April 13, 2024

Since the birth of the internet in the late 20th century, the capabilities of the online world have grown at exceedingly fast rates. Today, just about anything can be bought online, from clothes to cars. But is all this progress in the online marketplace for better or for worse?

Bryce Cunning, senior psychology major, shared about his spending habits from a behavioral science viewpoint.

“Some of the psychological reasons for this pertain to the anticipation or excitement of buying a product which releases dopamine, also known as the pleasure hormone,” Cunning said. “Some other reasons for this increase relate to the instant gratification that online shopping provides. There is less friction when an individual makes a purchase and more emotional fulfillment.” 

Additionally, he cited accessibility as a reason individuals may be more motivated to shop online. 

“One psychological explanation for the shift from in-person shopping may be product diversity and convenience,” Cunning said. “In addition, there seems to be an increase in anxiety and fear of negative evaluation, which influences people to avoid social interactions, thereby increasing online shopping.”

Though Cunning recognizes the ever-increasing popularity of online shopping, he typically opts to shop in person.

“I like to have face-to-face interactions… shopping in person creates a much more personal experience,” Cunning said. 

Hannah Tudor, CBU alumna in public relations, shared what she finds beneficial. 

“I do prefer going in and shopping, but I also tend to buy everything when I do,” Tudor said. “Online shopping has definitely been easier in the sense of getting specific things that I want sooner.”

Tudor explained that online shopping is helpful to her with her busy schedule. She also sees it benefiting her coworkers and family. Her grandma, in particular, is able to order groceries online.

“It comes down to a sense of urgency,” Tudor said. “How urgent do you need the item? How important is the item to you to have right now? What way can you buy it? Is it faster to go to the store and pay cash? Is it more convenient to order online?” 

Hannah Woods, counseling psychology graduate student, also prefers shopping online. 

“I like shopping online because there are more options and more deals online,” Woods said. “I think I’m more willing to spend money in person because I don’t have to pull up my card and put in my information.” 

Woods explained that people enjoy online shopping because it is instant access to items with little effort. 

“I think that’s what our whole culture is about: everything at your fingertips,” Woods said.

Woods pointed out that often sales such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday lead to a spike in sales because buyers believe they are receiving a great deal, whether or not they actually are. 

“Your device in which you are searching tracks everything and can therefore lead you down a rabbit hole of buying more than you need. It’s objectively harmless but there are some tactics that are used to get you to spend,” Woods said. 

As with many things, online shopping can be used for both our good and downfall. Ultimately, it is up to the consumer’s preference. 

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