Am I Buying This Just Because It’s Hot Out?

53721446_shopping_409705c               We all know that outside influences can affect our decisions, especially with the frequent manipulation of commercials, ads, and even store environments to encourage us to buy products we may or may not need. These manipulations are often subtle and subconsciously affect us, meaning that we are unaware that we have been directed to buy the product and we commonly think that it is exclusively our own decision to make the purchase. However, these alterations that encourage us to give in are not always in the hands of a team of advertisers, but rather Mother Nature.

Researchers Xun I. Huang, Meng Zhang, Michael K. Hui, and Robert S. Wyer Jr. conducted a series of studies examining the effects of warm temperatures on product preferences and financial decisions. The researchers suspected that warm temperatures may encourage us to conform, thus leading us to want a product that other people have or rate positively. Huang and colleagues completed four studies, each examining different aspects of conformity and this relationship to product preference and making financial decisions, like stock market forecasting and betting.

Huang and colleagues’ first study examined the relationship of warm temperatures to product preference, based on the consumers feeling of closeness towards previous raters of the products they were evaluating. They found that those placed in a warmer room, 75-77 degrees Fahrenheit, were more likely to purchase the preferred option and even rated themselves as feeling closer to the, unknown to them, raters of the products. These effects were not shown for those in a cooler room, 61-63 degrees Fahrenheit. The experimenters conducted a follow up study similar to their first one, but instead of providing percentages to indicate raters’ preference, they represented the liking of the product through relative market shares, with a high share indicating popularity. The results to this study paralleled with the first: the participants in the warm condition were more likely to choose the product with the highest share than those in the cool condition. These two studies indicate that being in a warmer environment encourages us to conform, be closer to, and follow others.

The experimenters wanted to further investigate the effects of warmer temperatures on conformity, and instead of measuring it through product preference, looked at it with financial predictions, specifically the stock market. The findings from this study remain consistent with the previous studies, in that participants in a warmer room were more likely pick the stock that they thought others picked. Like the previous studies, these effects were not as prevalent for those in the cooler room.

With results suggesting that warmer temperatures affect our financial decisions in that we do what others do, the experimenters wanted to see if being warm affected another financial decision: betting. Participants were instructed to imagine being at a horse racetrack and were getting ready to make bets. They were given background information on horse betting, specifically how the “favorite” horse was the one others had betted on. Consistent with Huang and colleagues’ previous findings, those in the warmer room were more likely to put their bet on the “favorite” and even viewed others’ bets as more valid and rated that they liked the other bettors.

The experimenters, with strong evidence that warmer temperatures lead us to think others’ preferences as more valid, liking other raters or bettors more, and overall conformity to others decisions, looked at real world situations. They obtained racetrack data from Hong Kong and evaluated temperatures and how many bettors betted on the “favorite”. They found that bettors were more likely to bet on the “favorite” when it was a hot day.

These findings suggest that warmer temperatures encourage us to conform, or “go with the flow”, when buying products and making financial decisions. These are very intriguing results, because I know when I am shopping, I am not thinking about how the current temperature may be making me feel closer to others and wanting to have the same product as them! These results will hopefully be further investigated, and who knows, in the future it may be applied in stores!

Huang, X., Zhang, M., Hui, M. K., & Wyer, R. J. (2014). Warmth and conformity:                    The effects of ambient temperature on product preferences and financial decisions.  Journal Of Consumer Psychology, 24, 241-250. doi:10.1016/j.jcps.2013.09.009


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