The Psychology Behind Thanksgiving Weekend Shopping

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and door buster after door buster—The Thanksgiving weekend has become a marathon of retail events, one leading in to the next in rapid succession. The weekend packs in a lot and is proving to be bigger and more successful than ever. In fact, the latest issue of The Checkout indicates that 22 percent of shoppers will do most of their shopping sometime between Black Friday and Cyber Monday (vs. 19 percent in 2010). This is not surprising, because there are more and more ways to shop the weekend. Be it with the crowds, at night, in the morning, from your couch (online), or browsing Main Street—there is an option for every type of shopper.

But recent research indicates thatBlack Friday sales don’t always offer the best prices and that Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are still finding their footing. So why does this epic weekend continue to bring out record numbers of shoppers, their wallets, and sometimes wild behavior? We feel it’s because each event and day offers shoppers a different retail event or experience that appeals to something bigger than their wallets—their psyche.

Shoppers’ brains are hard-wired to look to others for guidance and to avoid risk (a psychological principle called social proof and risk aversion). This is true especially during the holidays when shoppers need to find the season’s must-have gift before it runs out. Retailers tap in to this principle by overflowing the market with news about their events that they hope will instigate FOMO (a fear of missing out) and drive shoppers to join in on the weekend’s events. Retailers also benefit from other psychological principles such as scarcity and loss aversion that drive shoppers to shop early and shop often.

Did you find yourself being pulled into the weekend’s festivities? Stay tuned for more perspectives and in depth coverage on holiday shopping here on

Contributed by Jenna Taffet and Kira Torgersen

Photo Source: CNN Footage, When Black Friday Goes Bad