Forthcoming research from two University of Utah marketing professors suggests how eating a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and mashed potatoes makes consumers less likely to buy on impulse, which might affect the outcome of their shopping on Black Friday, historically one of the busiest retail shopping days of the year.
In "We Are What We Consume: The Influence of Food Consumption on Consumer Impulsivity," Arul Mishra and Himanshu Mishra show how the types of food consumed during Thanksgiving can influence impulsive choices; for instance whether consumers buy on sales the next day or not.
"Most of us don't connect what we eat to our subsequent choices," Arul Mishra said. "However, our research shows that types of food, such as turkey, make people behave less impulsively. Such people are less likely to buy products available at a discount and will find it easier to restrain their impulsive urges and choices."
In other words, if you're looking to spend less this holiday season, eat a good Thanksgiving meal.
Arul and Himanshu Mishra, who are wife and husband, both are assistant professors of marketing at the University of Utah's David Eccles School of Business. They teach graduate and undergraduate courses on consumer behavior, advertising strategies and behavioral decision methods. Their new study has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Marketing Research.
The researchers approached study participants between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. on a Thanksgiving holiday and asked them to fill out an online questionnaire. "We found that participants who had consumed a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with turkey displayed less willingness to buy deeply discounted products compared to those who did not consume a traditional dinner," Himanshu Mishra said.
The combination of tryptophan-rich foods like turkey and carbohydrates like mashed potatoes increases levels of serotonin, a chemical produced in the brain that affects many functions in the central nervous system, including mood, appetite, sleep and some cognition. Serotonin levels have also been shown to correlate with impulsive behaviors. The researchers conclude people who have increased levels of serotonin, such as someone who recently ate a large turkey dinner, are less prone to impulsive purchases. Most meats (e.g., turkey, chicken) and tofu have the amino-acid tryptophan that synthesizes serotonin.
Protein shakes, which also have high levels of serotonin, were also found to reduce consumers' impulses. "Given that people consume several types of protein drinks for breakfast, they should be made aware that such drinks can reduce their impulsive responding," Himanshu Mishra said.
The authors suggest that if consumers are made aware that serotonin from specific foods can reduce impulsive product choice and responding, they could use this information to modify their behavior.
"Marketers and retailers can also benefit from these findings as impulsive choices by customers can result in more product returns," Arul Mishra concluded. "Knowing that the type of food consumed by customers can influence their subsequent choice suggests the types of food they might serve in their store outlets to induce more productive shopping habits."
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