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Black Friday: why our brains love a good deal

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Melea black friday

CLEVELAND CLINIC (ABC4 News) – It’s hard not to get excited if you’re heading out for Black Friday shopping. But can door-buster deals actually play into how our brains are wired?

According to Cleveland Clinic’s Joseph Rock, PsyD – they can –and sometimes, the feel-good chemicals in our brains can set us up to spend more than we should.

“There’s part of us, if the pleasure center’s lighting up, that tells us, ‘I’m getting what I want; this feels good; I like it,’ – and so we delude ourselves that we can afford it, that it’s okay, and that it’s a great deal,” he said.

To keep our Black Friday experiences from draining our bank accounts, Dr. Rock said we have to pause and take time to think things through. He said our brains are biologically wired to make things ‘automatic’ – like driving a car and doing the dishes.

However, if our shopping becomes automatic, and our brain lights up when we make a purchase, by the time the logical part of the brain has time to consider the purchase – it’s too late – we’ve already made the transaction. Dr. Rock said we can also fall victim to ‘participation bias.’

When we go to a store on Black Friday – we’re there to buy – and the part of our brain that controls mindfulness can get pushed aside, so we end up buying more. For those who know they have a problem sticking to a budget on Black Friday, Dr. Rock advises against rushing out to the stores.

“If you know you have a spending problem, and a lot of people are reluctant to admit that, then it’s a good idea to not go on the site, not walk into the store, and even research shows that it’s not a good idea to go to the store with a friend, because you’re more likely to spend,” he said. “People think the other person will hold them back, but as it turns out, usually they encourage you to spend.”

For those who really want to experience Black Friday shopping, but are worried about blowing their finances in the process – Dr. Rock suggests consider allotting a budget in advance – and only paying in cash.

Dr. Rock said it’s also a good idea to have someone you trust, who can help hold you accountable to your budget. “I think it’s a good idea to check-in with somebody close to you – whether you have a spending problem or not,” he said. “We all have pleasure centers in our brain – it does feel good to shop – but having someone to run things by before making an expensive purchase is a great idea.”

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