Are you the type of person who starts shopping for the holidays months in advance? The type of person who gets everyone in your family deeply thoughtful gifts, and somehow has time to organize a white elephant gift swap between 25 of your closest friends? Well, if so, what your spending habits say about your personality might be more than just your general level of holiday cheer. It might mean, according to a recent study, that you’re more "emotionally stable" than those who pinch pennies or forego gift-giving altogether during the holidays.
I must say, personally, this whole concept makes me feel a little cranky. I’m the type who pretty much buries her head in the sand (or snow, I guess) until the holi-daze pass. My one consistent holiday-shopping habit is buying my family books at a local bookstore on Christmas Eve, so in the context of this particular study — which, BTW, is literally titled Who Are the Scrooges? Personality Predictors of Holiday Spending — I’m pretty sure I’d be identified as a Scrooge.
Now, the study, published in the academic journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, examined the relationship between holiday spending habits, and what are called the "Big Five personality traits," which include openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
Sara Weston, a co-lead author of the study from Northwestern University, said in a statement,
In order to uncover the link between holiday spending habits and specific personality traits, the researchers looked at two million unique transactions over the course of a holiday season from the bank accounts of more than 2,000 volunteer participants, who also completed surveys to determine which of the Big Five personality traits they aligned with the most.
According to ScienceDaily, the study showed a clear correlation between emotional stability and spending more money over the holidays. The researchers also found that participants who scored high in neuroticism (aka a tendency to be in an anxious or stressed-out mindset) spent less money over the same time period.
Interestingly, the researchers also found that people who have more artistic tendencies, more active imaginations, and who scored higher in openness to experience on a personality survey also spend less cash during the holiday season. Perhaps it’s because those imaginative individuals can envision a holiday season that doesn’t center around consumerism? Just sayin’, guys.
Now, the researchers do emphasize that personality traits are really only one aspect of consumer behavior in general. There are many, many other factors that influence individual spending, from household size to income, and it’s difficult to know exactly how all of these things connect to one another.
Bottom line: Just because you like to shower your loved ones with tons of gifts during the holiday season, doesn’t automatically make you more "emotionally stable" than other people. And the same goes for those who maybe have a tighter budget around the holidays; it doesn’t mean you’re a Scrooge, and it definitely doesn’t make you a bad person, either. Take these findings with a grain of salt, and don’t let consumerism dictate the way you live your life.
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