The Touchscreen Trap: How Shopping On A Tablet Could Make You Buy More

Beware, Cyber Monday shoppers: Using your tablet to shop could lead to more impulsive purchasing decisions, according to a new study. Researchers say this is because the "endowment effect" — a psychological mechanism that makes us overvalue things we own — is stronger on a touchscreen than when shopping on a laptop or desktop.

Put simply, the endowment effect makes us like our own stuff better than stuff we don't own. In doing so, we tend to think the things we own are worth more than they actually are. "So strong is the endowment effect that we don't have to physically own something for the effect to take hold," according to Fast Company. "The mere suggestion of ownership is enough to get our guns going."

What exactly does "suggestion of ownership" mean? It could be as simple as touching something. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research in 2009 found that touch or even mere "imagery encouraging touch" could increase feelings of ownership toward an item.

Strangely enough, this touch effect may transfer to touchscreen shopping. When Boston College researchers compared people shopping on iPad to those using a keyboard-and-mouse computer, tablet shoppers showed greater levels of implied ownership of goods they browsed and put higher price values on the objects.

"I think our impulse levels might be a little harder to control when we're tablet shopping than when we're computer shopping," researcher S. Adam Brasel told Co.Design. Might be something to keep in mind as you do your holiday shopping this year.