Chocolate chip cookie stink makes us buy sweaters

Researchers at the National University of Singapore have published a study that shows that photos and smells of delicious food cause us to make bad risk analysis and make impulse purchases:

In the first experiment, Li asked participants to act as "photo editors of a magazine" and choose among either appetite stimulating pictures of food or non-appetite stimulating pictures of nature. A control group was shown no pictures at all. All were then asked to participate in a lottery that would either pay them less money sooner or more money later.

Those who had been exposed to the photos of food were almost twenty percentage points more likely to choose the lottery with the chance of a smaller, more immediate payoff than those who were exposed to the photos of nature (61 percent vs. 41.5 percent) and eleven percentage points more likely to choose the short-term gain than those who had not been exposed to any stimulus (61 percent vs. 50 percent).

Similarly, another experiment used a cookie-scented candle to further gauge whether appetitive stimulus affects consumer behavior. Female study participants in a room with a hidden chocolate-chip cookie scented candle were much more likely to make an unplanned purchase of a new sweater -- even when told they were on a tight budget -- than those randomly assigned to a room with a hidden unscented candle (67 percent vs. 17 percent).

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(Image: Bake at 325..., a Creative Commons Attribution licensed photo from Clearly Ambiguous's Flickr stream)