Home CommentaryStudent Life A student’s thesis on buying behaviours

A student’s thesis on buying behaviours

by Mehreen Diwan April 10, 2018
A student’s thesis on buying behaviours
A portrait of Mehreen Diwan, Concordia psychology undergrad who has explored the realm of buying behaviours for her honours thesis. Feature photo courtesy of Mehreen Diwan.

Undergraduate psychology student, Mehreen Diwan shares her research findings

As I begin a career in marketing, I think it’s important for all people in the field to be aware of the types of personality traits that are involved in buying behaviours. The market is comprised of consumers, and I believe that the most important asset of marketing should be to understand the needs and wants of these consumers before presenting them with a given product.

As a fourth-year psychology student, I wrote a thesis this year examining the psychology of buying behaviours. The thesis varies on a continuum, with pathological buying being on one extremity of it. My aim was to examine how impulsivity and the need to reduce tension could lead to the use of shopping as a method to escape negative affect. This was done through the use of the Behavioural Inhibition System (BIS), which regulates aversive motives and the Behavioural Approach System (BAS), which regulates desired motives. I measured the expenses of my sample of university students and community members from Montreal and Guelph with the Timeline Followback questionnaire, a log that allows participants to record the type and amount of their expenses for a period of two weeks.

Participants also completed the BIS/BAS questionnaire, which evaluates the extent to which participants vary in terms of the intensity of their behavioural inhibition and approach. The results from the BAS scale were further broken down into three subscales: BAS Reward “When I get something I want, I feel excited and energized”; BAS Drive “I go out of my way to get the things I want”; and BAS Fun “I seek excitement and new sensations.” To better understand the interactions between BIS and BAS, picture yourself walking through a mall, on the way to a doctor’s appointment. As you walk past a store, the scent from a candle wafts through your nose. Although you are tempted to go into the store, your BIS tells you to keep walking to be on time for your appointment.

However, your BAS then tells you to spare a few minutes to browse through the store. This research identified a significant interaction between the BIS and BAS drive as predictors of how people spend their money. In other words, as one’s drive increases, so does their reported expenses in the two weeks participant spending was tracked.

These results imply that a participant’s drive may be the cause of pathological buying behaviour. Therefore psychologists can train participants to adapt their behaviour to avoid financial strain. Apart from my thesis being an important learning experience in the realm of buying behaviours, it also taught me patience and persistence. I definitely recommend doing an honours thesis to undergraduate students in order to enhance their research skills and experience a hands-on approach to learning about psychology, or any other field.

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