Corona crisis: what drives us to buy hamsters?

Corona crisis: what drives us to buy hamsters?

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What is the psychology behind buying hamsters?

The corona crisis has also changed the consumer behavior of many people and so-called hamster purchases are a suddenly occurring phenomenon. In a recent survey, a research team at the University of Cologne investigated the psychological reasons behind the apparently irrational purchase decisions.

In the wake of the current corona crisis, many people tend to buy hamster paper, noodles, flour and other everyday products. In a recent study, Professor Dr. André Marchand, Junior Professor Dr. Martin Fritze and PhD student Friederike Gobrecht from the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences at the University of Cologne examined the changes in consumer behavior and the reasons for this in more detail.

Sharp increase in demand for certain products

The extent to which consumer behavior has changed can be seen from the current data from the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), according to which the sales figures for selected products have increased to an extremely high level in the past few weeks. For example, the demand for soap in the week of March 16-22 was "more than four times as high as in the six months earlier (+337 percent), while the demand for toilet paper was more than three times as high (+ 211 percent), ”said the University of Cologne.

What do people think about buying hamsters?

Using a survey of 250 randomly selected people, the researchers tried to get to the bottom of changes in consumer behavior in the era of the coronavirus. "There are numerous theoretically plausible reasons for the current hamster buying behavior. In our study, we wanted to find out what consumers themselves think about their possible hamster buying behavior and that of other people, ”explains Professor Marchand.

Fears shape consumer behavior

The survey shows that buyers are currently very often citing fears as the reason for increased buying behavior, the researchers report. However, only 21 percent of the participants, for example, declared that they had bought more toilet paper than usual. There may be a slight distortion here compared to reality, Professor Marchand admits.

"Since so-called hamster buying is not socially desirable and is perceived as unsolidarity, shame could have prevented an honest answer at this point," said Marchand. However, such distortions were largely filtered out with further, ambiguous questions about other, socially desirable behavior.

Worry about availability

Concerns about availability were the most common reason among participants who said they had bought more than usual. This concern often goes back to the memorable pictures of empty shelves and the reports of hamster purchases in the media and social networks, the researchers explain. Anyone who then stands in front of empty shelves in the supermarket should take this particularly clearly because of the space that toilet paper normally occupies.

Hamster purchases are contagious

"In this way, more people are more or less infected by the hamster purchases of others, because they get the impression that it is better to buy more now if possible before the products are out of stock again," explains Professor Marchand. Many people who are hamstering now also cite the fear of closing supermarkets as a reason.

Herd instinct and impotence

Furthermore, the general impotence in the current situation was mentioned by many hamster buyers as the reason for their changed consumer behavior. Respondents who do not tend to buy hamsters themselves see this as a main cause of hamsters in other people. The hamster purchases would therefore above all be an expression of the helplessness in the Corona crisis. The non-hamstering participants suspect the basis of the hamster purchases from the other participants mainly in the herd instinct and thus rate them as factually unfounded.

Rational reasons for buying hamsters?

The "hamsters" also cite the need for more security and control as the reason for the hamster purchases, but also other reasons such as additional purchases for relatives and friends. In addition, the durability of products such as toilet paper is mentioned as an argument for stockpiling.

"More than half of the hamster buyers surveyed also stated that they had bought other products such as pasta, canned goods and hygiene products more than usual," the researchers continued. Merely with the expenditure for digital services no significant differences in the buying behavior could be determined.

More surveys planned

The new study provides exciting insights into the motivations of hamster buyers in Germany and it is currently planned to extend the survey to other countries in order to learn more about cultural and regional differences, said Professor Marchand. The results of the study will then be published. (fp)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters


  • University of Cologne: Hamster purchases are an attempt by rebellion against their own helplessness (published March 30, 2020),

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