Shopping is a way of interacting with the world around us

Jun 02, 2008

Our relationship with objects is multilayered and often very emotional, and this is expressed in the way we shop. Swedish ethnologist Erik Ottoson of Uppsala University has studied the way we look for things in shopping malls, town centres and flea markets, and even in skips.

"Being a consumer sometimes means fantasising and dreaming about objects, and this is boosted when we come face to face with things that arouse various feelings of attraction and resistance," says Ottoson, who has researched the way we look for things we want to acquire.

He has observed how people behave at flea markets, root through skips, make their way along shopping streets and through malls. According to Ottoson, searching in this way teaches us what is available and how we can track down what we are looking for. At the same time it becomes an opportunity to look inside ourselves and explore our feelings when faced with what is actually available.

"This means searching becomes a way for us to interact with the world around us, an experiental horizon where certain aspects loom large in the foreground while others are pushed into the background," he explains.

In particular, his research focuses on what is actually going on when we are "window shopping", i.e. strolling round and "just looking" at things without having a clear idea of what we are looking for. The people he has been studying search patiently for certain things, but more than anything, they are searching for the feeling of having found something that is better and finer that they could have imagined. At this point they have stretched the boundaries of what would be reasonable to expect to find.

The paper also shows that what we call just looking is not just about looking with your eyes, it involves your entire body – walking till your feet ache, picking things up and putting them back and feeling things with your hands.

"Meanwhile, you are waiting for that particular aha feeling you get when you find something you want – a peculiar combination of confirmation and surprise," says Ottoson.

Source: Uppsala University

Explore further: Religious music brings benefit to seniors' mental health

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

10 hours ago

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

11 hours ago

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Four questions about missing Malaysian plane answered

11 hours ago

Travelers at Asian airports have asked questions about the March 8 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Here are some of them, followed by answers.

Recommended for you

Religious music brings benefit to seniors' mental health

Apr 18, 2014

A new article published online in The Gerontologist reports that among older Christians, listening to religious music is associated with a decrease in anxiety about death and increases in life satisfaction, self-e ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...