Impulse spending reduced if you get organized

Impulse spending is a behavior associated with disorganized environments.

According to researchers from the University of British Columbia and the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, controlling a chaotic environment may help people control excessive behaviors such as stockpiling, hoarding and impulse spending.

Their study, titled “Environmental Disorder Leads to Self-Regulatory Failure,” has been published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Disorganized environments impair ‘brain power’

Study authors, Rui (Juliet) Zhu, a professor of marketing at the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, and Boyoun (Grace) Chae, from the University of British Columbia, said:

“We propose that people in a disorganized environment experience a threat to their sense of personal control – and being surrounded by chaos ultimately impairs their ability to perform other tasks requiring ‘brain’ power.”

The researchers carried out two studies to observe how participants behaved when placed in an organized environment compared to a disorderly one.

They wanted to see what impact such environments might have of people’s impulse spending as well as stamina on tasks requiring advanced cognitive skills, and mental performance.

Tidy room versus cluttered room

In the first study the volunteers were placed either in a well-organized room or a poorly-organized one. They had to describe how they felt about paying for variety of products, ranging from movie tickets to an HDTV.

The researchers found that those who had been placed in the disorganized, cluttered room were more likely to buy the products compared to their counterparts in the tidy room.

Room size versus room tidiness

In the second study the volunteers either stayed in a tight (confined) room or a normal office sized one. The rooms were either organized or disorganized, i.e. there were four different types of rooms, small/cluttered, large/cluttered, small/organized, and large/organized.

The study showed that room size was a significantly smaller factor in influencing people’s impulse spending and other behaviors than the degree of environmental disorder.

The authors concluded:

“Our research has crucial practical implications concerning public health and consumer well-being. Participants in our studies were exposed to disorganized environments set by us.”

“We expect that if an individual creates a messy environment, their surroundings would be more mentally depleting and lead to an even lower sense of personal control.”

If humans were not susceptible to impulse buying, many companies today would not exist.