Eat before you shop — and not just for groceries

WASHINGTON — Everybody knows you shouldn’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry: You end up buying a lot more food than you really need. But a new study suggests that the same is true for other kinds of shopping as well.

Alison Jing Xu, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, was the lead author of the study, and she tells that she’s found that people “may spend more money online or in a store if they’re hungry while they shop. If you’re hungry, think twice.”

The study put five groups of about 76 people each through tests related to desires in general, including polling subjects at a café and a department store, taking note of how hungry they were when they entered and how many food and non-food items they had bought as they left.

Xu says that the study doesn’t show a slam-dunk cause-and-effect relationship, but that “this is the first time it has been shown that hunger can influence the acquisition of nonfood products.”

She theorizes that hunger may “spill over and put consumers into the mode of wanting more stuff in general.”

“Our thoughts originate in hunger and food, but once those thoughts are in our minds they end up guiding our decisions in the nonfood domain,” she said to

Edward Abramson, professor emeritus of psychology at California State University in Chico, told the study was “fascinating,” and suspected that “the extent to which you are hungry may divert your conscious awareness of what you should buy or shouldn’t buy, or what your budget is.”

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