Photo: Getty Images
Here’s an odd side effect of a high-end shopping habit: People who frequent luxury stores (or just walk by them) are less likely to be altruistic.
That’s the result of three Parisian experiments recently published in the journal Social Influence. In the first, scientists planted a woman wearing a large leg brace on two streets: one lined with fancy clothing stores and one without stores. They had her drop a bottle of water and a bag of candy and laboriously retrieve them, then they observed how people reacted. The results were surprising: Only 35 percent of people who exited fancy stores offered to help the woman versus 77 percent of people who hadn’t encountered fancy goods.
In the second experiment, a woman pushed her friend in a wheelchair down a street full of watch and jewelry stores, then later on a residential street. In both cases, the woman asked pedestrians to stay with her friend while she quickly ran to grab her cellphone. On the retail streets, 23 percent of people agreed, compared to 82 percent of people on residential streets.
And in the third setup, when a woman asked to borrow strangers’s cellphones to call her mom, 41 percent complied on a street with expensive stores, 63 percent did while surrounded by high- and low-end stores, and 74 percent did while walking down streets without stores.
Why does extravagance make you egocentric? The study authors didn’t return Yahoo Style’s request for comment, however they hypothesize that being around fancy, unnecessary goods boosts self-esteem and feelings of competitiveness. In other words, you may feel slightly more prestigious (selfish) after a chichi shopping trip.
And while past studies do show that shopping activates the reward center of the brain, triggering a feel-good chemical called dopamine and a slew of happy emotions (aka a “shopper’s high”), it’s worth noting the risk of snagging that blingy pinky ring or choker.
“There are lots of subconscious cues in a retail environment which can alter your behavior,” Ani Collum, partner and retail consultant at Retails Concepts in Boston, tells Yahoo Style. “For example, you may notice that in many supermarkets, bananas are strategically placed in or around the cereal aisle, to suggest they’re bought in pairs. Or, in furniture stores, signs explain the functionality of the item, creating an actionable need for it.”
The same is true for luxury shopping, she adds, an experience that can create a subliminal feeling of exclusivity and entitlement, both inside and once outside of the store. “The key is to give yourself a mental check the next time you’re shopping so you’re not impacted by these retail cues that can impact your actions, for better or worse,” she says.