Why Hand Baskets and Reusable Bags Can Make You Buy More Junk Food

You may not know this, but the grocery stores put very subtle spells on you to make you buy more junk . Your shopping behavior may even change, whether you use a manual shopping cart (instead of a shopping cart) or even if you bring your own reusable bag. That’s why.

It’s hard to believe that simply using a shopping cart over a cart could affect our great thinking minds, but it really is. For example, a shopping cart can encourage us to choose more enjoyable, “blemish” foods. This is what researchers say in an article published in the Journal of Marketing Research . They argue that flexing your arm — when you, say, bend your elbow to carry or hold a basket — increases the likelihood of “rewarding” yourself for the effort and strain associated with dragging something. Sounds silly, right?

To observe this behavior, the researchers discreetly tracked 136 randomly selected shoppers and rated their items at the checkout. They found that basket-makers were almost 7 times more likely to buy trash at the checkout. They later conducted a series of follow-up studies to summarize their findings outside the context of shopping.

In particular, their research collectively seems to confirm that flexing the arms is an action that directs something towards oneself and, therefore, is associated with getting what you want. On the other hand, extending an arm or extending an arm — for example, pushing a cart — is a gesture of avoidance associated with giving up unwanted things.

Likewise, another study published in the Journal of Marketing suggests that caring for the environment by carrying reusable bags increases the likelihood that shoppers will treat more junk food. Researchers associate this behavior with the ” licensing effect ” when people allow themselves to do “something bad” after doing what they feel is responsible and good.

Hey, right? There are many examples of how this mind-body connection affects behavior: nodding (as opposed to shaking) your head makes you look at food more favorably; Sitting in a hard chair rather than a soft one reduces your ability to negotiate ; holding a hot drink gives you a better and warmer impression of the other person , etc.

This certainly draws attention to how environmental factors can actually affect our brains in the most subtle ways. But keep in mind that these are limited studies with small sample sizes and many unobservable variables, so they cannot be applied as hard general rules. However, understanding how you can act can help you curb your impulse to buy junk food.

Try to stick to a list, shop only once a week , make sure you’re full when shopping, and / or try this drinking game before you go shopping.

Myopia Embodied | American Marketing Association

Update: Minor title tweak to clear up misconceptions.


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