Impulse Buying and Cognitive Dissonance: A Study Conducted Among the Spring Break Student Shoppers

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine certain aspects of the relationship between impulse buying and resulting cognitive dissonance in the context of spring break student shopping.

Design/Methodology/Approach: The paper employs exploratory analysis utilizing a quantitative approach. The sample population was drawn from college students who went on shopping trips during their spring break. The survey instrument measures the cognitive dissonance construct and the impulsive trait, among other things. Because spring break shopping by students differs from typical adult shopping, some context specific nuances are also explored.

Findings: The first hypothesis tested was that the level of cognitive dissonance resulting from impulsive buying would be significantly greater than that which occurred after a planned purchase. Additionally, informed by prior theory, it was expected that more impulsive individuals would experience a higher level of cognitive dissonance after an unplanned purchase than less impulsive individuals. However, the empirical data were found to directly contradict these hypotheses. Impulsive buyers seem to experience rather lower levels of cognitive dissonance than planned buyers. Likewise, when a typically non‐impulsive buyer makes an impulsive purchase, the cognitive dissonance experienced by him is seen to be significantly higher than when a typically impulsive buyer makes such a purchase. These findings lead to a new theory, according to which, impulse buying behavior may be a coping strategy used to avoid discomfort associated with the possible disconfirmation of expectations.

Originality/Value: Understanding present generation college students' consumption‐related behavior may give vital clues about the changing nature of consumption, as well as offering predictors for the consumption behavior of the adult population in the near future. In addition, by testing certain so far unexplored aspects of the relationship between impulse buying and cognitive dissonance, the paper enriches consumer research literature.

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Young Consumers





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