If you’ve ever fallen foul of impulse buying, as many of us have at one point or another, you’ve probably chastised yourself for a moment of weakness. However, there may be more behind your reckless spending than you think – particularly if you worship celebrities, as new research suggests those of us who obsess over the rich and famous might be more prone to impulse shopping.
“Borderline pathological celebrity worship could positively predict impulsive buying behavior,” write the authors of the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. “Furthermore, the predictive effect was mediated by empathy and moderated by gender."
Specifically, higher levels of borderline pathological celebrity worship led to greater empathy, which, in turn, led to more impulsive buying intent. This effect is relatively stronger among men than women.”
Celebrity worship – an extreme feeling of attachment to a celebrity – can be pathological or non-pathological. Pathological celebrity worship is compulsive, whereas non-pathological celebrity worshippers exhibit a healthy enthusiasm toward their favorite star.
To determine the level of celebrity worship of the study’s 1,319 participants, the researchers had them complete the Celebrity Attitude Scale questionnaire. Participants, aged between 16 and 30, were asked to state how strongly they agreed with statements such as “I would gladly die in order to save the life of my favorite celebrity.”
They completed similar surveys to identify their impulsive buying intent and interpersonal reactivity, which was used to measure empathy.
As hypothesized, the team found that borderline pathological celebrity worship predicted impulsive buying behavior. This relationship was mediated by empathy and moderated by gender. Those with higher levels of celebrity obsession generally had higher levels of empathy and, consequently, greater impulsive buying intent. The effect was more pronounced among males than females.
This is in keeping with previous research, which has found that decisions are often made more impulsively when they regard one’s self or close friends and family.
“It could be inferred that when emotions are involved, individuals tend to make less rational, optimal, or planned decisions. Therefore, relatively higher empathy may [be] associated with more impulsive buying intent,” the authors speculate in their paper.
They add that a heightened ability to empathize may be a consequence of celebrity worship: Some fans become so invested in their favorite celebrities' careers that they begin to view them as their own, feeling happy when they succeed and sad when they fail.
As for the role of gender, the study found that women had much stronger impulse buying tendencies than men at lower levels of borderline pathological celebrity worship. However, as levels of celebrity worship increased in men, impulsive buying intent became more than that of women.
The study was limited by its use of self-reporting questionnaires and a lack of diversity of participants. However, the authors conclude, this newfound link between celebrity worship and impulse purchasing “could affect daily consumer behavior extensively”, and not just when it comes to buying celebrity-endorsed merchandise.
So proceed with caution next time you hit the shops if you’re prone to idolizing your fave celeb – and maybe resist the urge to drink a coffee too, just to be on the safe side.