A Armstrong - Mindfulness and Compulsive Buying (SLRG Seminar Jan 2013)


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Dr. Alison Armstrong on Mindfulness and Psychologically Motivated Consumption
SLRG-Lunchtime Seminar, University of Surrey - 23 January 2013

For more information visit the SLRG website: http://www.sustainablelifestyles.ac.uk

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A Armstrong - Mindfulness and Compulsive Buying (SLRG Seminar Jan 2013)

  1. 1. ESRC Research Group on lifestyles, values and environmentMindfulness and Compulsive Buying Dr. Alison Armstrong alison@presentminds.org SLRG Seminar: 23rd January 2013
  2. 2. Background & Motivation• Over-consumption in the west • Poor for individual wellbeing • Poor for social wellbeing • Poor for ecological wellbeing• Mindfulness • Popularised Buddhist technique encouraging non- judgemental awareness of the present moment • Shown effective for improving individual, social and ecological wellbeing• Intuitive connection
  3. 3. Consumption• Psychologically motivated • Affective “Retail Therapy” Symbolic Self-Completion Theory • Symbolic (Wicklund & Gollwitzer, 1982) Self-Discrepancy Theory (Higgins, 1987; Higgins et al, 1990; Higgins et al, 1992) • (Functional)
  4. 4. When it’s Out of Control• The Compulsive Buyer • Spontaneous urges to buy experienced as intense and urgent • Related to positive affect: excitement, stimulation, feeling good • Lack of control • Continues despite negative consequences • Often seek experience of buying rather than the good itself• Addiction: bio-psychosocial
  5. 5. Compulsive Buying• Women probably more than men• 5.5% -16% of population• Peak occurrence as young adults• Occurs alongside depression, anxiety, low self- esteem, and other compulsive behaviours
  6. 6. Mindfulness• “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment” (Kabat-Zinn, 2003)• Collection of facets? • Awareness, observing • Paying attention, focus • Non-judgemental • Non-reactivity to experience, accepting • Describing experience
  7. 7. How to Develop Mindfulness• Meditation• Attend a course • Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) • Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) • Vipassana (Insight) meditation• Practice (formal and informal)• Effectiveness • Mood disorders, self-esteem, self-regulation, sense of self (identity)
  8. 8. Conceptual Links PsychologicalOver-Consumption / Compulsive Affective Mindfulness Buying Behavioural
  9. 9. Compulsive Buyers Learning Mindfulness: Research Questions • What is it like to be a compulsive buyer? • What is it like for compulsive buyers to learn mindfulness? • What impact on life/shopping? • Is there measurable change compared to control groups? • What can be said about the psychological process of change? • What are the implications for consumption / sustainability more broadly?
  10. 10. Study Design T1 TM T2 T3 8 week Mindfulness InterventionCompulsive Interview (1) Questionnaire Interview (2) Interview (3)Buyers Questionnaire (mindfulness Questionnaire Questionnairelearning Receipts only) ReceiptsMindfulness(6) VideoCompulsive Questionnaire QuestionnaireBuyers notlearningMindfulness(6)“Normal” Questionnaire Questionnaire QuestionnaireBuyers (mindfulnesslearning only)Mindfulness(6) Video
  11. 11. Variable being Measured Scale chosenMindfulness Five-Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (Baer et al, 2006) Compulsive Buying Scale (d’Astous, Maltais &Tendency to compulsively buy Roberge, 1990) Quantitative DataObsessive-compulsiveness of shopping cognitions and Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale – Shoppingbehaviours Version (Monahan, Black & Gabel, 1996)Impulse Buying Impulse Buying Scale (Dittmar, Beattie & Friese, 1996) Reported (Ethical) Buying (Pepper, Jackson & Uzzell,Reported pro-social and pro-environmental buying 2009)Obsessive-compulsiveness Obsessive-Compulsive Inventory (Foa et al, 2002)Depression Beck Depression Inventory (Beck, Steer & Brown, 1996; Beck et al, 1996) Beck Anxiety Inventory (Beck et al, 1988; Beck &Anxiety Steer, 1990)Satisfaction with Life Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener et al, 1985) Positive and Negative Affect Scale (Watson, Clark &Affect experiences Tellegen, 1988)Self-esteem Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965; 1989) Self-Discrepancy Index (Dittmar, Beattie & Friese,Identity self-discrepancy 1996) Habit Index of Negative Thinking (Verplanken et al,Negative self-image 2007)Materialism Material Value Scale (Richins & Dawson, 1992)Tolerance of uncertainty Need for Closure Scale (Kruglanski, 2010; Webster & Kruglanski, 1994) Ambiguity subscale onlyPsychological distancing Experience Questionnaire (Fresco et al, 2007)Spirituality Spirituality Assessment Scale (Howden, 1992)
  12. 12. Before Mindfulness Intervention: Being a Compulsive Buyer
  13. 13. The Emotional Role of BuyingFeeling dreadful Fran: “things I find particularly hard are decisions to do with my children, ‘cause I feel whatever I’m doing or decide will affect them and erm, yea, if I’m faced with two decisions, I’ll analyse and look at both sides, because each one could have a knock-on effect, and then I’ll take that beyond to “if I go down that route the knock-on effect from that, from that, from that” and then down. So by the time, again, by the time I’ve finished, I’ve lived through so many events that couldn’t possibly happen [... but] I’m responsible, have to be responsible for any misfortune that might happen to them.”
