‘Like zombies’: the psychology of panic-buying in a crisis

Lifestyle

‘Like zombies’: the psychology of panic-buying in a crisis

Psychologists analyse our refusal to heed official shopping advice – and the widespread obsession with toilet paper

Rosa Silverman

Supermarket shelves are being emptied quicker than they can be restocked; sanitising hand gel has become more precious than gold dust; some stores are rationing items; and at the start of this week, entire towns were said to be running low on toilet paper.

There’s little doubt we’re in the grip of panic-buying, fuelled by fears around the rapid spread of coronavirus. And this despite – or perhaps because of – authorities repeatedly urging the public not to stockpile.

Why are so many people still filling up their trolleys with essentials? Psychologists say the phenomenon can be explained by various human behavioural traits – so what is the psychology of panic-buying when logically we know 48 rolls of toilet paper are not going to save us?..

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