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Impulsive and Compulsive Buying

Part 3. Consumer Behavior

  1. Ronald J. Faber

Published Online: 15 DEC 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9781444316568.wiem03007

Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing

Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing

How to Cite

Faber, R. J. 2010. Impulsive and Compulsive Buying. Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing. 3.

Author Information

  1. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2010


Impulsive and compulsive buying are terms that are frequently confused for each other, but represent behaviors that differ greatly in their frequency, cause, outcome and severity. Impulsive buying is a more common and ordinary behavior. Almost everyone makes a purchase on impulse (without much deliberation) from time to time.

Impulse buying is defined as a sudden and powerful urge in the consumer to buy immediately. It occurs when desire for a product or brand outweighs one's willpower to resist. Research on impulse buying focuses on characteristic of individuals that make them more or less likely to engage in impulse buying. These include mood states, personality characteristics, and situational factors such as proximity and depletion in resources needed for self-control.

Compulsive buying, on the other hand, is a psychological disorder where one experiences an uncontrollable urge to buy. Failing to act on this urge creates increasing tension that can only dissipate with buying. Frequently, this urge is triggered by negative events or feelings. Ultimately, this behavior leads to extreme negative consequences for the individual. Many compulsive buyers never use the items they purchase. Thus, compulsive buying appears to be more about obtaining short-term relief from negative feelings than about a desire for specific goods.


  • impulsive/impulse;
  • compulsive;
  • excessive buying;
  • mood;
  • buying;
  • shopping;
  • consumer