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The Science Behind Panic Buying

Medical Daily logo Medical Daily 25/3/2020 Jan Cortes

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread itself all over the United States as well as other countries, you won’t be surprised to find that going to the supermarket or any grocery chain would greet you with shelves that have nearly-empty products when it comes to essentials such as food products, alcohol, hand sanitizers and, of course, toilet paper.

Naturally, the internet responded with jokes and memes that all make fun of the way people are panic buying supplies, with some even going as far as to brute it out and physically assault someone just to get what they want. It’s essentially a madhouse out there in a lot of instances. Is there a definite science to panic buying and why people can be so aggressive about it?

The Science of Panic Buying

While it is an interesting study, there is currently no systematic review of panic buying and why people act a certain way. With that in mind, however, there is some research that explores why people tend to buy more things during a crisis, as well as steps to take that can help reduce this kind of behavior, especially during this time of pandemic where everyone should be given a fair chance to stock up on a sufficient amount of essentials and supplies.

One such study is published in the scientific journal Manufacturing and Service Operations Management, where researchers developed socioeconomic models that tackled why the majority of consumers tend to panic-buy as well as how stores should react to them.

Per the study, people usually stockpile on a product for future use when the price is artificially low, or if they feel they won’t be able to get it in the future. And in the current pandemic case, consumers tend to buy essentials for fear of running out of it in the future, right when they need it.

As such, research evidence shows that panic buying (or similar situations) is the result of fear that there will be a shortage in the future. Knowing this, stores would be smart to initiate quotas and make sure that everyone has a fair chance to purchase the products.

a cup of coffee © Photo by Pixabay (CC0)

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