Psychology Research Proposal Paper on Whether mood affect one’s shopping habits

Does mood affect one’s shopping habits?


The shopping habits of persons have for a long time been thought to have a bearing on their moods. There are persons that claim to get a soothing effect from compulsive buying, especially when they feel low or depressed. The shopping behavior of women and men has been the source of so many jokes, majorly emphasizing on the different approaches that the two genders employ when it comes to shopping (Krueger, 1988). This research proposal gives an outline of the activities that will be carried out in exploring the question of whether the mood of an individual affects their shopping habits.

According to Faber and Christenson (1996), compulsive shopping disorder is caused by abnormal levels of serotonin in the brain. This chemical is also responsible for the other addictions such as alcoholism, gambling and sex addiction. It has not yet been recognized by the psychiatry experts as a mental illness, and this contributes to very little been known about it (Liddane, 2006). Faber and Christenson further argue that there are other psychological problems can lead to a person acquiring the compulsive shopping disorder. Examples of these problems include a low self-esteem; desire for approval or recognition; high propensity to fantasize; and a desire for arousal or stimulation. These psychological problems have also been observed in person having uncontrollable impulse disorders.

Furthermore, the sociological factors that might contribute to the development of this condition are gender roles, early life experiences, the disintegration of modern life and the influence of the mainstream media that depicts shopping as a positive thing and a form of release. Most of the compulsive buyers have reported having experienced a brief period of pleasant mood immediately after the shopping spree, only to be filled with regret later on after their debt runs into thousands of dollars (Faber & Christenson, 1996). Research done in the past has proven that most of the compulsive shoppers do that to avoid succumbing to depressing moods or to make themselves feel better. The reports of feeling free and in control when shopping attest to those claims. It might seem that a gloomy mood usually precedes compulsive buying, but no research has been done to prove that. The only information floated around is that the extreme shoppers do so in search of a better feeling (Faber & Christenson, 1996).

Past observations have shown that women are more prone to have compulsive shopping disorder compared to men. The ratio of women to men having this disorder is be believed to range at 11:1. That might be the reason why jokes regarding shopping problems are usually directed at women (Faber & Christenson, 1996). A research done by Faber and Christenson to determine the moods of the compulsive shopper immediately before going shopping gave them shocking results, that most them feel excited at the anticipation of going to shop. This therefore caused them to theorize that while some do it to improve their mood, others do it to prolong their good feeling. These assertions however, have not been affirmed or rejected statistically. Actual results of that research showed that the compulsive buyers felt the whole range of moods that was provided for by Faber and Christenson. One problem with this research was that it was dependent on self reports of persons with the disorder, who would not be in a god position to examine their state of mind before indulging in the shopping activities. This is one of the aspects that this research is going to remove in order to have an unbiased environment to determine the moods of the shoppers immediately before they make their purchases.

In addition, this condition is so rampant in the United States that it is even claimed that more than 5 percent of the population might be having a form of compulsive shopping tendency, only that this is more intense in some than the rest. Liddan (2006) further asserts that support groups calling themselves Debtors Anonymous have been formed by compulsive shoppers due to the financial strain that the habit has inflicted on them. These former compulsive shoppers mixed with those that are currently struggling to curb that habit meet regularly to assist each other in avoiding the habit. One of the major things that contribute to compulsive shopping is the credit offered to individuals through the credit cards. Stoppage of using plastic money and reverting to cash can help one limit their shopping, as they are unlikely to walk around with huge amounts of money required for this indulgence. Lidden expresses disappointed in the medical and psychological community for not declaring this an illness and yet it causes so much misery to the victims. Besides the financial implications, families are broken as a result of the other spouse feeling that the compulsive person is wasteful.

