Study: Your Shopping Habits Affect Your Compassion

Photo (cc) by Jorge Lascar

Where you shop influences your treatment of others, for better or for worse.

That was the finding of a new study entitled “Wrong Place to Get Help,” recently published in the journal Social Influence.

The study, which was based on a series of three experiments in Paris, revealed that people who shop at — or even stand in the vicinity of — high-end luxury stores are less likely to help someone in need.

The first experiment took place on Paris’ Triangle d’Or, where many high-end fashion stores are located. Researchers analyzed people’s response to a woman wearing a leg brace as she dropped a bottle of water and a bag of candy and struggled to pick them up. A mere 35 percent of people shopping at the fancy stores stopped to help the woman. When researchers moved the experiment to a street with no stores, 77 percent of people offered to help.

In the second, people shopping on a street with luxury stores were asked by a woman pushing a friend in a wheelchair if they could watch the disabled friend while she ran back into a store to get her cellphone. Just 23 percent of the shoppers agreed to help and stay with the friend in a wheelchair. On a residential street, 82 percent of people were willing to help the woman out.

In the third experiment, when a woman asked to borrow strangers’ cellphones to call her mom, 41 percent complied on a street with expensive stores, 63 percent did in an area of high- and low-end stores, and 74 percent did on streets without stores.

The findings suggest that simply being around expensive luxury-brand stores and their “environmental cues of materialism” boosts feelings of self-worth and competitiveness, making people less likely to help others.

“There are lots of subconscious cues in a retail environment which can alter your behavior,” Ani Collum, partner and retail consultant at Retails Concepts in Boston, tells Yahoo Style. “For example, you may notice that in many supermarkets, bananas are strategically placed in or around the cereal aisle, to suggest they’re bought in pairs. Or, in furniture stores, signs explain the functionality of the item, creating an actionable need for it.”

Collum says the same is true for high-end shopping, where feelings of exclusivity and entitlement follow shoppers into and out of the store.

“The key is to give yourself a mental check the next time you’re shopping so you’re not impacted by these retail cues that can impact your actions, for better or worse,” she says.

Of course, this study was conducted in Paris, so it’s unclear if the findings would be the same if the experiments were conducted on say, Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue.

Are you surprised by the study’s findings? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Find the right financial adviser

Finding a financial adviser you can trust doesn't have to be hard. A great place to start is with SmartAsset's free financial adviser matching tool, which connects you with up to three qualified financial advisers in five minutes. Each adviser is vetted by SmartAsset and is legally required to act in your best interests.

If you're ready to be matched with local advisers who will help you reach your financial goals, get started now.

Read Next
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2020
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2020

Follow these tips to save — so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

3 Bank Accounts With Perks for Customers Age 55 and Older
3 Bank Accounts With Perks for Customers Age 55 and Older

These checking accounts offer exclusive discounts and other perks — including interest — to older customers.

9 Ways to Boost Your Home’s Curb Appeal for Less Than $50
9 Ways to Boost Your Home’s Curb Appeal for Less Than $50

These products will instantly improve your home’s curb appeal without breaking the bank.

5 Ways Retirees Can Lower Their Income Taxes
5 Ways Retirees Can Lower Their Income Taxes

Here’s how to keep Uncle Sam’s mitts away from your nest egg.

4 Ways the Social Security System Will Change in 2020
4 Ways the Social Security System Will Change in 2020

These adjustments will impact both workers and retirees in the new year.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security When He Dies?
Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security When He Dies?

Two factors determine how much money is coming to you.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store
21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store

Dollar stores have great bargains on these familiar purchases. Yes, even pregnancy tests.

13 Brilliant Bulk-Buy Items on Amazon
13 Brilliant Bulk-Buy Items on Amazon

Every household should have these products on hand. Buying them in bulk on Amazon saves you cash.

6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman
6 Reasons I Will Never Trust Suze Orman

Beware: The self-proclaimed personal finance expert has a track record that suggests more sizzle than steak.

This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked
This Type of Social Security Benefit Is Often Overlooked

The Social Security Administration is not helping certain people get money to which they are entitled, a report says.

Getting These 2 Shots Could Reduce Your Risk of Dementia
Getting These 2 Shots Could Reduce Your Risk of Dementia

These vaccines may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 40%.

9 Everyday Problems You Can Solve With Vaseline
9 Everyday Problems You Can Solve With Vaseline

Forget expensive specialty products. Good ol’ petroleum jelly can address many common annoyances.

America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise
America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise

Have you heard of this appliance manufacturer?

16 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
16 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret
19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret

Think twice before buying these things.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Stockpile

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing food supply. Is your pantry prepared?

8 of the Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar Store
8 of the Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar Store

Not everything sold at dollar stores is a great bargain or a safe purchase. Here’s our list of products to avoid.

Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best
Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best

One brand takes five of the top honors, while another ranks highest in three categories.

41 Things You Should Never Buy
41 Things You Should Never Buy

Some purchases are just plain dumb. Give yourself — and your budget — a break. Don’t spend money on this stuff.

9 Indestructible Products That Are Worth the Price
9 Indestructible Products That Are Worth the Price

If you’re willing to pay a little more for these products, you may never have to shop for another again.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Household Disinfectants That Can Destroy the Coronavirus
5 Household Disinfectants That Can Destroy the Coronavirus

You likely already have some of these products at home.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.