Genes Influence the Way You Shop, Study Finds

Ever wonder why you prefer chocolate to vanilla, sci-fi movies instead of romantic comedies or jazz rather than rock? The reason may have surfaced long before you were born, sprouting at the inception of your family tree.

Researchers recently looked into unexplored heritable effects on consumers’ shopping habits and discovered people appear to inherit – through genetics – fondness for specific products such as chocolate, science-fiction movies, jazz, hybrid cars and mustard.

“(We found) that many, though not all of them, are in fact heritable or influenced by genetic factors,” said Stanford University marketing professor Itamar Simonson and assistant University of Florida marketing professor Aner Sela about their findings published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

They surveyed fraternal and identical twins on their consumer patterns. Results show far more similarities among responses from identical twins, who unlike fraternal twins share matching genes. The similarities indicate “the behavior or trait is likely to be heritable.”

Consumer Emily Easley said she “can totally see shopping habits being genetic” based on her and her mother’s shopping behaviors.

“We commonly purchase the same things,” said Easley, an account coordinator in Spokane, Wash. “One time I came home and was wearing a new lavender T-shirt with some floral design around the neck and found that my mom had bought the exact same one, in the same color.

“It’s always just so interesting to visit her and see my exact wardrobe in her closet.”

Researchers also revealed people seem to inherit other tendencies that affect financial decisions such as choosing a compromise option and avoiding extremes, selecting sure gains over gambles, looking for the best option available and favoring clearly needed options over more indulgent ones.

Boston-based Dianne Martz said her grandmother, mother, daughter and she all have shopped frugally in their lifetimes.

“So is that inherited?” she asked. “Depends on your definition. (My children) definitely ‘got it’ from me, as I did from my mother and she from hers. But I think it's more a matter of having observed the behavior and decision-making process of the elder that had the most impact on each of us. Some of it is definitely taught.”

Researchers are quick to note they aren’t discounting the effects of nurture but rather want to illustrate nurture’s and nature’s combined influence on consumer judgment and choices.

“The current research suggests that heritable and other hard-wired inherent preference components play a key role in behavior and deserve much more attention in marketing and decision-making research,” they said in a statement.

This article was provided by BusinessNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience.

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