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The Science Behind Black Friday

Although cherished by many, Black Friday is possibly the most ironic holiday on the American calendar

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image by pexels

Although cherished by many, Black Friday is possibly the most ironic holiday on the American calendar. It offers the chance for millions of Americans to devote an entire day to materialism, just hours after giving thanks for what they already have. However, it’s not difficult to see the allure of door-busting deals promising to vanish by the end of the day.


Despite the long lines, aggressive shoppers, and early hours, close to 147 million shoppers flocked to stores just this weekend to make purchases. So, what is the science behind Black Friday’s popularity, and is it really about getting “a good deal”? Researchers have begun to argue otherwise, citing basic psychology as the reason behind Black Friday’s acclaim.

Recent studies have shown that shoppers gain immense pleasure from the hunt for discounts and the rush of mobs associated with the day. In fact, women receiving discounts and coupons on Black Friday were shown to have reduced stress levels and high levels of oxytocin.

The challenge of achieving something difficult also gives a feeling of excitement to many. This offers an explanation for the long lines and fights that break out every year over limited goods. By offering a limited supply or a certain offer to only the first few people in line, stores create scarcity. This fosters increased desire to obtain that good at any cost, resulting in violence.

Another example is large volumes of people gathering in lines throughout the day. Some people waiting may not even know what the line is for, but they will join. This is the beauty of mimetic desire, which states that people only want what others have. The fact that other people are engaging in an activity proves to us that we should engage in that activity as well.

image by pexels

Many stores play into these psychological concepts and even try to maximize their impact. By specifying a certain time when a sale will start, or creating a big scene when opening their doors, companies urge people to gather in waiting for the deals lying inside. Advertising that only a limited supply is available or that a discount will only be given to the first 300 customers causes an even bigger rush and desire to 2obtain the deal.


Despite certain negative feelings the day may conjure up, Black Friday has been shown to primarily evoke positive feelings of happiness and calmness in many people. The drive to prepare ahead of time with coupons and staking out certain stores has been shown to improve family bonding and create a sense of unity amongst groups that shop together. Plus, it’s a great way for us to do some walking (or running..) and burn off the huge Thanksgiving meal that we’ve all just eaten 🙂


1. https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/11/why-we-love-black-friday-according-science/321239/

2. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/black-friday-the-science-behind-why-people-kill-each-other-over-tvs-on-the-friday-after-thanksgiving-9889810.html

3. https://www.scienceofpeople.com/science-black-friday-shopping/

4. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/why-are-holiday-shopping-lines-so-long-science-has-the-answer/




Hi! My name is Sindhuja Uppuluri and I'm a junior from Austin, Texas. I'm passionate about medicine, but high school has allowed me to discover the power of scientific breakthroughs as well. Being an ISEF alum, I have had the opportunity to not only expand on my own discoveries but be exposed to an ever-expanding network of young innovators and scientists. When I’m not in a lab, you can find me at a debate tournament, working on one of many clubs at my school, or drinking copious amounts of coffee. I can’t wait to use this platform to contribute exciting and informative content to you all!

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