Some persons with compulsive shopping disorder have had the condition for more than ten years, and this has contributed to the ruining of their social and financial lives. Some have reported as having to pay up debts once they get their monthly or weekly check before even buying their food. Some have been rendered homeless after spending all that they have on shopping with none to pay the rent. The problem with them is that they shop for items, most of which they will never use (NewsRx, 2013). Many therapies have been tried to cure this addiction to shopping with little success. The treatment that has made significant improvement is the use of antidepressant drugs to make the patients lose the desire for shopping. These findings are, however, inconclusive.

Shopping is directly linked to the financial wellbeing of persons and should therefore be done in a prudent manner in order to avoid financial blunders or credit card defaults. The possibility of humans being is influenced by their moods to do sporadic shopping may lead tap them having more problems and this would and onto their stress. It is claimed that most of the items that are bought at the shopping malls are things consumer has no need for. Most of them are acquired having not been planned for in the beginning (Krueger, 1988). The first hypothesis that will be tested in this research is ‘mood has an effect on one’s shopping patterns.’ Data will be corrected and analyzed in order to affirm or reject this hypothesis.

The second hypothesis is in a way dependent on the first one being true, and it is as follows: ‘the more upset a person is, the more they are likely to overspend on shopping.’ This will also have data collected, mainly experimental data and analyzed to show whether it is a null hypothesis or otherwise. The first hypothesis is of correlational nature, as it is dependent on two phenomena being related, with one of them being influencer of the other. The second hypothesis is experimental. The state of mind of a person is causing them to have particular behaviors in their shopping norms. This therefore, will require the researcher to conduct both correlation and experimental research (Sherry & Henson, 2005). Each of the two will require having distinct research methods used to collect the data for analysis.


Method 1

The correlational research will be done to determine whether there exists a statistical relationship between the mood of individuals and their shopping habits. This experiment depends on the correlation index, which ranges between negative and positive. If the value of the correlation ‘r’ is a negative number, then there is a negative correlation between the two variables. If it has a positive number, then it means that there is a positive correlation between mood and the shopping habits. A negative correlation means that the increase in the intensity, quality or quantity of one variable results in the decrease of another. Positive correlation occurs where the increase in the quantity individual variable results in the increase of the other. They are thus directly proportional (Sherry & Henson, 2005). A correlation of value 0 is interpreted as the variables having no relationship. If the changes in the variables with zero correlation were to be plotted on a scatter plot, they would be random without any discernible pattern.

One of the major methods that will be applied in carrying out correlational research will be to observe the shoppers in the shopping mall. The first step will be to determine their moods from their facial expressions, body posture, gait and gestures. Apps that are designed to determine the mood of a person from facial expressions and gait will be used in this process. After their mood has been determined, they will then be observed using the security cameras of the establishment to see their shopping habits. The moments they will linger at the aisles before picking items will also be noted in order to determine their level of need for those products. The type of goods bought will also be taken into account, in regards to whether they are basic commodities or luxury items. The mood identified will be graded in terms of intensity from highly pleasant to very aggressive or gloomy. The mood scale will be as follows

0-Highly pleasant



3-Mildly distressed



This will then be recorded against the severity of the compulsive shopping exhibited by the subject. The subjects will not be aware of what is happening, in order to render the environment as natural as possible. The details of the subjects will, however be kept very confidential. Before hand, the consumer will be told that they may be required to participate in a survey, but the nature of the survey will not be revealed to them in order to maintain the naturalness of their behavior in the shopping malls.

The recorded data on moods and severity of the compulsiveness in buying will then fed into statistical package software and the scatter plots developed. From the scatter plots the correlation coefficient will be determined and the determination made visually as well. From the results, the researcher will have the opportunity to determine whether the hypothesis that moods have a statistical relationship with shopping habits holds or is to be rejected. If the correction value is either positive or negative, the hypothesis will be accepted. If the correlation value is zero, then the hypothesis will be rejected. In the special circumstance whether the value is close to zero, it will be harder to come up with a conclusion, and the 95% confidence interval will have to be applied in order for the hypothesis to hold or get rejected (Ledyard, 1997).

