This is Your Brain on Discounts

The Science of Why We’re Slaves to a Sale

Blinkist
Jun 21, 2015 · 10 min read

Fear: Buy this fancy alarm system or your family is doomed

When we’re afraid, we’re chemically compelled to purchase products we don’t need or want because our bodies know that we’ll get a hit of a soothing neurotransmitter called dopamine.

Dopamine is associated with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, and it’s released when we experience something new, exciting, or challenging. A great way to score a hit of pleasurable dopamine to even out times of stress is to shop. The cycle goes as such: feel fear→ buy thing→ get squirt of dopamine→ feel better.

An illustration of brain’s prefrontal region. Image Credit: Pancrat

Irrationality: Buy this computer for just $999.99!

Beyond The Rack’s “New Summer Markdowns” Campaign. Image Source: Social Mail

Injustice: Are your neighbors paying less for cable than you are?

Scarcity & loss aversion: This exclusive offer expires in 24 hours

Books consulted for this piece include:

  1. Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior — Ori Brafman & Rom Brafman
  2. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion — Robert Cialdini
  3. Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture — Ellen Ruppel-Shell
  4. Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World — Mark Ellwood
  5. Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy — Martin Lindstrom
  6. Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy — Martin Lindstrom
  7. Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are — Frans De Waal

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