23 Aug 2014
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How Do People Relax? Would You Believe Coupons?

Claremont Graduate University’s Center for Neuroeconomic Studies found evidence that coupons help shoppers feel happy and relaxed.

How Do People Relax? Would You Believe Coupons? How Do People Relax? Would You Believe Coupons?

What is the key to happiness?

Is it love? Marriage? Children? Coupons?

It may sound odd, but a study by researchers from Claremont Graduate University’s Center for Neuroeconomic Studies found evidence that coupons help shoppers feel happy and relaxed.

Titled “Your Brain on Coupons: Neurophysiology of Couponing,” the research was performed in a laboratory setting and measured the physiological and psychological effects of coupons on the human body, according to university officials.

The study is the first of its kind, school officials said.

In fact, researchers found getting a coupon had a bigger impact than receiving a gift, according to Professor Paul Zak and his team, which conducted the research. The data shows that coupons make consumers happier and more relaxed, underscoring that the holidays don’t have to be as stressful as people think, university officials said.

The study is expected to be formally published in the coming months. Zak and his team are widely credited for popularizing neuroeconomics and studying the effects of hormone oxytocin, according to university officials.

Zak’s team looked at the neurologic effects receiving a savings offer, such as a coupon or coupon code. They found that oxytocin, a hormone that is directly related to love and happiness, spiked when people receive a coupon and actually increased more than when they received a gift, officials said.

“The study proves that not only are people who get a coupon happier, less stressed and experience less anxiety, but also that getting a coupon — as hard as it is to believe — is physically shown to be more enjoyable than getting a gift,” Zak said. “These results, combined with the findings of other research, suggest that coupons can directly impact happiness of people, promote positive health and increase the ability to handle stressful situations, all of which is particularly valuable as we head into the holiday season when stress levels tend to be at an all-time high.”

Zak launched the study at the request of Coupons.com. In it, half of the participants received a $10 coupon while grocery shopping online while others did not.

Researchers measured the effects of the coupon by checking level of hormones in the blood, cardiac activity, respiration and perspiration and mood relating to the receipt of coupons.

“The physiologic data was acquired one thousand times a second to compare participants’ responses to coupons to those who did not receive coupons,” officials wrote following the study. “The hormone data, taken before and after shopping (with and without coupons), complements the physiologic data to determine the overall social experience of using coupons.”

The researchers said they discovered that subjects who received coupons had 38 percent higher oxytocin level, a response that is higher than levels associated with kissing, cuddling and other social interactions related to this hormone that is known to be associated with happiness.

Researchers also associated coupons with reductions in several different measures of stress in the heart, skin, and breathing in those who received them over those who did not.

Among those:

  • Respiration rates fell 32 percent compared to those who did not get a coupon.
  • Heart rates dropped 5 percent from 73 beats per minute to 70 beats per minute.
  • Sweat levels on the palms of the hands were 20 times lower for those who received a coupon.

Participants who received coupons were 11 percent happier than participants who did not get coupons. This was measured by participants rating how happy they were on a scale from 1 to 10 at the end of the experiment.

The Institutional Review Board of Claremont Graduate University approved the experiment. Participants were paid for participating in the study, and participants who received a coupon were paid the face value of the discount.

Article Courtesy Claremont Graduate University.

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