Consumer behavior, or how people buy and use goods and services, is a hotbed of psychological research, particularly for companies trying to sell their products to as many consumers as possible. Since what people buy—and why they buy it—impacts many different facets of their lives, research into consumer behavior ties together issues of communication (How do different people respond to advertising and marketing?), identity (Does what you buy impact who you are?), social status, personality, decision-making, and mental and physical health.
Corporations, political campaigns, and nonprofit organizations all consult findings about consumer behavior to determine how best to market products, candidates, or issues—in some cases, by manipulating people's fears, their least-healthy habits, or their worst tendencies. But consumers aren’t powerless: Learning the different strategies companies use, as well as the psychological explanations for people's often confusing purchasing decisions, can help individuals more consciously decide what, when, and why to buy.