  14. 14. The Emotional Role of BuyingBuying to feel better Fran: “I get caught up in the whole world of shopping, which takes me away from worrying about, perhaps things I don’t want to, ‘cause I’m worrying about the shopping “should I take it back?”” Katie: “I just had massive, massive panic attacks all the time. (...) and so I think I was trying to make myself feel better and actually have control over something else, and I think that’s when [the shopping] started to get quite bad, (...) to go and do something and make yourself feel a little bit better, a little bit brighter” Katie: “it’s kinda like getting a present, ‘cause you’re kinda opening it up, they’re kinda wrapped up” Katie: “when I go out of the house or whatever [wearing something new], I just feel like, erm, I don’t feel as normal as I do every other day”
  15. 15. The Emotional Role of BuyingBuying to feel better Vicious cycles June: “I’m aware of depression being there that, and I mean the anxiety, and of course it gets worse because the last year or two I’ve realised what an enormous debt I have mounted up and the anxiety’s so great now, you know, I’m like treading on egg shells” June: “I think it’s the guilt, you know, the awful shame of, you know, why have you done this? You know, if I had an illness like a cancer or something, you would say to a friend, but this is an illness in a way that you can tell no one, you know, it’s like I’m in some dreaded disease”
  16. 16. Symbolic Reasons for BuyingI don’t know who I am ... June: “But you sort of want to live this double life, you know, I mean, I look at my wardrobe and I think, there’s loads of clothes that I hardly ever wear that were bought on the basis that I’m a different woman, really. (...) it is like leading a double life, there’s this woman who goes shopping all the time, who’s buying things for a, to be a woman, some other woman, and then there’s me that’s, you know, that doesn’t really know who I am any more, don’t know, you know, what I’ve done it for.”
  17. 17. Symbolic Reasons for Buying But I want to be ...looking / being the part Maggie: “I have recently just put on a hell of a lot of weight which I absolutely hate. (...) I hope I can lose this weight.” June: “I’ve even bought clothes that don’t really fit me, I bought them from Minuet which is for petite women, because maybe I wanted to be petite, I don’t know whether it was that that appealed. They all seemed to look nice, the shape of them was nice.” Fran: “I preserve this front. You know, I’m always the Mum at the school that’s baked all these cakes, you know, I wouldn’t miss a thing like that. I volunteer for this, that and the other”
  18. 18. Symbolic Reasons for Buying But I want to be ...Looking / being the part Ethan: “I suppose the branding, the label and the advertisement creates a sense of quality, creates a sense of excitement. You know, you buy a product that’s just had an amazing ad campaign and because everyone’s seen it, it’s like you’re then part of that campaign.” Katie: “And then you come out, and by the time you get home you’ve got like five different bags, and you know, you’re kinda walking along and you think “yea, people can see I’ve been shopping” and I feel like I’ve had a good day here, especially with the nice bags that are sort of with the string and everything, not plastic ones, and that that makes me feel like you’ve done something worthwhile.”
  19. 19. AddictedI’ll just buy this ... Maggie: “I think “oh, just this once” sort of thing. “I’ll just do it now, and then I’ll wear these and that’ll be good, and I’ll get rid of some others that I’ve got that I don’t want any more, and then these’ll last me for a few years”. But it doesn’t work like that.” Fran: “if I buy something that I think looks nice in one colour and it, I’ve then got to get it in all the other colours, because I think “oo, that’s, yea, that does make me look OK, I’d better get more of those” (...) I get carried away, and almost to the point where I’m so hyped up in a shop that I get, I’m not really sure of what I’m doing.” Katie: “And then you get home and you look at your bags and you think “fuck it, I can’t afford this, and I’ve done it yet again”.”
  20. 20. AddictedBroke, yet tripping over stuff Fran: “my husband hates it, ‘cause he’s a very ordered [person] (...) and he says he’s just tripping over stuff, it’s just stuff, it’s like this collection of stuff in various rooms that I keep shut away. He, yea, he doesn’t like it, and it has a big impact, and the children don’t like it ‘cause you can’t get in to these rooms.”
