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Insight into compulsive buying: a new exploration into choice behaviour in compulsive shopping

Lo, H.-Y.; (2008) Insight into compulsive buying: a new exploration into choice behaviour in compulsive shopping. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

Shopping can be an important source of self-expression, self-definition or healing. Yet, if it becomes uncontrolled or excessive, it will become problematic. Debt is one example of noticeable harm resulting from excessive shopping. A growing proportion of people exhibit compulsive shopping behaviour and existing research has indicated that compulsive shoppers commonly exhibit a number of characteristic personality traits as well as financial or psychological problems. Although the literature suggests that compulsive buying derives from an internal urge (e.g., to relieve stress or boost low self-esteem etc.), why do they persist even when such buying activities lead to harmful consequences? Why do they relapse? Note, moreover, that buying activities are a routine behaviour in our everyday life. So why do most people engage in 'normal buying' activities rather than compulsive buying? Even though some non-compulsive buyers sometimes impulsively engage in purchasing, their willpower generally can suppress such immediate 'visceral' reactions. These significant questions remain unanswered and, with further explorations, research may provide the key to learning more about compulsive buying behaviour. The aims of this study are to provide a deeper analysis of how compulsive shoppers buy, and how they differ from the rest of the population. This is a crucial foundation for understanding compulsive buying. Based on these aims, I attempt to gain insight into compulsive shopping via an exploration how compulsive buyers make purchasing choices. I use a two-phase study: the first phase employed an on-line questionnaire approach. It allowed assessment of the prevalence of compulsive buying, objective factors related to it, and people's subjective orientations to their buying behaviour. The second phase employed an experimental method, a new approach in this area. A simulated web-based shopping environment was used to address research questions. The framework of two-phase study allowed me to go beyond the traditional questionnaire method, and to gain new insight into compulsive buying. Overall, my findings yield several major results (i.e., concerning craving factors, debts, emotional consequences, information and product knowledge), and help to interpret compulsive buying behaviour. I argue that because of psychological needs (i.e., craving factors), compulsive shoppers underestimate or ignore the effect of debt. Consequently, the impact of debt generates antagonistic process counteracting their future gratification. Once compulsive shoppers fall into the spiral of addiction, they encounter a kind of intra-personal dilemma: they want to stop buying, but they cannot stop.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Insight into compulsive buying: a new exploration into choice behaviour in compulsive shopping
Language:English
Additional information:Authorisation for digitisation not received

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