Heading out for shopping? Do keep a check on your mood, for if you're feeling gloomy and sad, there are very high chances of you getting a hole in your pocket, according to a new study.
The study shows that people's spending judgment goes out the window when they're down, especially if they're a bit self-absorbed.
According to the study conducted by a team of behavioral scientists from four major U.S. universities, a person's mood may impact how much money he or she spends for routine economic transactions.
"The tendency is to focus on oneself when sad drives this effect," said the study's lead author Cynthia E. Cryder, a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa.
"Our studies revealed the more self-focused people were in the sad condition, the more money they spent," she added.
In one experiment, primarily conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon and Harvard University, test subjects viewed either a sad video clip or one devoid of human emotion. The video clips included either a sad scene from the 1979 movie "The Champ" or neutral scenes from a National Geographic documentary on coral reefs.
Afterward, participants could purchase an ordinary commodity, such as a water bottle, at various prices. Participants, randomly assigned to view the sad video clip, offered almost 300 percent more than the "neutral" participants to buy the same product.
Interestingly, in a prior, similar study led by Lerner, participants who viewed the sad video clip typically and incorrectly insisted the emotional content of the film clip did not affect their spending.
The finding showed that people can lack awareness of how feelings impact their own economic decisions.
Research team members speculate that self-focus coupled with sadness causes people to devalue both themselves and their current possessions.
The result, they believe, is increased willingness to pay more for new material goods, presumably to enhance the sense of self.
"Self-focus helps explain the spending differences between the 'sad' and 'neutral' groups. Sadness tends to increase self-focus, making the increased spending prompted by the combination of sadness and self-focus difficult to avoid," said study co-author Jennifer Lerner, an experimental social psychologist at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass.
The so-called "misery is not miserly" effect may be even more dramatic in real life, as the low-intensity sadness evoked in the experiment likely underestimates the power of intense sadness on spending behavior.
Moreover, say researchers, the effect could extend to domains beyond purchasing decisions. It may cause people to engage in increased stock trading or to seek new relationships without conscious awareness that they are being driven by their emotions.
The study 'Misery is not Miserly: Sad and Self-Focused Individuals Spend More' will be published in the journal Psychological Science.