Sales during the holiday season can represent up to 20 percent of annual revenue for retailers. How consumers spend their money during this time is of interest for store owners as well as for those looking to better understand and control their spending habits.
In a new study, researchers wanted to investigate whether personality traits or mental health might help shape a person’s holiday spending practices.
The findings, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, reveal that people who are emotionally stable tend to spend more money during the holiday season, while those who are nervous and have a lower stress-threshold (higher neuroticism) tend to spend less.
“We’ve known for a while that personality is related to what we call ‘broad outcomes:’ how much money you make or how happy you are or how long you live, but we know less about why personality is related to those things,” said co-lead author Dr. Sara Weston at Northwestern University .
In their study, Weston, co-lead author Joe Gladstone from the University College London, and colleagues found that personality traits are connected to more specific spending behaviors, which should in turn impact the broad outcomes, such as long-term financial goals.
The researchers looked at more than 2 million individual transactions from 2,133 participants’ bank accounts and compared the relationship between the Big 5 personality traits (OCEAN: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) and spending over the Christmas season.
They found that people who are more emotionally stable tend to spend more over the holidays while those high in neuroticism spend less.
They also discovered that those with more artistic interests and more active imaginations — those higher in openness — spend less during the holiday season while those low in openness spend more.
The study also revealed those who are more conscientious spend more, and those who are less conscientious spend less.
But personality is only one small part of consumer behavior, especially at the individual level, the researchers said. From household size to income and many other factors, there are numerous influences at the individual shopping level.
Still, the study offers a road map of how combining large-scale information with personality can provide a “big picture” view of consumer habits.
“By providing objective measures of both annual and holiday spending, the data allow for a truly ecological study of the relationship between personality traits and consumer behavior,” Gladstone said.