In order to validate the data collected through observation method, the researcher will also administer questionnaires randomly to shoppers to ask them about their shopping habits and how their moods influence them. Anonymity of the respondents in this case will be a high priority. Some of the respondents of the questionnaires will also be monitored in terms of their compulsiveness in shopping compared to their moods as per the facial and gait analyzer app. This will be to check whether their responses in the questionnaires are in line with their actions in the shopping mall. The results obtained in the questionnaires will be used in reinforcing the findings of the researcher from the observations made and will not suffice to discount it in case they differ. This is because the response to the questionnaire are under the control of the respondents who are likely to want to paint a good picture of their shopping habits and emotional intelligence. The observation will not involve any alterations in the environment, and the observations made will be in a natural setting. This therefore, makes the observation results have an upper hand in terms of validity and accuracy.

The researcher will also carry out documentary analysis on the various works done on the subjects of mood and how it may affect the activities done by an individual, shopping included. This will include publications made by credible experts in psychology. It will also better the skills of the researcher in noting subtle signs that might hint the mood of a subject during the observation. This will help in evening out the shortcomings that may come about as a result of using the visual application in determining the moods of subjects. The documentary analysis will also help in keeping the findings of the researcher in line with the earlier validated findings, as it will make him more sensitive to errors that might occur during the collection of the data(Raghunathan& Pham, 1999). The establishing of a statistical relationship fails the test of determining the causality between the two variables. The possibility of a third variable being involved complicates the process even more.

Method 2

In order to know the causal relationship between the mood and shopping habits, the researcher will conduct an experimental research where one of the factors will be alters in order to see what effect it has on the other variable. The variable changed will be the independent variable and the other variable that is expected to change is the dependent variable. In this case, the variable that will be altered is the mood of the subjects, making it the independent variable.

Doing an experiment that involves altering the moods of the shoppers will be a daunting task, and may carry with it ethical implications. The first step that the researcher will take in doing this experimental research will be to randomly choose individuals that frequent the shopping mall of interest and having them accept to participate in the study. They however, will not be told the details of the research in its entirety. This will be to prevent them from altering their behaviors or moods as a result of being in the study(Ledyard, 1997). They will have to be influenced into having pleasant and unpleasant moods and have its effect on their shopping compulsiveness recorded.

The first step will be to put the respondents on diets that are known to alter the moods for a week. This will then be followed by a study of how their shopping habits will turn out. The first experiment will include the foods that induce foul moods such as chilies and very spicy foodstuffs. The moods of these subjects will further be made worse by having persons close to them disappoint or annoy them just before they go to the shopping mall. The music in the shopping mall will be changed and made less soothing and more interruptive (Raghunathan& Pham, 1999). This will ensure that the respondents are in the worst mood possible, and the catch will be that they will not be aware that they are being watched. Their shopping behavior in a foul mood will be recorded.

Next the respondents will be fed on mood enhancing foods such as chocolate and omega-3 fats for a week. Then, their friends and family members will secretly give them a pleasant surprise just before they go for shopping. At the shopping mall, the music will be soothing to enhance the relaxation of these respondents. The attendants in the shopping mall will be very kind and helpful to the respondents as they do their shopping in order to ensure that they are in a pleasant mood (Raghunathan& Pham, 1999). The shopping behavior of the participants in this study will also be recorded with them having very pleasant moods. The last experiment in this research will be a survey of the subjects’ compulsiveness in shopping without having their moods heightened.

