The Fix

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Fashion (Canada) - - Fashion - By Nancy Rip­ton

What is it about fash­ion that makes some of us fill our clos­ets with cloth­ing that will rarely, if ever, see the light of day? Turns out you may be high on dopamine, the plea­sure hor­mone our bod­ies re­lease when we’re an­tic­i­pat­ing a re­ward. “The dopamine rush you get from shop­ping is sim­i­lar to the rush you get from gam­bling,” says Cin­der Smith, a Cal­gary-based psy­chol­o­gist.

The only po­ten­tial downer to a dopamine hit is the price tag. Re­search pub­lished in Neu­ron found that ex­ces­sive prices ac­ti­vate parts of the brain that can halt or curb your de­sire to buy. Al­ter­na­tively, if you feel like you’re get­ting a deal, ac­tiv­ity in that same area de­creases, re­duc­ing your bar­ri­ers to buy­ing.

“Stores have cer­tain ‘dis­count’ trig­gers to up the level of an­tic­i­pa­tion and trig­ger a stronger dopamine re­sponse,” says Dr. Su­san Wein­schenk, chief be­hav­ioral sci­en­tist at The Team W and an ad­junct pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Wis­con­sin. Spe­cial deals and store events can make you feel a sense of ur­gency that will lead you to take ac­tion and buy an item sim­ply be­cause it seems like a bargain.

There are a num­ber of tac­tics that stores use to en­cour­age spend­ing. One is an­chor­ing. “What­ever num­ber you see first sets a frame­work for all other num­bers,” says Wein­schenk. For ex­am­ple, a sign that of­fers 75 per cent off or deals 365 days a year an­chor your mind to 75 or 365. “You’ll com­pare a shirt at $26 to the higher num­ber that you sub­con­sciously saw when you walked in the door. It will make you feel like you are get­ting a deal.”

Brack­et­ing is an­other tech­nique used to trig­ger dopamine and off­set the downer that comes with sticker shock. Items such as jeans will be priced at a se­ries of low, medium and high amounts. “Peo­ple tend to go for the mid­dle price,” says Wein­schenk. The tac­tic can trick you into spend­ing a bit more but still leave you feel­ing the same high you’d feel if you’d got a huge deal.

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