Black Friday: The psychology behind why we go crazy for a good deal

With Black Friday just around the corner, let’s look at the psychological explanation for the remarkable shopping phenomena. Or to put it differently: why the HECK do we all go CRAZY on Black Friday?!

The tale of ‘Sense of Urgency’ and ‘FOMO’

The Black Friday hype is all based on the creation of a sense of urgency. Why? Because scarcity increases desirability.
Social psychologist Laura Brannon, who researches consumer psychology, notes “Limiting the opportunity to purchase things at a large discount makes people desire the opportunity more.” That is why advertisers add statements like “supplies are limited!” all the time.

James Mourey, who studies consumer behavior says that scarcity, and the fear of missing out, causes people to think in an irrational way. Knowing that something is scarse pushes us to act like we normally would not.
There is also a competitive aspect. People get a sense of superiority when they find a better deal than their neighbor. Oh those tricky feelings…

It feels so darn good

Finding a good deal actually makes us feel good. Seeing something enjoyable activates the brains reward system (specifically: the nucleus accumbens). We are rewarded with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction when we spot a bargain. Who can resist that?

Oh, the anticipation…

And then there is the effect of anticipation. Advertisements and ‘deal teasers’ start many weeks in advance. Due to a growing competition, small retailers already start in the beginning of October.
Anticipating positive events increases the release of dopamine. It is dopamine that keeps a monkey pressing a bar until a treat arrives, and it keeps people pumped to buy until the moment arrives.

A holiday season tradition

There is also a social aspect to Black Friday that stimulates us to keep taking part. Shopping with friends or family after Thanksgiving has become a social ritual. For some it has even become a family tradition.

Why some go cray cray during Black Friday

We can probably all understand the appeal of Black Friday. But many of us don’t understand why someone would ever lose their marbles (read: shoving or punching a fellow shopper) over a bargain.

So, why do some people go bananas?

• They had a goal

When we have a specific goal in mind (‘I want those jeans’) our cortisol levels rise. We become more stressed out. People become more sensitive to others getting in the way of their goal. High cortisol levels are also linked to more aggressive behavior. You do the math.

• They invested their time and effort

When we see people going nuts over a sweater, it’s not only because they simply really want it, but also because they already invested in it. People have planned their purchase by, for instance, setting aside some money or waking up early to be at the store in time. People have also invested their time by waiting in line for hours or driving to a specific store.
Because they have invested a lot they now want to make sure to get what they came here for.

Will you go on a bargain hunt this year?

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