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Reflective and Impulsive Predictors of Unhealthy Snack Impulse Buying

Meysam Moayery EMAIL logo , Lorea Narvaiza Cantín and Juan José Gibaja Martíns


While impulse buying has been conceptualized as a product of impulses, this study proposes that both reflective and impulsive determinants can outline impulse buying. Following a dual-system model that distinguishes between a reflective and an impulsive system, we hypothesized that unhealthy snack impulse buying can be differentially influenced by either impulsive system or reflective system as a function of self-regulatory resources. Participants in the experiment were randomly assigned to one of the conditions of the two-group design (self-regulatory resources depletion vs. control condition); then they were given the opportunity to take part in a mock store spontaneous buying situation. While the impulsive system was represented by impulse buying tendency and unhealthy snack buying habit, dietary restraint represented the reflective system. The dependent variables were the number of unhealthy snacks purchased and the percentage of unhealthy snacks purchased. The results provided the first empirical foundation for reflective and impulsive aspects of impulse buying behavior. The findings showed that self-regulatory resources moderate the impact of both reflective and impulsive determinants on unhealthy snack impulse buying. While the reflective system (dietary restraint) only determined the behavior in the high self-regulatory resource condition, the impulsive system (impulse buying tendency and habit) associated with the behavior when self-regulatory resources were diminished. There was one exceptional case in which habit determined the percentage of unhealthy snacks purchased even in the high self-regulatory resource condition.


Table 5:

The zero-order correlation for the central variables as a function of self-regulatory resource depletion.

Depletion condition
1. IBT0.020.000.27*0.22#
2. Habit−0.22#0.33**0.44**
3. Dietary restraint0.010.01
Control condition
1. IBT0.27*0.15−0.18−0.16
2. Habit−0.27*0.010.28*
3. Dietary restraint−0.33*−0.38**
  1. Note: #p < 0.08, *p < 0.05, **p < 0.01.


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