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When 'retail therapy' makes you feel worse

An ASU study looks at whether retail therapy lifts your spirits after a setback.
Need some retail therapy? Some advice: Buy the shoes.
February 4, 2016

ASU professor studies whether shopping helps after a setback

If you just flubbed a big work project, you might be feeling down on yourself. Maybe you’ll head to the mall to indulge in a little retail therapy.

Buying products is a common way to make yourself feel better, with half of all Americans reporting that they do it.

But what kind of purchase will make you feel better? A new pair of shoes or a book that describes how to do that project the right way?

New research by an Arizona State University professor Monika Lisjak has found that buying something that reminds you of your setback can make you feel worse.

Lisjak, an assistant professor of marketing in the W. P. Carey School of Business, studied several hundred university students and the article appeared recently in the Journal of Consumer ResearchLisjak's Her co-authors were Andrea Bonezzi, New York University; Soo Kim, Cornell University, and Derek Rucker, Northwestern University..

“What we know from a lot of research is that people do engage in ‘compensatory consumption,’ which is often referred to as ‘retail therapy.’ "

It happens when people feel discomfort because they see a discrepancy between how competent they are and how competent they wish to be.

"One thing consumers do is buy products to try to repair our feelings," she said.

Buying something to improve your competence is called “within-domain compensation,” and it can backfire, she said.

Monika Lisjak

Monika Lisjak studied whether compensatory consumption helped with discomfort. Photo by Cathy Chlarson/W. P. Carey School of Business

“They end up dwelling on their problems,” Lisjak said.

So if you go shopping to feel better and buy a book on how to create a perfect project, it could just remind you over and over of how poorly you did.

That rumination can drain energy, and Lisjak's study found that people in that state were more likely to have low self-control (expressed by eating M&M candies) and were less likely to do well on tasks (solving math problems).

Lisjak said the results could have implications for marketing, with companies being encouraged to sell products that are “across domain” to take consumers’ minds off their setbacks.

In other words, buy the shoes. 

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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ASU's Night of the Open Door has a little something for everyone.
This is your chance to see inside ASU's many wonders and discoveries.
February 4, 2016

Minecraft, spiders, Rubik's Cubes and more provide an engaging way to plug into the research and learning at ASU

Dragons and crime scenes and spiders, oh my!

Those are just a few of the sights attendees of Arizona State University's Night of the Open Door will be treated to Saturday, Feb. 6, when ASU's West campus welcomes the community into its folds for four fun-filled hours.

From 4 to 8 p.m., visitors will have a front-row ticket to the latest research and developments taking place on West campus in the form of interactive activities in the fields of mathematical and natural sciences, humanities, arts and cultural studies, and social and behavioral sciences.

The evening is the first of five Night of the Open Door events throughout February, as each campus rolls out the welcome mat with free activities and performances for all ages that showcase what ASU has to offer.

At this Saturday’s event, Michelle Gohr, shift supervisor at ASU West campus Fletcher Library, will be overseeing a host of activities, including “Minecraft Photo Booth,” in which participants can pose with Minecraft blocks, wearable costume pieces, diamond swords and life-sized Ender Dragons complete with glowing eyes.

Gohr loves getting the opportunity to interact with members of the community, especially young, impressionable ones who may not know what to expect from a university.

“Not only is it important to reach out to youth in the community, but it’s also critically important to break down stereotypes of university and college that may be cemented at an early age, which is why the library takes a lighter approach to providing fun and engaging activities,” she said. “Through providing fun activities that appeal to youth, together we can show them that education is fun and engaging.”

Forensics professor Kimberly Kobojek echoed Gohr’s sentiment, saying, “Universities are not ‘scary’ places filled with stuffy people. We’re doing a lot of interesting and impactful research, and we’d like to share what we’re doing since it will have some type of positive impact on our community. ASU West has much to offer the youth in our community in the form of summer camps and outreach events like Open Door; I think the community should take advantage of what ASU West is offering!”

Kobojek will be overseeing “Forensic Science Free-for-all!” in the second floor breezeway of the CLCC building, where participants will have the chance to solve the mystery of Sparky’s missing pitchfork, complete with a mock crime scene and evidence.

Up on CLCC’s third-floor breezeway, associate professor Chad Johnson will be safely introducing guests to live specimens of male and female black widow spiders.

“Members of our team will tell them about the spiders’ general life history — what they eat, where they live, how they make their living,” said Johnson.

The team will also be sharing their research with the community, which looks at why black widows are so successful at colonizing human habitats, as well as how we might go about reducing the problem black widows present in urban areas.

“I think this is an exciting opportunity for the public, and young burgeoning scientists in particular, to get a taste of the life of a scientist,” he said.

Other exciting activities include “Make Your Own Comic Book,” a larger-than-life version of the popular digital game “Angry Birds” and the ever-popular “Arizona Rubik’s Cube Competition.”

“We will have over 500 kids all solving Rubik’s Cubes; how could I not look forward to this event?” said Kimberly Landsdowne, executive director of the Herberger Young Scholars Academy who is overseeing the competition.

