By Kelli B. Grant
Try to avoid making any big financial decisions — or even hitting the mall — right after yoga class. Conventional wisdom says that people make better decisions when calm, cool and collected, but a new study found that being relaxed might actually make you less able to spot a good deal.
Just how bad is it? More relaxed people priced a spa treatment as 84% more valuable, according to “Relaxation Increases Monetary Valuations,” set to be published in the fall issue of Journal of Marketing Research. Care to go bungee jumping? The relaxed group was willing to pay 81% more. Even many little luxuries like potato chips and ice cream jumped 11% and 51% in value. Over six smaller studies, the more relaxed group of participants thought items were 33% more valuable on average than did those who were less relaxed.
The research suggests that the more relaxed you are, the more likely you are to think about how desirable a product is rather than practical considerations like its price and quality, says researcher Michel Tuan Pham of Columbia University who co-authored with study with Iris W. Hung of National University of Singapore and Gerald J. Gorn of the University of Hong Kong. “It’s a psychological reaction to the biology of being relaxed, which tells your system there’s no threat in the environment,” Pham says.
So, for example, someone buying a digital camera might be thinking about the great pictures it will let them take, and not whether the number of megapixels is adequate. Some products had bigger gaps than others, but it’s not clear why, he says.
But the findings don’t mean you’re better off being stressed out, either, Pham says. (All study participants were in a good state of mind; some were just more relaxed than others.) Rather, shoppers should think more about the relaxing shopping environments that many retailers, especially luxury brands, try to cultivate. “Be aware that things look better in part because you’re relaxed,” he says.