Saturday, December 22, 2012

Your Brain on Coupons?

Are you incredibly stressed out by last minute Christmas shopping? Can you feel your heart race and your blood pressure rise as your evil competitor swipes the last MONSTER HIGH® SWEET 1600™ CLAWDEEN WOLF® Doll out of your hands? Well try shopping with coupons!

That's right, Paul Zak and have scientifically proven that coupons make you happier and more relaxed:

CGU researchers discover that coupons can make shoppers happier and more relaxed

Monday, November 26, 2012

Researchers from Claremont Graduate University (CGU's) Center for Neuroeconomic Studies have discovered evidence to suggest that coupons can help make shoppers happy and relaxed.

Their new study, “Your Brain on Coupons: Neurophysiology of Couponing” is the first known scientific research performed in a laboratory setting measuring the physiological and psychological effects of coupons on the human body. The study, expected to be formally published in the coming months, is based on research conducted by Professor Paul Zak and his team, who are widely credited for popularizing neuroeconomics and studying the effects of hormone oxytocin.

And the study has found a solution for the challenge of creative gift giving: no more racking your brain for a personalized selection for your spouse. Coupons are even better than Christmas presents!!
Zak’s team looked at the neurologic effects of couponing to find out what really happens when people receive a savings offer, such as a coupon or coupon code. They found that oxytocin, a hormone that is directly related to love and happiness, spikes when people receive a coupon, and, in fact, increases more than when people receive a gift. The data shows that coupons make consumers happier and more relaxed, underscoring that the holidays don’t have to be as stressful as people think.

“The study proves that not only are people who get a coupon happier, less stressed and experience less anxiety, but also that getting a coupon—as hard as it is to believe—is physically shown to be more enjoyable than getting a gift,” Zak said. “These results, combined with the findings of other research, suggest that coupons can directly impact happiness of people, promote positive health and increase the ability to handle stressful situations, all of which is particularly valuable as we head into the holiday season when stress levels tend to be at an all-time high.”

Be sure to quote this surprising finding when your father expresses disappointment upon opening his present and discovering coupons to save $1.50 on Hershey's Simple Pleasures, $3.00 on (1) AXE holiday pack, and 50¢ off Pampers. He's out of touch with his own body, which clearly exhibits greater joy with these beauties than if he had received that highly coveted Titleist 910D2 driver.

Oxytocin is the Love Hormone

And we all know that oxytocin is directly related to only love and happiness, right Ed Yong? 1 has conveniently provided a sneak preview of these exciting results, well in advance of their publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Isn't that what Open Science is all about?? 2

Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Oxytocin on the Rise

During the study, some participants received a $10 coupon while grocery shopping online while others did not. The findings resoundingly show that women3 who received coupons during the study had significantly higher levels of oxytocin and dramatically reduced stress. Key findings include:
  • Higher Oxytocin Levels. Up 38 percent, this marked response is higher than levels associated with kissing, cuddling and other social interactions related to this hormone that is known to be associated with happiness.
  • Decreased Stress. Coupons were associated with reductions in several different measures of stress in the heart, skin, and breathing in those who received a coupon over those who did not. Specifically:
    • Respiration rates fell 32 percent compared to those who did not get a coupon.
    • Heart rates dropped 5 percent from 73 beats per minute to 70 beats per minute.
    • Sweat levels on the palms of the hands were 20 times lower for those who received a coupon.
  • Find Your Happy Place. Those who received coupons were 11 percent happier than those participants who did not get coupons.
    • This was measured by participants rating how happy they were on a scale from 1 to 10 at the end of the experiment. This research, coupled with existing data, shows that happiness is dependent on a person’s physiological state and that social activities that relax us, like coupons, make us happier.

Previously in The Neurocritic, I've written about how Professor Zak used to have a more circumspect view of oxytocin, calling out the Liquid Trust folks for their hyperbole (see Paul Zak, Oxytocin Skeptic?). Not any more...
What happened in the last few years? Was it the TEDification of academic media success and book deals? Repeated use of the first person singular when referring to work done by a multitude of people?

"...The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity details how I discovered a brain chemical, oxytocin, that makes us moral."

But really, with only a few more shopping days left before Christmas, who can resist the seductive allure of Your Brain... on Coupons? 4

BONUS! Special offer for readers of The Neurocritic! Use coupon code OXYTOCIN at checkout for 10% off everything in the AllTheFrills shop. Have a happy, relaxed day!


1 #Schmoxytocin

2 I'm sure they'd provide all their raw data if you asked them for it...

3 Hmm, the Claremont press release didn't specify that the findings applied only to women. No wonder Dad was so unhappy...

4 The HuffPo piece misidentifies Dr. Paul Zak as a neurologist. He has a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania {PDF}.

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At December 23, 2012 3:21 AM, Blogger Neuroskeptic said...

It seems to me that Zak has a stack of coupons up his sleeve: "One Overblown Media Article Promoting Your Bad Study".

A big stack.


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