Psychologist reveals why we rush for Black Friday bargains – and how to avoid it

Do your homework before rushing to buy what looks like a bargain during Black Friday, a consumer psychologist has warned shoppers.

Online retailers are braced for a surge in site visitor numbers for the annual sale event while bricks and mortar stores remain closed during lockdown.

Dr Cathrine Jansson-Boyd, reader in consumer psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, told the PA news agency why it is very easy to get carried away when finding what we think are reduced prices.

“The part of our brain that controls pleasure responds quickly to the sight of a ‘bargain’, helping us experience a rush of excitement,” she said.

“Fearful of missing out on what we think is a good offer, this can lead us to make rash decisions.

“Therefore it’s really important that consumers do their homework before making purchases.

“Make sure you know what an item normally costs so it is clear whether the reduction really is a bargain.

“Having as much information as possible can help your brain ‘put the brakes on’, allowing you to engage in more sensible decision-making.”

A tip Dr Jansson-Boyd recommends is going to grab a cup of tea if you feel uncertain about a possible purchase.


“A really good technique is if you are looking at something and you don’t feel dead certain instantly that you need or want this. then say to yourself, ‘I’m going to go and make a cup of tea, have a think about it for 10 minutes and come back to it’ – and often you’ll find you don’t come back to it,” she explained.

The consumer psychologist said big retailers are well aware of tactics to make people want to buy and hire specialists like her to tap into our desires.

“They will have messages like, ‘you only have 12 hours’, they’ll show you a countdown clock to put extra pressure on you because that means you will be concerned that the time’s coming to an end you might be missing out, it might say there’s only two left or there’s one left, or there’s ten people watching this one item, it kind of fuels this idea that you could genuinely be missing out so, yes, they’re very much aware,” she said.

“They work often with people like me, they understand this, they know what to do, marketing, bigger marketing companies who work with bigger brands usually know this too.”