  21. 21. After Mindfulness Intervention: What Happens When Compulsive Buyers Learn Mindfulness
  22. 22. Measures Changed
  23. 23. Understanding Mindfulness June: “it’s more to do with awareness, and it’s not about relaxing so much, it’s more about your awareness, heightening your awareness” Fran: “always on the first day back I want to wear newclothes, and I didn’t this time. I made myself. I thought “no, I,why do I need to wear new clothes, wear something I’ve wornbefore and see what happens”. That was alright [laugh]. And I think, yea it is, it’s just doing it differently.”
  24. 24. Choice Over Thoughts and FeelingsSo that’s how I think and I am not my thoughts feel!Seeing things differently Stay here; no need to run away How different understanding is I feel better! achieved
  25. 25. Choice Over Thoughts and FeelingsSo that’s how I think and Fran: “I think I realised I’m not very kind to feel! myself, in fact I think I beat myself up a lot, all the time.” Fran: “it’s not the same rush that I get with the shopping, or that initial, but the overall experience gives a much nicer feeling. (...) it’s a more relaxed feeling. Whereas with the shopping it’s that initial rush, all that excitement and then you’ve got all the coming down from that, and all the worry and everything afterwards, this might not be the massive rush at the beginning, it’s a more gentle gradual process in that you plan it, you go off, we do it we have fun. (...) So the buzz was less I suppose, but it went on for longer and lasts, and it didn’t have this awful crash afterwards” Maggie: “it made me feel extremely panicky and I had to, I had to sit up, thinking I’ve got to stop this, this is awful”
  26. 26. Choice Over Thoughts and FeelingsSo that’s how I think and feel! June: “[Marketing messages are] just so unrealistic, I do know that now, well, I always knew it at the back of my mind, but you suppress that realistic thought because your, your mind’s taken over on euphoria” June: “I mean it’s funny with clothes, I’ve got things in my wardrobe that I can remember I wore that when I was very upset, and it’s got emotional attachments. (...) I thought to myself, well, you know, there’s say, you know a skirt I wore on holiday and had an argument with my husband while I was wearing it [laugh], that’s nothing to do with the skirt, (...) I didn’t see that at all before, (...). You know, and this is why we’re always looking for something new, that hasn’t got the attachment.”
  27. 27. Choice Over Thoughts and FeelingsSeeing things differently Fran: “She said, you have to just accept that’s how it is and just think, right, well I’m going to be choppy at this time. And I found just by doing that, things would appear on the turbulent sea, that’s how it is. So I do try to do that, when I get times that difficult I do try to do that and think “well, this is how it is, just have to accept that it is choppy and I can’t necessarily do anything about it”” A: “And do you find that you are able to accept?” Fran: “I can, it depends on how, it very much depends on how I’m feeling” REAPPRAISAL
  28. 28. Choice Over Thoughts and FeelingsSeeing things differently Maggie: “I am being a lot more logical [about shopping and buying things], and a lot more, I’m thinking long and hard about actually going. Do I really want to go? I’m thinking how I’m going to feel afterwards. I’m not actually feeling, when I think about it, I don’t actually think about the buzz you get, the positive side, I’m thinking about the negative sides more now. Things like, I’ll think “oh, I know I’m never going to wear it”, or “where am I going to put it, I’ve got too much”. I’m thinking about “do I want more polythene bags at home? Have I got enough hangers for it?” Yea, I really am thinking sort of negative, and the thing, when you come, when you bring your purchases home, you know, it doesn’t stop when you buy something, you’ve got to sort it out when you get home, you’ve got to start clearing things out and having sort-outs again, ‘cause you can’t keep it all. (...) I have noticed that, quite profoundly really.”
