Gobbling cookies can provide a sweet escape from worrying about the future, finds a new study.
It has long been shown that thoughts about death can spur buying behaviour and an example supporting this is - in the months following 9/11, shops in the US noted a spike in purchases of luxury products, canned goods and sweets.
To better understand the link between thoughts of mortality and the urge to consume, Naomi Mandel at Arizona State University, Tempe, and Dirk Smeesters at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, asked 746 students to write essays on one of two topics: their death or a visit to the dentist.
Each participant also completed a questionnaire designed to evaluate their level of self-esteem.
They found that subjects with low self-esteem who wrote about death ate more cookies, when given the opportunity, and bought more items from a hypothetical shopping list compared to those who wrote about the dentist. In people with high self-esteem, thoughts of death had little effect.
The researchers believe that people with low self-esteem use consuming as a way of subconsciously escaping self-awareness, which is heightened by thoughts of dying.
"When you indulge in shopping or eating, it helps you forget yourself," New Scientist quoted Smeesters, as saying.
The study is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.