Accessing such an order was nothing short of immolating itself in life .

But then the professor came back with a smaller order, much more reasonable. This time he asked his students if they would be willing to accompany a group of juvenile delinquents to take a two-hour walk through the zoo. At the same time, in another committee of students, instead, the teacher asked them directly for volunteer work. the exit to the zoo, without the previous exaggerated request.

What happened? Well, from this second group, 17% agreed, against 50% of the first group, which had been previously ordered inordinately .

The similar of these cases

Note that in both proposed cases the modest request remains unchanged . Both the chocolate that our son wanted and the walk through the zoo that the teacher required before his students, does not change.

However, strange as it may seem, the presence of a much more demanding first order, so inadequate that it would most likely be rejected, markedly increased the chances of a positive response to a second request, certainly much more discreet. And maybe this is due, in part, to the contrast that is generated between the two orders.

Relativity beyond Einstein

It happens that the brain does not get along very well with absolute concepts; In order to determine if something is big or small, fair or unfair, it needs to be guided by a reference parameter. In our examples, the first order is a good point of comparison, accessible in the brain, within reach.

Relativity is the key . And the money spent on a chocolate, in relation to the expenditure that a bicycle requires, seems insignificant that is not worth analyzing in depth. Similarly, a visit to the zoo for two hours seems a much smaller order than it really is, compared to two years of work without any remuneration.

The public image

Another reason that may contribute to this manifest folly may be the need to show ourselves before others as an inherently good person, cooperative or predisposed towards the needs of others. Whether we admit it or not, we are all concerned, to a greater or lesser extent, with the image we transmit .

We have no qualms about rejecting an order that seems absurd to us since we believe that we run no risk of being judged negatively. But when the request for collaboration is reasonable, and especially if we said that not the first time, it is much harder to resist the fear of being seen as selfish, individualistic or worse, that threatens our reputation or good name .

Even more, the contrast dyes our perceptions and induces us to exaggerate the differences between the objects that the brain is comparing . Of course, this is not something we do consciously.Many times the contrast is generated by contiguity in time; that is, between two stimuli presented successively, as in the previous example of the child who asks for a bicycle first and a chocolate later. It is a unique phenomenon that we succumb to permanently and that has serious implications for the way we see the world.

If a six-year-old child, and even unintentionally, can manipulate us in that way, there are also lots of smart salespeople who have no qualms about manipulating us openly.

Shopping and handling: some more examples

You go to a store because you need a pair of new shoes. If the salesman who attends you has experience in the field, it is likely that in the first place he will show you a pair of high quality reinforced leather shoes, imported from the principality of Luxembourg, and of very high price.

Then, and as soon as a negative expression of discouragement is drawn on his face, the seller will rush to show another pair of shoes, also excellent manufacturing, as he says, but a cheaper price than, according to the contrast generated, you will perceive as much more economical than it actually is .

With the first offer, the seller will be establishing a comparison parameter, an initial price that will function as an "anchor" from a perceptual and psychological point of view. Tied mentally to this starting point, the price of the second pair of shoes, which is undoubtedly the one that the store employee wants to sell to you from the beginning, will seem much smaller than it actually is.

It is worth clarifying that following the reverse procedure, that is, showing you the "cheap" shoes as soon as you set foot in the shoe store, and the "expensive" afterwards, is a terrible strategy that is detrimental to the interests of the seller, since having established a low "anchor" price, and that will work as a comparison model for everything that can be offered afterwards, it will only serve to the client to perceive as a disproportion what a priori could be normal values ​​and according to the item of the sale of footwear.

Car sales agencies permanently use this psychological trick to sell us things that were not really in our plans to buy.

The relative price in cars

When we buy a new car, and once the paperwork is finished, the price of the vehicle becomes the point to which we will mentally refer when the seller begins to offer, one by one, which will end up being a cataract of accessories.

"For only $ 100 more, you can have automatic lifts," the seller tells us. And we think it's an excellent idea. After all, we just bought a $ 15,000 vehicle ... and 100 dollars seems like a big deal to us. Of course, once we accept, the seller will offer us the inclusion of a music player for only $ 200 extra . A bargain, we think.

And then, seats upholstered with washable leather, additional GPS of last generation, and a whole battery of insurance and guarantees extended by figures that will seem negligible compared to the original value of the car; that's not counting the ten taxes that are added and they never mentioned us the first time.

And what happens if we need to buy a suit?

Well, the seller who knows that the human brain makes value judgments based on the comparison, or at least intuits, only once we have disbursed a good amount of money for the pants will offer us a suitable shirt, which combines perfectly .

And then a tie; after all, a suit without a tie is an incomplete suit . But only in the second instance, once the price of the suit has been installed in our mind as a point of reference that constitutes the measure for everything that comes later.

Beauty and attraction

As if this were not enough, We apply the same criteria to the perception of the beauty of people . Suppose, in the case that you are male and heterosexual, that I show you the picture of a woman. I let him look at the image carefully and then ask him to rate how much he likes that woman by putting a score from 1 to 10.

Surely, your appreciation of the feminine beauty you have just seen will be subject to the comparison model you find at that moment in your mind.

There are many studies in which it has been observed that men value much more negatively the beauty of a woman if before they were browsing a fashion magazine saturated with images of models while they had to wait to participate in the experiment, compared to the assessment made by another group of men, who were asked to entertain themselves by looking at an old newspaper.

The same phenomenon has also been observed when men, before having to give an aesthetic score to women, are asked to watch a television show starring actresses of recognized beauty.After exposure to a young woman of extraordinary beauty, men tend to underestimate ordinary female beauty, albeit beauty at last.


Summarizing. The brain has difficulty thinking and making decisions in absolute terms , always needs a point of reference, something that works as an accessible parameter of comparison.

We know if something is good or bad, big or small, expensive or cheap, looking fundamentally around us, analyzing the context in which we find ourselves, and comparing the object of our interest with something else that, of course, belongs to it category.

The problem lies in the large number of scammers who intuitively know this curious property of the brain, and use it to cheat us or sell us things that, under a more cold and rational analysis, we would realize that we do not want or do not need to buy.

How We Save More Than $30K a Year - Things We Don't Buy (May 2024).

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