Retail Therapy

It’s not exactly an intelligence test, but can you find the link: 1,200 pairs of shoes, wretched excess and political corruption and long-term self-directed psychotherapy. A clue: It’s not Imelda Marcos (although few of our readers would recognize or remember the name of the wife of the one-time Philippine dictator).


The answer: “Retail therapy.”


Imelda, of course, was so famous for her shoe collection – found in the presidential palace and other sites around Manila after her husband’s overthrow – that she became a supermodel for wretched excess and political corruption. But, if the wives of infamous dictators like Marcos and Syria’s Assad are notorious for their lavish spending, it may be that they’re simply saving on psychiatric bills. Hey, nobody ever said it’s easy being the wife of a murderous dictator and, a woman’s got to save a little spending money somewhere. After all, consumers often shop to cope with stressful situations.


However, researchers Soo Kim and Derek D. Rucker of the Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern University) now report that consumers are much more selective when it comes to shopping as a way of coping with future challenges.


While it’s been well-established that “retail therapy” is a common (sometimes expensive) coping mechanism after stressful experiences challenge an individual’s self-image – they shop to “forget about it” and distract themselves, the researchers found that consumers also shop when facing potential future challenges to their self-image. They practice retail therapy proactively and to protect themselves against potential challenges.


However, the researchers found proactive consumers are very selective in choosing only products that are specific to the potentially negative situation. For example, buying “smart water” before a math test or the Law School Admissions Test or that “absolutely perfect outfit” for a class reunion with once very judgmental classmates – guarding themselves against others’ perceptions of being a failure at some level.


“Prior to receiving any negative feedback, consumers select products that are specifically associated with bolstering or guarding the part of the self that might come under attack,” the authors conclude in “Bracing for the Psychological Storm: Proactive versus Reactive Compensatory Consumption” in the December 2012 edition of the . Journal of Consumer Research. “After receiving negative feedback, consumers seem to increase their consumption more generally as consumption may serve as a means to distract them from the negative feedback.”

Stress  is still another area in which the Brain Training Centers of Florida help individuals by using brain wave optimization.  For further information, please call (305) 412-5050.



Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.


Posted in: Brain Training, Brain Wave Optimization, Stress

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