  29. 29. Choice Over Thoughts and Feelings Fran: “all my heightened awareness that, it’s made How different me more aware really of how I look, and I haven’t got understanding is to a stage where I can accept and just be how I am. achieved I’m trying, I keep trying and thinking “well, this is how I am now, I’m not going to suddenly loose a stone by Fran: “that’s one of the very tomorrow”, I do try to sort of talk to myself about it, but useful things I think is that not very successfully.” thing that she, that labellingyour thoughts. So if I get, if I Fran: “Well I suppose it, before I just get, I wouldn’t find myself getting swept even think about, I’d be so swept along with it, Ialong, I try to step back and wouldn’t know, and get caught up. I think it makes then think “oh that was a me stop a bit and see, I don’t know, so that you can’tplanning” I do an awful lot of build on all the thoughts, ‘cause if you have one planning thoughts, or “that thought, if you label it, it sort of almost is contained, was an anxious thought”” isn’t it? Whereas if you don’t label it, you get that thought and another one and another one and so they go on. Whereas if you think “well, OK, I’ve acknowledged that thought and I’ve labelled it, it’s there and contained”
  30. 30. Choice Over Thoughts and FeelingsSo that’s how I think and I am not my thoughts feel!Seeing things differently Stay here; no need to run away How different understanding is I feel better! achieved
  31. 31. Choice Over Thoughts and FeelingsI am not my thoughts June: “it’s not really me, it doesn’t have to affect me” Fran: “I can still think about things, but step back a bit, so you can almost watch your thoughts can’t you, go by, but not necessarily have to get so swept along by them” DECENTRING (less identified) Fran: “it’s just felt calmer, the actual decision [regarding a work promotion], but maybe that’s because I was clearer about where I’m at with myself.” June: “I think I’m more positive, and stronger I think, you know, stronger as a person” STRENGTHENED / REIFIED sense of self
  32. 32. Choice Over Thoughts and FeelingsStay here; no need to run away Fran: “the bits to begin with I found really hard were when she asked us to focus on thoughts, and that bit, at that point I could feel myself coming out in a sweat, and just wanted to get up and leave the room. (...) I could feel myself fidgeting, “I can’t, when will this be over, I’ve got to get out”. (...) A: “So what did you actually do? Did you stay in the room?” Fran: “I stayed, no I stayed. (...) I kept, I mean she sort of said “well, you are free to go out if you want to”, but didn’t.” June: “so I think to myself, if I wore it a few more times then that memory would fade anyway” EXPOSURE
  33. 33. Choice Over Thoughts and Feelings I feel better! June: “And I’ve noticed with this course, I’m beginning to feel more like I did say when I was twenty, I never worried about the past, I never beat myself up (...) And you do feel that kind of child-like simplicity again”
  34. 34. Resisting Temptation Nicole: “I don’t feel as much on autopilot no, I feel more aware” Ethan: “So there’s still a want to spend, but less “oh, I like that, I’ll buy it”. ‘Cause like I can get the pleasure from “oh I like that” without having to do the till bit.” June: “when it came to buying that cream I was sort of on a high thinking “oh well, I’m managing my debt and I’m controlling everything, so it won’t matter if I buy that”.” Maggie: I have been very, very aware that I have finished work, and for quite a few weeks, I’ve finished work and I’ve had this (...) tremendous desire to go shopping. (...) And I have actually thought to myself “why do I want to go shopping?” and have actually sort of processed it. (...) And I’ve thought “I don’t need anything”, and I had to really fight myself to drive myself home. (...) And I came home, as soon as I’m home it’s fine ‘cause I can find other things that, to do.”
  35. 35. Resisting Temptation June: “when he left that I was so relieved I thought “I need to do something for myself”, and so I went to the beauty salon and I had abody wrap and a facial, that was expensive, but I mean I suppose thatwas nice in that it was something for me. But then I started spending on some clothes, (...) I can only call it a spending spree, I mean, I must’ve spent two, three hundred pounds.” June: “I just gave up on the meditation. I felt awful. I just didn’t have time. I was just so tired when I got to bed at night, I just gave it up,and I know that’s why, you know, I had no resources when they’d gone to start being realistic and, you know, be mindful, which is why I went off the tracks.” June: “So anyway, when I’d taken them, bought these things back, Ithought you know, “I’ve got to get back on this programme”. (...) And in the past week I started again on the programme. I started doing the body scan like we started off before (...) [and] since I started back on the body scan I know I’m much more positive again. (...) It’s amazing how that works because you have to concentrate, not give in to all these wandering thoughts all the time, this constant bombardment.”
  36. 36. Summary• Learning mindfulness has helped these compulsive buyers: • Reduction to factors driving / sustaining the buying behaviour (affective and symbolic) • Increased awareness and ability to manage urges • Choice over thoughts, reactions, behaviours • Self-regulation
  37. 37. Mindfulness andConsumerism/Sustainability Self-focussed awareness Mindfulness and Consumerism/ Sustainability
  38. 38. Mindfulness andConsumerism/Sustainability Steph: “(I think that) if I’m going binge on chocolate, it should be ethical chocolate that I’m binging on (laugh). I think (the desire to buy ethical products has) enhanced thinking about it because it all comes down to a realisation I had quite near the end of the course, which is that, this kind of wanting to respect the world and the people in it, is something that I’ve had for ages, but it’s very hard to have that sort of relationship with everything around me, if I don’t have the relationship with myself. And (I) go back to this whole having built up more of a relationship with myself thing, then I’m now finding it easier to open that up to the world around me and the people that I’m interacting with”
  39. 39. Mindfulness andConsumerism/Sustainability Mindfulness Self-focussed awareness Mindfulness and Consumerism Consumerism/ Sustainability Breaking cycles Acceptance
  40. 40. ESRC Research Group onlifestyles, values and environment alison@presentminds.org www.presentminds.org 0777-606-1670