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Excessive buying as boredom-triggered behavior

Excessive buying as boredom-triggered behavior

principal investigator
Agata Gąsiorowska
Ph.D. / Associate Professor

Psychologist, specializing in economic psychology

Full bio
project value: PLN 532,752
funding source : National Science Center
discipline: psychology
research center: Institute of Psychology
location: Wrocław
duration: 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024

Boredom is a very common feeling. People who feel bored usually engage in some stimulating activity, such as reading, watching TV, playing games, and meeting friends. However, some people turn to shopping, which on occasion can be a nice form of spending time and getting some immediate “rewards”, but in its excessive form, it can become an addiction. Associate Professor Agata Gąsiorwska will research the mechanism and boundary condition for the links between boredom and excessive buying.

 

RESEARCH PROJECT

Excessive buying as boredom-triggered behavior

Examination of the mechanism and boundary condition for the relation between boredom and excessive consumer behavior

Research UnitUNI SWPS english
Grant Amount  PLN 532,752
Funding SourceNCN logo poziom en2

Duration of Research Project: 2020 –  2024

 

Boredom is a very common feeling. People who feel bored usually engage in some stimulating activity, such as reading, watching TV, playing games, and meeting friends. However, some people turn to shopping, which on occasion can be a nice form of spending time and getting some immediate “rewards”, but in its excessive form, it can become an addiction. A doctoral student, under the supervision of Professor Agata Gąsiorowska, will research the mechanism and boundary condition for the links between boredom and excessive buying.

Project Objectives

The aim of the project is to empirically investigate the relation between boredom and excessive buying, which might serve both as a stimulating activity and a compensatory tool aimed at retrieving the sense of meaning, when one experiences boredom.

For many people in contemporary society, buying is an important stimulating activity that might also provide a sense of meaning. From this point of view, it is quite surprising that the relation between boredom and excessive buying—although it is commonly present in the opinions of laypersons—has not been systematically investigated in social psychology or in consumer behavior. Therefore, this project will be aimed at discovering the mechanism explaining this relation and exploring conditions under which the feeling of boredom can be soothed by buying. More specific goals (research questions) that are associated with particular research tasks are the following:

  1. Does boredom trigger excessive buying? Does buying lower the feeling of boredom?
  2. Why do people turn to buying when they experience boredom? Is it just because buying is a stimulating activity, or because buying may provide a sense of meaning?
  3. What are the boundary conditions for the relation between boredom and excessive buying, operationalized both in terms of individual traits (for example materialism) and characteristics of consumed goods (experiential vs. material goods)?

 

The aim of the project is to empirically investigate the relation between boredom and excessive buying, which might serve both as a stimulating activity and a compensatory tool aimed at retrieving the sense of meaning, when one experiences boredom.

Gąsiorowska, Agata Principal Investigator
Bio
Tak
Permanent employee
Tak
Role in the Faculty
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Role in the Department
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Role in the Institute
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Specialization
Psychologist, specializing in economic psychology
First and last name
Agata Gąsiorowska
Academic degree or title
Ph.D. / Associate Professor
City
wroclaw
Discipline
psychology
Position
profesor uczelni
Role in the Research Center
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Faculty
Array
Institute
Array
Ph.D. / Associate Professor Agata GąsiorowskaPsychologist, specializing in economic psychology

 

Research Methodology

The project will consist of experimental and diary studies using various methods of manipulating and measuring boredom and buying behavior. By examining the link between boredom and buying from these different angles, limitations associated with one particular approach will be addressed with another methodology. For example, the diary study will offer a window in real-life settings that will be complemented by a test of causal relations available through lab and online experimentation.

Significance of the Project

Boredom is a common phenomenon, inevitably connected with experiencing negative emotions that can be studied from two different main perspectives. Some researchers focus on boredom proneness as a trait, defined as a permanent individual predisposition to feeling bored. Others, examine the problem of boredom as a situationally evoked state.

Research on boredom has led to conclusions about its predictors, components, and outcomes.

The state of boredom can push people toward engaging in various behaviors. Generally speaking, those who experience negative affect triggered by being in an unpleasant situation want to soothe these emotions. Usually, they do it by engaging in simple strategies to change the situation they are in and to start a stimulating activity—like reading a book, watching TV, or undertaking sport activities. Some people turn to shopping when feeling bored. In her previous research Professor Gąsiorowska demonstrated that boredom susceptibility, operationalized as a trait (as one of the dimensions of sensation seeking) was positively related to impulsive buying tendency (Gasiorowska, 2011).

However, frequently, when being bored — instead of just engaging in activities that are not boring — people employ more complex compensatory behaviors These compensatory behaviors are meant not only to deal with negative affect by making the situation more interesting, but also and perhaps mainly to raise the lowered sense of meaning. Therefore, a specific activity can serve as a compensatory behavior in the face of boredom, when it is important for the person and it provides him or her with such a sense of meaning. From this point of view, excessive buying can also appear as a result of increased boredom.

In the contemporary consumption-oriented society, overwhelmed with materialistic values, people tend to believe that happiness, success, and meaning in life arise (at least partly) from earning a good deal of money and spending it on products, services, and experiences offered in the marketplace. However, contrary to people’s expectations, the materialistic value orientation has an ironically negative effect on their well-being. In this project, we assume that (at least some) people might easily conclude that buying and consuming may provide them with a sense of meaning, which leads to the conclusion that purchasing itself can serve as an activity that compensates for the state of boredom because of the meaning it might provide.

There seems to be one exception to the general rule that excessive buying is negatively associated with happiness and psychological health: that is the case of experiential purchases. Recent research has demonstrated that allocating monetary resources toward life experiences makes people happier than allocating discretionary resources toward material possessions.

Some researchers explain that experiential purchases provide greater satisfaction and happiness (and thus, lead to greater well-being) because they enhance social relations more readily and effectively than material goods, they form a bigger part of a person’ identity, and they are evaluated more on their own terms and evoke fewer social comparisons than material purchases. Furthermore it has been demonstrated that experiential purchases are perceived as a more valuable investment for understanding one’s true self than are material purchases, and as such, they might be seen as more meaningful. Therefore, in this project it is assumed that experiential buying—as opposed to material buying—could provide people with a sense of meaning, and thus effectively compensate for boredom and provide a high level of psychological wellbeing.