Group Dynamics of Impulse Buying: an Extended Social Facilitation Perspective

Xueming Luo, State University of New York at Fredonia
EXTENDED ABSTRACT - While impulsive buying has attracted researchers’ attention for more than one and a half centuries (e.g., Mill 1848; Baumeister 2002), most existing theory and research are limited to investigate it at the intrapersonal level. Although the individual level conceptualization of impulse buying is definitely not incorrect, it may be incomplete in that it excludes the potential interpersonal influence at the group level. Given the fact that most consumers shop not alone but with a group of people such as family members or friends, and that a large amount of impulse purchases are decided and made in the presence of friend and/or family groups, it seems rather logic to conceive the potential influence of group situations on one’s impulse behavior. More important, according to social facilitation theory in social psychology (Triplett 1897; Zajonc 1965), an individual consumer’s learning, motivation, and behavior may be facilitated by the presence of a group of people. In particular, consumers may engage in impulsive buying in a group situation that others are buying for five different reasons; (1) they are facilitated simply due to the mere presence of others, (2) they think others’ opinions and behaviors are credible under the informative influence, (3) they may use others’ behavior and their purchase as socially approved and desirable in general under the normative influence, (4) they want to compete when others are buying, not missing out on having products that others have, and (5) they may have released the inhibition in buying products they don’t need but want to do so, taking others’ buying behavior as a reasonable justification. Therefore, this research theorizes that the social presence and interactions with a group of people in shopping may influence the individual’s felt impulse and resulting impulsive behavior.
[ to cite ]:
Xueming Luo (2004) ,"Group Dynamics of Impulse Buying: an Extended Social Facilitation Perspective", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 31, eds. Barbara E. Kahn and Mary Frances Luce, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 431-431.