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Research: Mental Self-Control Key To Resisting Impulse Purchases

This holiday season, retailers are counting on a phenomenon they've seen before: Customers tend to buy more than they planned. But pocket-book conscious consumers try their hardest to resist the lure of buying those extra items. New research suggests that you can actually train yourself to resist those impulse urges.

Researchers at Washington State University studied two groups of shoppers: One group performed a series of mental exercises designed to strengthen their self-control. For example rapid brain-teasers that keep your mind sharp. The second group did not.

After two weeks, WSU marketing professor Jeff Joireman says those who did the mental athletics made significantly fewer impulse purchases in a hypothetical shopping exercise.

"By building up these self-control resources over time, you should be able to withstand the temptation," Joireman says.

But he adds retailers have a few tricks of their own.

"When people have to resist things like very aromatic cookies for a while, then their ability to self-regulate goes down," Joireman says.

Joireman says researchers have yet to discover why there's a link between mental exercise and the ability to resist impulse buying.

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.