How Emotion Influences Purchasing - Negative Emotions Steer Consumer Choices Down Different Paths

Published: 19th June 2008
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Most people like to enjoy the illusion that they are rational consumers. However, more and more studies are demonstrating the powerful impact that emotions play in buying decisions. In a recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers found that customers in an angry mood make different purchasing decisions than customers in a sad mood, demonstrating that negative emotions vary in how they influence consumer decision-making.

Angry Mood Makes Consumers More Likely to Stick to Their Guns

Angry consumers were 37% more likely to stick with their existing choices than sad individuals. In other words, angry individuals are less likely to see the advantages or benefits of a new product or service. People in an irritable or angry mood become cognitively rigid, which is to say, their neural nets are knotted. Until they calm down, new information will be ignored.

Sad Mood Still Open to Options

On the other hand, individuals who were sad behaved the same as those in a neutral mood (i.e., a 5 on a 1 to 10 scale) when it came to consumer decision making. In contrast, folks in a funk (i.e., sad sacks) have a tendency to look at options closely and carefully and then make the best decision based on the information at hand.

Take Home Message

Different negative emotions influence behavior differently yet predictably. If you know how someone is feeling, you can predict (within a certain range) how they will behave.

For example, if you sell consumer packaged goods, you are more likely to sell new products to sad consumers than angry ones. Individuals in an angry mood are significantly more likely to stick with status quo. Angry peoples' thoughts comingle with, and are influenced by, an angry mood. As a result, they tend to overfocus and dwell on their anger and, typically, do not look at options or possibilities.

A mood of sadness or melancholy gives one the chance to reflect and a willingness to ponder a variety of possibilities. This is typically done in an attempt to self-correct one's mood towards a neutral middle ground.


As an individual, be wary of making any important decisions when you are angry. You could be missing some fantastic opportunities!

As a corporation, have your finger continuously on the pulse of how your customers feel. Awareness of the mood of the consumer can lead to a more engaging, pleasant and profitable relationship.

Source: Incidental and Task-Related Affect: A Re-Inquiry and Extension of the Influence of Choice. Journal of Consumer Research. June 2005.

Author Information

Dr. John Schinnerer is President and Founder of Guide To Self, the executive coaching company that focuses on helping executives manage anger and stress using mindfulness, attentional control and positive psychology. He holds a Ph.D. in psychology from U.C. Berkeley. Dr. Schinnerer coaches executives, individuals and groups to their potential using the latest in scientifically proven interventions. Most recently, Dr. John Schinnerer hosted over 200 episodes of Guide To Self Radio, a prime time radio show on positive psychology and emotional management, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Dr. Schinnerer also serves as President of Infinet Assessment, a psychological testing company ( Infinet was founded in 1997 to examine what competencies make individuals successful in the workplace. Infinet has worked with companies such as UPS, CSE Insurance, and Schreiber Foods.

Dr. Schinnerer wrote the award-winning book, "Guide To Self: The Beginner's Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought," to help individuals manage destructive emotions and find happiness in life. He has written articles on corporate ethics, sports psychology, and EQ in the workplace for Workspan magazine,, and Business Ethics. He has given numerous presentations, radio shows, interviews and seminars to tens of thousands of people for organizations such as Kaiser Permanente, Yahoo, Microsoft, Starbucks, SHRM, NCHRA, KNEW and KDIA. Dr. Schinnerer sits on the Advisory Board for - one of the top three sites on the web for psychology.

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