“It’s fun and kind of nerdy. Which makes it even more fun!”

More apt words could not be found for ASU Night of the Open Door.

Here’s a glimpse of the lineups at ASU’s other campuses throughout the month.

Downtown Phoenix campus, 4-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12

Night of the Open Door at Downtown Phoenix offers fun and interactive activities, exhibits, inspiring innovations and tours of the urban campus that changed downtown Phoenix’s landscape and vibrancy. ASU’s newest campus will offer a first-time peek at the $129 million Arizona Center for Law, home to ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Take a ground-floor tour and view vibrant renderings of the six-story building, which will open in the summer of 2016.

Inspired by the popular TED Talks, the Public Service Impact Talks highlight faculty who are champions of change. The College of Nursing and Health Innovation will showcase its Community Health Center and Theranos lab as well as offer up health, nutrition and wellness experts. Get a behind-the-scenes look at the Cronkite School and Arizona PBS during an interactive walking tour of Cronkite’s professional programs, labs, bureaus and broadcast studios. CSI Phoenix offers attendees to investigate real cadavers, plastinates and organs.

Polytechnic campus, 5-9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19

If Night of the Open Door at ASU’s Polytechnic campus has themes, they are “Become” and “Build.” With more than 30 activities and experiences for all ages, get to experience the fun behind science and technology. Get your high-speed portrait taken and see thermal imaging in “See Your World in a New Way.” At the Career Photo Booth, take a picture of the future you with props from your future career. Undecided on a career? “My Next Move” will walk you through activities to introduce you to possible future careers.

Witness students practicing on the air-traffic control and flight simulators and tour the garage space where student engineers are converting a Chevy Camaro into a high-performance hybrid. At “STEAM Machine” you’ll learn how to make a machine out of PVC pipe, duct tape, mousetraps and other stuff. Get to visit Egypt or play in the Super Bowl in “The Magic of Green Screen Technology.” Whether it’s pickle ball, noodle soccer, beep ball or giant Jenga, there are games everywhere. There’s cotton candy and ice cream at residence hall tours, barbecue sandwiches at the Sun Devil Dining Tent, or a root beer taste test at the Agribusiness Center.

Thunderbird campus, 4-8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20

The Thunderbird School of Global Management started its life as an Army base during World War II and signs of that past are still on the Glendale campus. One of the original hangars has been repurposed into an administrative building and the old control tower is part of the student center. During Night of the Open Door the school’s archivist will have a booth showcasing the past, and the movie “Thunder Birds: Soldiers of the Air,” released in 1942 and shot at Thunderbird Field, will be screened.

Other activities will reflect the international nature of the school, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this spring: lessons in Chinese calligraphy, cooking demonstrations and a rugby clinic. Kid-friendly activities include flag making, puppetry, henna tattoos and rock climbing.

In 2005, the school launched Thunderbird for Good, a program that provides business training to non-traditional students to improve their communities. Its signature program is Project Artemis, which brings women business owners from Afghanistan to campus for a two-week boot camp. The Night of the Open Door will feature a marketplace of their craft items. Start at the “passport” booth before beginning your tour of activities.

Tempe campus, 4-9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27

The final evening of the Night of the Open Door events offers a smorgasbord of activities.

Love steampunk books (or just the costumes)? Head to the Steampunk Mini Con in the basement of the Durham Language and Literature Building for a little cosplay, a costume contest and book signing by Suzanne Lazear, author of the Aether Chronicles.

If Indiana Jones is more your style, the Institute of Human Origins opens its doors for visitors to see and touch skulls and bones (casts) from different phases of human evolution and learn about how humans developed over "deep time" — including the "founding fossil" Lucy, the 3.2 million-year-old Australopithecus afarenesis discovered in Ethiopia by Don Johanson in 1974.

There are so many fun activities, you might not have time for them all. Bring your guitar to two hands-on workshops teaching traditional Spanish styles, Rumba and Bolero. Test your mettle at the Army ROTC’s 100-foot long blowup obstacle course on the Hayden Lawn. Learn about the math behind blackjack and roulette in the Game of Chances room (ages 16 and up).

Help paint a mural at the School of Social Transformation. Get in the groove watching the first official K-Pop (Korean Pop) dance club at ASU perform, including a wide variety of exciting audiovisual elements. Discuss the creation and demise of Scrappy-Doo with ASU’s Scooby-Doo expert. Learn a bit of belly dancing, or how to write your name in the calligraphies of the world including Chinese, Hebrew and Russian.

Learn how to identify animal tracks and view nocturnal animals. View stars through telescopes, tour high-tech labs, compete in an audio scavenger hunt, build a scribble-bot, check out engineering’s “Leaning Tower of Legos,” extract the DNA from a banana, get a henna tattoo and more.

To help plan your adventure in advance, download the Night of the Open Door App or follow on Twitter using the hashtag #ASUopendoor. And if you pre-register, you could also win a free prize (one per campus). Check out the full list of events for each campus and be sure visit the Night of the Open Door welcome tents for your free glow stick, available in limited quantities.