The Psychology of Impulse Buying: An Integrative Self-Regulation Approach

Bas Verplanken, Ayana Sato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

157 Citations (SciVal)


Impulsive buying grossly violates the assumptions of homo economicus. A variety of perspectives on impulse buying are presented, which have been put forward in consumer, economic, social, and clinical psychology. These include heuristic information processing, time-inconsistent preferences, personality traits and values, self-identity, emotions, conscious self-control, and compulsive buying. These perspectives may sometimes lead to contradictory or paradoxical findings. For instance, impulse buying is often associated with joy and pleasure but has also been found related to negative emotions and low self-esteem. Our argument is that impulsive buying can be understood in terms of psychological functioning, in particular as a form of self-regulation. Regulatory focus theory is then used to bring the various perspectives together by classifying each as a promotion focus strategy (e.g., seeking pleasure) or a prevention focus strategy (e.g., avoiding feelings of low self-esteem). Finally, the question is discussed whether consumers can and should be protected against impulsivity. Our assertion is that regulation against misleading practices that play on the vulnerabilities of impulsive buyers could be sharpened and that information provision to consumers and retailers aimed at strengthening consumers’ self-regulatory capacities may mitigate adverse consequences of impulse buying.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-210
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Consumer Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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