Toilet paper hoarding and the psychology "behind" it

The shelves at the Walmart in Wadena that hold toilet paper and other paper products were almost wiped out on Friday afternoon.

by Karin L. Nauber

Let’s face it and be honest about it... there is no worse feeling than sitting down on the toilet and after things are “well underway” glancing at the toilet paper holder and discovering there is none there!

Trying to predict what is going to be cancelled or is going to happen is like hitting a moving target, so this article isn’t going to tell you those things. As in the last article, we are asking you to please keep checking the Independent News Herald and Verndale Sun Facebook pages for the up-to-date content on the spread of the Coronavirus.

According to a recent CNBC report, “panic buying has been rife amid the global spread of the new Coronavirus, with consumers around the world stockpiling goods like hand sanitizer, canned foods and toilet paper.”

The canned goods aisle was also picked through as shoppers stocked up.

It’s true. If you look at the shelves of your favorite store, you may find them depleted of toilet paper, facial tissues, hand soap, hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes and the like.

But why is the Coronavirus causing such mayhem?

Back to CNBC for the “answer.”

“According to Paul Marsden, a consumer psychologist at the University of the Arts London, the short answer can be found in the psychology of ‘retail therapy’— where we buy to manage our emotional state.

“‘It’s about ‘taking back control’ in a world where you feel out of control,’ he said. ‘More generally, panic buying can be understood as playing to our three fundamental psychology needs.’

“Those needs were autonomy, or a need for control, relatedness, which Marsden defined as ‘we shopping’ rather than ‘me shopping,’ and competence, which is achieved when making a purchase gives people a sense that they are ‘smart shoppers.’”

That being said, is causing worldwide retail shortages of basic necessities like toilet paper really smart shopping?

“Meanwhile, Sander van der Linden, an assistant professor of social psychology at Cambridge University, said there were both generalized and Coronavirus-specific factors at play.”

In essence, van der Linden said that if you see others doing it (stockpiling supplies) you are going to do it, too.

He calls it a “fear contagion” and it is spreading faster than the Coronavirus itself.

“‘When people are stressed their reason is hampered, so they look at what other people are doing. If others are stockpiling, it leads you to engage in the same behavior,’ he said. ‘People see photos of empty shelves and regardless of whether it’s rational, it sends a signal to them that it’s the thing to do.’”

Worldwide we have seen photos and videos of empty shelves. It is enough to make even the most level-headed person go out and buy a pallet or two of toilet paper!

Just take a look at social media, ie: Facebook and you will see post after post related to toilet paper hoarding, or some other Coronavirus-related mayhem.

But why toilet paper?

Back to CNBC and another expert they interviewed. . . . .

Click here to read more . . . .


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