An Indian-origin researcher from Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business has found that, as opposed to the regular American shopper, Indians and Chinese think twice when it comes to splashing out money on tempting stuff. This, he attributes, to better self-control.
The study, titled 'Power-Distance Belief and Impulsive Buying', authored by professor Vikas Mittal, revealed that people in US, who believe in equality are more-impulsive shoppers than those living in India or China, who have higher self-control.
The finding has implications for how to market products differently in countries where shoppers are more likely to buy on impulse.
Power-distance belief (PDB) is the degree of power disparity the people of a culture expect and accept. It is measured on a scale of zero to 100, and the higher the PDB, the more a person accepts disparity and expects power inequality.
Americans have a low PDB score relative to people in countries like China and India.
The study found that people who have a high PDB score tend to exhibit more self-control and are less impulsive when shopping.
"In our studies, people with low PDB scores spent one-and-a-half times the amount spent by high-PDB individuals when buying daily items like snacks and drinks," said Mittal.
This effect was even more pronounced for "vice goods"-tempting products like chocolate and candy-than for "virtue goods" like yogurt and granola bars.
The researchers hypothesized that people with low PDB scores-who also should have lower self-control-would show even stronger impulsive buying for vice goods because of their desire for immediate gratification.
The researchers found low-PDB people spent twice as much on vice goods as high PDB people spent.
The study results apply to everyday consumables like candy, chocolate and potato chips.
Extrapolating these results to goods like perfume, clothes and other hedonic categories that are more expensive has striking implications, said Mittal.
When it comes to PDB (Geert Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions), the U.S. scores at a low 40 compared with Russia (93), the Philippines (94), Singapore (74), China (80) and India (77).
Austria (11), Germany (35) and New Zealand (22) also score low, whereas Japan (54), Vietnam (45) and South Africa (49) score more in the middle.
The researchers found that PDB influences impulsive buying through its effect on self-control.
"It seems that people with high PDB exert self-control more often and over time may get habituated to self-control," said Mittal.
The study will be published in the Journal of Marketing Research.