Do People Secretly Love Black Friday?

Why will millions of people brave long lines this Friday (Thursday evening if you’re shopping at Wal-Mart) in order to score some Black Friday deals? Do people secretly love Black Friday? I am not buying this research, summarized in The Atlantic Wire:

For all the stress of the waiting, the Black Friday deals have a physical—and positive—effect on our brain. In the age of the smartphone, retailers lure customers with mobile coupons to get cell-phone shoppers to buy at the store, rather than online. And so even if discounts will get deeper in-store or on Cyber Monday, Black Friday-specific coupons can offer an immediate sense of relaxation. All of which makes consumers happier, found a recent Claremont University study.

Measuring the oxytocin levels of a group of female shoppers after giving them a coupon,  neurologist Dr. Paul Zak found that the deal increased this hormone’s levels in some shoppers. As this hormone (not to be confused with Oxycontin) has been linked to feelings of love and trust, Dr. Zak concluded that the positive mental reaction to it has become one of the reasons we love coupons so much. We view it as a social gesture, he says. “We’re so engrained to being social creatures that even receiving a coupon online is viewed by the brain as a social experience,” Zak says. “We’re building a relationship with an online shopping site like it’s a personal relationship.” The same study also found the coupon reduced stress and increased happiness in some participants. Ergo, on Black Friday, the biggest coupon day of the year must make this hormone go wild in some shoppers’ brains, making it a very relaxing and lovely experience.

At certain levels, consumers enjoy arousal and challenges during the shopping process,” researcher Sang-Eun Byun told The Washington Post’s Olga Khazan. “They enjoy something that’s harder to get, and it makes them feel playful and excited.” Given that bit of science, it’s no wonder that shoppers have acted quite aggressive in recent years, as this Christian Science Monitor article notes

The people who choose to partake in Black Friday, will likely associate many of its aspects with positive feelings. In fact, the day doesn’t evoke angry or related emotions for many of its participants, found an study from Eastern Illinois University. The researchers observed consumer behaviors and emotions on that day and… calmness, happiness, and courteousness ranked higher than anger and anxiety. 

As for me? I am staying on the sidelines and not stepping a foot within brick-and-mortar stores.

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