Super-Scientific Study: Coupons Make You Happy

Coupons.com paid Claremont Graduate University to do a study on coupons. The conclusion: A woman who gets a $10 coupon while shopping will be happier than a woman who got squat. One of the things they measured was spikes in oxytocin, that happy lovey hormone that we also release when we are breastfeeding. Getting a coupon causes our brains to release more oxytocin than getting a present or even kissing and cuddling with someone.

So pretty much, we love coupons more than we love our own kids and spouses, and therefore we are cold-hearted coupon hoarders, no? Oh, maybe that’s not what Coupons.com was trying to convey when they commissioned the study, but anyway, here’s the press release:

Mountain View, CA – November 19, 2012 – Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Coupons.com, the recognized leader in digital coupons, and well-known scientist and prolific author, Dr. Paul J. Zak, a Professor of Neuroeconomics at Claremont Graduate University, today announced the results of the first known research study on the physiological and psychological effects of coupons. The scientific research shows that oxytocin, a hormone that is directly related to love and happiness, spikes when people receive a coupon, and, in fact, increases more than when people receive a gift. The data shows that coupons make consumers happier and more relaxed, underscoring that the holidays don’t have to be as stressful as people think.

The study, “Your Brain on Coupons: Neurophysiology of Couponing” is the first known scientific research performed in a laboratory setting measuring the physiological and psychological effects of coupons on the human body. The study, expected to be formally published in the coming months, is based on research conducted by Dr. Zak and his team at Claremont, who are widely credited for popularizing neuroeconomics and studying the effects of oxytocin. Dr. Zak’s team looked at the neurologic effects of couponing to find out what really happens when people receive a savings offer, such as a coupon or coupon code.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Oxytocin on the Rise

During the study, some participants received a $10 coupon while grocery shopping online while others did not. The findings resoundingly show that women who received coupons during the study had significantly higher levels of oxytocin and dramatically reduced stress. Key findings include:

•       Higher Oxytocin Levels. Up 38 percent, this marked response is higher than levels associated with kissing, cuddling and other social interactions related to this hormone that is known to be associated with happiness.
•       Decreased Stress. Coupons were associated with reductions in several different measures of stress in the heart, skin, and breathing in those who received a coupon over those who did not. Specifically:
o       Respiration rates fell 32 percent compared to those who did not get a coupon.
o       Heart rates dropped 5 percent from 73 beats per minute to 70 beats per minute.
o       Sweat levels on the palms of the hands were 20 times lower for those who received a coupon.
•       Find Your Happy Place. Those who received coupons were 11 percent happier than those participants who did not get coupons.
o       This was measured by participants rating how happy they were on a scale from 1 to 10 at the end of the experiment. This research, coupled with existing data, shows that happiness is dependent on a person’s physiological state and that social activities that relax us, like coupons, make us happier.

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