U-M Study: Retail Therapy Really Works

ANN ARBOR (WWJ) – Does shopping get a bad rap? A local marketing professor claims that’s the case.

Scott Rick and two colleagues at the University of Michigan conducted experiments on undergraduate students.

They showed them sad videos and found that shopping afterward made the participants feel better even when they were told they weren’t actually getting the products.

In one study of 45 female undergraduates, 44 percent chose to buy a snack after viewing a movie clip that portrays a bullying incident. Participants rated their emotions at the beginning and end of the experiment.

“Making choices — choosing between products to buy helped alleviate sadness that we imposed on people in our experiment,” Rick told WWJ Newsradio 950’s Sandra McNeil.

“We don’t mean to say that actual therapy isn’t the best thing to do, but that can be a pain to kind of set up and make the time for. Shopping is something you can do right now,” he said.

However, Rick said it does not work for other negative emotions like anger or guilt — and offered a few words of warning.

“We don’t yet know how often you can do this and still have it work. We don’t yet know how long it takes for the debt to add up and threaten the very sense of control that you regain through shopping,” Rick said. “So it’s certainly not an endorsement of a lifetime at the mall.”

Check out the study here.

More from Sandra McNeill

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