Dr. Sunghwan Li, professor of marketing and consumer studies at the University of Guelph in Ontario, has been studying reactions, specifically guilt and shame, to impulsive purchases. In researching the effect of one recent impulsive purchase on 222 college students, Yi found that “people who feel guilty about it are likely to fare better than those who experience the more intense feeling of shame.” Yi theorizes that guilt, connected to a single spending lapse, can lead people to look for better methods of avoiding such buys in the future and can spur them to find ways of making up for the money spent. Those who experience shame—negative feelings tied to a person’s core or self-worth—often turn instead to less-effective coping methods, such as hiding the item from family members, avoiding the bill, or becoming defensive when the spending is mentioned.
For those who experience shame, Yi suggests using “more proactive coping responses,” such as seeking advice from trusted friends or seeking help from credit counselors or therapists. To learn more about Dr. Yi’s research, go to Dr. Yi’s research homepage www.uoguelph.ca/consumerimpulse.