Why Fast Fashion Makes You Feel Good

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
If you find yourself unable to walk past Zara without popping in "just to see," or regularly dropping $20 on a night-of outfit at Forever21, you’re not alone. While it’s easy to assume that your fast-fashion addiction derives from stores’ one-two punch of stocking the most current trends at prices that help prevent buyer's remorse, the explanation might actually go far beyond cute clothes. Actually, it might be in your head.

According to The Atlantic, there’s a scientific reason behind the allure of fast fashion. Back in 2007, a research team sent subjects out shopping and monitored their brain activity. They discovered that the subjects' nucleus accumbens (a key part of the brain's reward system) not only lit up with activity when they spotted an item they wanted, but it reacted more intensely when the item was on sale. 

Buying something we want makes us feel good — that seems obvious. But, the findings show that getting it at a great price makes us feel even better. As Scott Rick, one of the study’s authors, explained to The Atlantic, “It seemed to be responsive not necessarily to price alone, or how much I like it, but that comparison of the two: how much I like it compared to what you charge me for it.”  

Tom Meyvis, a professor of marketing at NYU’s Stern School of Business and an expert in consumer psychology added, “You see this a lot with clothing. Part of the joy you get from shopping is not just that you bought something that you really like and you’re going to use, but also that you got a good deal.”

Fast-fashion brands are capitalizing on this brain chemistry big-time: Stores like Forever21 and H&M reportedly swap out collections every day, and put the "old" pieces on sale. This means that the already-inexpensive items become even cheaper, making the sale-shopping euphoria tough to resist. While you may take this as scientific justification for giving in to your shopping desires, try to keep your crammed closet in mind. Imagine how happy your brain — not to mention your bank account — will be if you wait for something you actually really love to go on sale rather than mindlessly splurging.  (The Atlantic)
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