The shopping behavior exhibited by the respondents for each mood and the normal temperament will be recorded in numeral codes and fed to the statistical package to determine causality. If the altering of the independent variable (mood) results in a corresponding change in the habits of shopping, then causality will be deduced. For the second hypothesis to therefore, holds that it is the need for the respondents to exhibit compulsive buying when they are upset as opposed to when they are more relaxed or in a good mood. If such specific observations are not made, then the hypothesis that upset individuals tend to seek retail therapy will be rejected. It is good to note that there is likelihood for the causality to be established without necessarily having the hypothesis affirmed. This experimental research is bound to have limitation due to the confounding variable. The mainly confusing variable in this case is likely the gender of the participants. Males handle their frustrations in a different way compared to the women. In most of the contemporary literature, women are touted as the ones most prone to take out their frustrations through compulsive shopping while the men seem less interested in indulgent shopping(Ledyard, 1997). This might therefore require the researcher to take the results recorded from both genders separately and analyze them individually to avoid any inconsistences.This research is likely to consume a lot of time and resources compared to the earlier approach of doing correlational research. The ethical implications of manipulation the emotions of the participating individuals might also present a problem to the researcher.


The hypotheses for this research are:

  1. There is a statistical relationship between the mood of persons and their shopping behavior.

The correlation coefficient ‘r’ calculated from the data gathered from observation and questionnaires will determine whether there is an underlying relationship between the variable of mood and compulsiveness in shopping. The variables are the mood and the degree of compulsiveness of the buyer.

  1. The more upset persons include; the more compulsive their buying habit will be.

This implies that the level of frustration of a person is directly proportional to their compulsiveness in shopping. This hypothesis also implies a causal relationship between the state of being upset and compulsive shopping. Should the first hypothesis hold, the second one would serve as a deeper description of the relationship expressed in the first hypothesis. Again, the variables in the second hypothesis are the mood and the compulsiveness of the shopper.

The implications of adopting both the correlation and experimental designs is that the methods used in collecting data are likely to be time consuming and require a lot of resources as well. There is also the problem of ensuring that the environment in which the research is carried out is kept as much as possible in its natural state. Keeping the objectives of the research from the participant will help a great deal in ensuring that the data collected is accurate and free from any alteration in the behavior of the respondents as a result of having the knowledge of being observed. This withholding of the details of the research from the participants is on the other hand unethical. This leaves the researcher in a dilemma on whether to sacrifice that minor ethical issue for the sake of the reliability of the outcome. The privacy of the targeted shoppers is also likely to be infringed on during the correlation research.

Furthermore, judging from the way the hypotheses have been formulated, there is a likelihood of inconsistencies coming up. This might be so if the first hypothesis is rejected and the second one accepted. Finding a causal relationship between the moods and shopping habits after having ruled out any relationship in the first place might be a major inconsistency. The determination and altering of the moods of the participants in the experimental research will be a very involving task considering that the subjects are to be followed in their daily routine and monitored significantly only when they go shopping. This will be inconvenient for the investigator. The available information linking moods to shopping mainly focus on the shopping habits of women and are insistent on the therapeutic effect it has on them. Men on the other hand are not that into shopping. This might require for the researcher to separate the data gathered from men and women for the sake of consistency. This in effect will be a manifestation of the bias of the researcher emanating from previous unconfirmed information.

The designing and assigning numeral codes to the various moods exhibited by the participants will be a tricky affair. Same will apply for the assignment of numerical codes for the various degrees of shopping compulsiveness. The researcher will be required to research on the established standards for coming up with these codes. This is for the results of the research to be acceptable. The researcher will have to seek permission from the owner of the mall to be used for this research. There will be quite a number of individuals required to do this research successfully, and the researcher will be required to ensure that they are competent.

The importance of the findings of this research should be outlined beforehand due to the intensiveness required in terms of duration and resources. The other variables that may affect the shopping habits such as the financial status of the individuals and the size of their families will need to be taken into consideration. If the findings prove that the upset persons tend to shop more compared to the less stressed persons, the shopping malls may try to increase their sales by making the environment a bit frustrating. The often results of compulsive buying are credit card defaults and possible bankruptcy. This may give psychiatrists the duty to request depressed and frustrated client to refrain from shopping till their emotional state stabilizes (van der Velde, 2000). Should the results prove otherwise, then the myths about shopping being therapeutic to upset individuals will be dispelled. It will further require further research to find out how moods may be associated with shopping and uncover the unnoticed third variable that may connect the two




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