Everyone can agree on the essentials of the Black Friday experience: You get up at the crack of dawn to wait in the cold in endless lines, all for the chance of battling other bargain hunters in wildly overcrowded stores for some of the best deals of the year.
But while the experience is the same for everyone, our interpretation of it most definitely isn't. For some, the chaotic scenes are exciting and unmissable. Others would prefer a root canal to entering a store the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Why this unbridgeable divide? And what does being either a Black Friday lover or a Black Friday hater say about your personality? Psychology actually provides intriguing answers.
Black Friday lovers vs. Black Friday haters
You might think the chasm between devoted bargain shoppers and those determined to stay home on the wildest shopping day of the year might come down to extraversion versus introversion, or how motivated a particular person is by discounts. But according to a fascinating post by Mississippi State marketing professor Michael Breazeale on The Conversation, the real difference between Black Friday lovers and haters is something called "goal theory."
This psychological theory divides "the world into two groups: those who tend to focus more on achieving tasks versus those who focus more on making connections with others," he explains. "Task-oriented shoppers typically focus on finding the things they need as quickly as possible and with the least amount of effort. Socially oriented shoppers, on the other hand, enjoy the presence of others while they shop."
No bonus points for guessing which group is more likely to be found sharpening their elbows at the head of a Black Friday line. "Social shoppers are actually energized by the presence of other consumers. These folks enjoy the experience more when there are others nearby, even if they don't directly interact," Breazeale writes.
Therefore, while task-oriented folks find the human whirlwind that is a crowded Black Friday sale as an impediment to their goal (i.e., buying something), others see the communal craziness as the goal itself. Their aim is to immerse themselves in the social experience of a group mad dash for discounted appliances.
This fundamental divide explains a lot of the difference in people's attitudes toward Black Friday, but Breazeale adds that something called "field theory" also plays a role. This theory states that while the close proximity of other people gets everyone's senses aroused, different people interpret this heightened awareness differently. Some feel it as pleasant excitement. Others see it as stress. Only the former group is likely to enjoy Black Friday.
Tips for Black Friday haters
This distinction can help you better understand your better half, who either wants to drag you kicking and screaming to the mall on Friday or who has threatened to physically barricade himself in the house to avoid setting foot in a store. It might even help you understand colleagues' differing attitudes to workplace socializing. But can it help goal-oriented shoppers figure out how to take advantage of Black Friday sales without losing their minds?
Breazeale says yes, offering a handful of survival tips for reluctant Black Friday shoppers, including planning your shopping carefully, choosing smaller shops, and only venturing into bigger stores later in the day. Check out the complete post for more details.
What's your stance: Is Black Friday cruel and inhuman torture or the most fun shopping day of the year?