Nothing Makes You Want to Shop Like a Reminder You're Gonna Die

Illustration for article titled Nothing Makes You Want to Shop Like a Reminder You're Gonna Die

Have you been known to reach for the snacks while stressed? Then you won't be shocked by this similar trick of the mind: Reminders of your own inescapable mortality will inspire you to buy, buy, buy. But those shoes are for real so cute! Def get them!


Pacific Standard reports on a study out of Radboud University, in the Netherlands. Researchers exposed study volunteers to ads for newspaper subscriptions with some fairly blatant memento mori, to see how it impacted their likelihood of purchase:

One ad for the newspaper "showed a picture of a coffin carried by soldiers underneath the headline 'Fallen Dutch Soldier Buried.' The advertising slogan read 'Subscribe to the Volkskrant this summer for only 9.95!'" The alternative ad emphasized another issue entirely—road construction—and made no mention of death.

Similarly, one ad for the art library "Showed a painting of a skull and the slogan 'Bring art to your home with the art library and save money.' The other used an image that did not contain any death references."

Respondents said they didn't like the ads—but they were comparatively more interested in buying whatever was advertised. A second experiment involved showing volunteers an interactive ad featuring their very own tombstone, versus an ad with a little boy sitting in front of a mailbox. (Don't you want to party with the grad students who dreamed these examples up? Goth Uni over here.) Sure enough, participants preferred the more macabre of the two and said they'd be likely to subscribe.

Conclusion: "fear of death produces a tendency to act that is not linked to conscious thought." Nor was the better-known newspaper more popular, which "suggests it may be buying per se, rather than the soothing quality of cherished brands, that increased purchase intentions." (Unlike, say, nostalgic content about Saved by the Bell.)

Pretty sure this explains Black Friday.

Photo via Getty.



For me, at least, the thought of dying makes me want to throw shit away. I realize this is ridiculous (I'm 27), but I saw, during the clean-up effort, the ridiculous amounts of crap that my late grandparents had collected over 50+ years of living in their house and I thought: I will never, ever leave this much stuff for my family to reluctantly sift through. The habit of keeping what you love/truly need and tossing the rest is a skill I'd like to hone over the next, oh, 50 years (if I'm lucky), and thinking about my hypothetical death (can't take it with you, etc., etc.) is probably a good place to start.

Also, I just recently read Roz Chast's "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?" where she dispenses some excellent insight about amassing things. I highly recommend this book (if only because Roz Chast is an American treasure):…