Panic Buying Driven by Fear, Perceived Lack of Supply, and Peer Pressure: NTU Study, Consumer News & Top Stories

SINGAPORE – Panic-buying behavior during the Covid-19 pandemic last year was driven by fear, perceived lack of supply and peer pressure, according to a study by the Nanyang Technological University (NTU ).

He found that those who experience these social and psychological factors are 43% more likely to panic.

These results were released on Monday, September 6 based on a survey of around 500 Singaporeans who were asked to recall the first time they visited a supermarket after the circuit breaker started in April. from last year.

Long queues and empty shelves were seen in supermarkets hours after the government announced measures would be stepped up to curb the spread of Covid-19.

NTU’s survey, conducted in June and July last year, sought to understand why people panic when buying, which can strain supply chains and food security.

Assistant Professor Yuen Kum Fai, who led the study, said, “We have seen measures to combat the damaging impact of panic shopping, such as stores rationing essential items and changing their hours of operation. . “

Professor Yuen, from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, NTU, added, “But our study addresses the problem at the root of the situation – the psychological and social components of panic buying.

The median age of the respondents was 42.4 years and about half of them were men.

Explaining how fear is a powerful motivator for panic buying, Professor Yuen said, “Fear (in this context) refers to fear of the unknown, to uncertainty about the end of the pandemic, whether we will face price increases. “

As for social pressure, it was twofold: the behavior of people in their social circles and what we see online.

For example, respondents were asked about the extent to which their family, friends or colleagues found it acceptable to store products. They were also asked to what extent they agreed with the media portraying panic buying.

Age and gender did not have a significant impact on panic buying.

But the researchers found that people with higher incomes were more likely to engage in this behavior.

They said it was because people with higher incomes tend to have more purchasing power and can source goods.

Researchers identified other factors behind panic buying, including perceived scarcity, or the idea that food and household supplies were running out, and perceived severity, such as concerns about the impact. of Covid-19 on Health and Finance.

Sometimes participants may experience these factors at the same time.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Professor Yuen stressed that the study is a first step in reducing panic buying in future crises.

He added that public policy may take into consideration the role that social media and the media play in portraying panic buying.

Dr Emily Ortega, head of the psychology program at the University of Social Sciences in Singapore, suggested that individuals may play a role in reducing panic buying.

She said: “Negative messages generally go viral faster than positive messages. Stop and ask yourself if there is a need to spread this emotion to others (on social media).

A customer was checking out with 16 bags of rice in their cart at the FairPrice Hub in Joo Koon. ST PHOTO: THOMAS WHITE

Strategy professor Lawrence Loh of the National University of Singapore Business School said the assurances of authority figures must go beyond words.

Professor Loh added, “Earlier this year, when the Jurong fishing port group was there, we saw our leaders visit the warehouses and assure people that there was enough food. “

However, he said that given the stabilization of the Covid-19 pandemic, people are less likely to panic and buy now.

Professor Yuen added that further research will examine similar patterns of behavior in other countries as well as how these social and psychological factors vary across different periods of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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