Experimental evidence for the influence of cognitions on compulsive buying

Paul McQueen, Richard Moulding, Michael Kyrios

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    12 Citations (Scopus)


    Background and objectives Compulsive buying is a disabling condition, where individuals are unable to resist or control their buying behavior, leading to substantial social and financial problems. Cognitive models implicate the role of beliefs as one factor in buying behavior, for example, "this item is unique and will help me improve my life". Methods This study experimentally examined the contribution of such beliefs to the disorder, in individuals who compulsively buy (N = 18) and in non-clinical controls (N = 17). Participants were presented with photographs of idiosyncratically appealing and unappealing items, in the context of imagined scenarios that either minimized or maximized aspects relevant to hypothesized "compulsive buying beliefs" (i.e., beliefs that acquisition can compensate for negative feelings, beliefs regarding uniqueness and lost opportunities, and emotional reasons for buying). Results It was found that individuals who compulsively buy demonstrated stronger urges to purchase than control participants, regardless of context, but the overall strength of these urges was responsive to manipulations of beliefs about consumer items said to be associated with compulsive buying. Limitations The main limitation of the study was a small sample size, potentially reducing power. Conclusions Nonetheless, these findings provide insights into the processes underlying compulsive phenomena, in particular supporting the role of cognitions in compulsive buying.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)496-501
    Number of pages6
    JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


    • Cognitions
    • Compulsive buying
    • Experimental
    • Oniomania


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