Our Sense of Control

Why Do People Buy the Things They Do?

An article in Time studied how our buying patterns are influenced by our sense of control:

those who are feeling less in control are more drawn to structured and orderly products and logos — for example, things that are bounded by thick borders, frames and other sharply defined edges. “Boundaries, by their very nature, dictate where things belong and consequently represent the establishment of order and structure in the environment,

The whole article is interesting. The original paper is here.

The professor who published the paper is named Keisha Cutler, and she does a lot of research on the psychology of consumer behavior.

Are Brands a Religion?

Another paper she wrote suggested brands serve a religious purpose for non-religious people. She even used Apple as an example:

the Macintosh brand has a community following that is equivalent to a religion in many ways, characterized by a strong network of adherents, faith ina “savior” (Steve Jobs), and general enmity toward a common evil (IBM, Microsoft, etc.).

That made me giggle.

Later she posits that the religion-brand similarity only holds true when the products bought are a form of self-expression:

As a part of their self-expressive function, brands allow people to express that they are meaningful, worthwhile beings, and deserving of good things in their lives. In other words, brands can help people communicate a sense of self-worth.

Reading these papers made me think how similar influences move us to exercise and eat.

For people who don’t exercise often, healthy living is often an attempt to create positive mood affiliations, similar to when they buy particular brands.

For people who do it regularly, it’s probably an addiction and a form of self-expression. For others, it’s probably a way to maintain a sense of self-control over their lives.

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