The Psychology Behind Buyer’s Remorse

You might not realize it but when you head into a shop, or when you look at buying an item online, sellers are using all manner of crafty psychological tricks to manipulate you into making a purchase. You think that you bought that item because you really liked the looks of it and because you felt like you needed it and like you could afford it…

…But that’s just what they wanted you to think!

Introducing Buyer’s Remorse

Buyer’s remorse is a name for the way many of us will feel after we’ve purchased something. You might have looked at it for ages, dreamed of owning it and been highly excited to add it to your living room/collection.

But as soon as the money exchanges hands and you finally own that item you’ve been thinking about… you actually end up feeling deflated rather than elated. Suddenly, you realize that you didn’t really need it. Actually, the one you had was really nice already. And you didn’t really have the money. And it wasn’t very responsible. And you’d been getting so much better at not splashing cash.

What if it breaks? It’s not really very well made either, is it?

That feeling right there is buyer’s remorse. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal and it’s something that will usually go away once you’ve come to terms with your new item and let the shock of spending money pass.

What causes this feeling? Partly it’s the fact that we have very mixed feelings about buying things to begin with. We are ‘risk averse’ creatures, meaning that we will generally go out of our way to avoid any and all risk we can. Spending money is always a risk because there’s always a chance that the item won’t be as good as we thought or that it will break/have been a mistake.

The other reason we feel buyer’s remorse is that there is a sense of deflation when you achieve anything. You might have felt the same way when you last achieved a goal.

And reportedly, many people who win the lottery actually end up feeling deflated and even quite depressed rather than being over the moon as you might expect!

The reason is that we always imagine these things to be even better in our heads and often the reality just doesn’t add up. From a neurochemical point of view, the act of anticipating something or working toward a goal actually makes us produce dopamine – the ‘reward chemical’ and this makes us feel very good. When that goal is gone, we lose this focusing and motivating hormone and go back to normal. Hence the deflation.

And finally, we often feel buyer’s remorse because we are genuinely misled into buying. Sellers will use all kinds of techniques, such as claiming that the product is in limited stock, or such as making their ‘buy’ button red; and these can be enough to trigger an impulse purchase… even though we probably wouldn’t have bought the product if we’d stopped to really think about it.

How Sellers Account for Buyer’s Remorse

The thing to recognize as well, is that sellers are all too aware of this phenomenon. Moreover, they are aware that before you buy something, you will already be thinking of all these potential drawbacks and you’ll already be starting to pre-empt that buyer’s remorse.

The job of a good salesperson or advert then, is to convince you that you’re not going to feel that buyer’s remorse and get you to buy anyway.

They do this in a number of ways. One strategy is to try and make out that the product you are buying is in fact an investment. Sellers will tell you that you’re saving money by buying right now and this way, you can convince yourself that it’s actually a smart financial decision to click buy! They might even go so far as to explain how you can use their product to make money!

Another method that sellers use is to offer a no-quibble money-back guarantee. If you look at a lot of online sales pages, they will often promise to refund you your money in full if you don’t like the product, as that way they can ensure that you don’t perceive any ‘risk’ in buying. What’s the harm? If you don’t like it, you can simply return it!


This even goes down to the way that shop owners arrange their products. Often, they will use a psychological trick called ‘contrast’ in order to help you overcome that buyer’s remorse before it even bubbles up. Here, they place an expensive item next to a cheap item. They can thus convince you to buy the cheap item buy pointing out that you’re saving money by choosing the more affordable of the two – it’s a savvy choice, not a reckless one! Of course this fails to acknowledge option three: buying nothing at all!

Better yet, this can be a way for sellers to convince you to spend more than you were going to without feeling guilt. Because there’s an even better product next to the one you might be looking at and that’s just a little bit more expensive than the cheap one, it makes sense to spend that bit extra and get the good one, right?

Once again, this now appears to be the sensible option and thus there is no need for remorse!


Don’t be too hard on shop owners and website owners though – it’s normal for them to want to try and sell their wares. And don’t be too hard on yourself either, just because you feel a little remorse now, that doesn’t mean that you didn’t really want the product or that it was a bad decision.

Just be aware of the psychological elements in play when you’re next considering buying something and maybe consider stepping away for a while to see if you really wanted that item after all…

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