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Table of Contents
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 179-180

Research on panic buying behavior: What are the challenges faced by researchers?

Department of Psychiatry, King George's Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Date of Submission25-Jun-2021
Date of Decision17-Nov-2021
Date of Acceptance06-Dec-2021
Date of Web Publication27-Dec-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sujita Kumar Kar
Department of Psychiatry, King George's Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/iopn.iopn_57_21

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How to cite this article:
Kumari B, Singh N, Kar SK. Research on panic buying behavior: What are the challenges faced by researchers?. Indian J Psy Nsg 2022;19:179-80

How to cite this URL:
Kumari B, Singh N, Kar SK. Research on panic buying behavior: What are the challenges faced by researchers?. Indian J Psy Nsg [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 May 28];19:179-80. Available from: https://www.ijpn.in/text.asp?2022/19/2/179/365467

Panic buying has been described as “the phenomenon of a sudden increase in the procurement of one or more essential products beyond the daily need caused by adversity, usually a crisis or an outbreak leading to an imbalance between supply and demand.”[1] It has been duly seen that people buy huge amounts of products during situations such as some disaster or crisis or in fear of the forthcoming crisis, people tend to stockpile the essential or even nonessential commodities leading to the acute shortage of these necessities and also price the undesired hike in their prices. There have been many instances of panic buying throughout history, but the COVID-19 era has brought this crucial human behavior into the limelight.

The irrational panic buying often relates to the three basic psychological needs that drive human behavior during any crisis such as COVID-19: autonomy, relatedness, and competence. Autonomy suggests that individuals are motivated when they experience a sense of choice and support in work,[2] and it can be interpreted as “taking back control” out of the uncertainties in chaos, relatedness. Relatedness provides a feeling of identity, and in this way, it ensures that panic buying is a crowd phenomenon rather than an individual practice so that individuals may not believe their conduct is unacceptable or alone, competence. Competence comes from the idea that people want to control the outcomes and this sense of control allows the people to master certain tasks.[3] Purchasing goods gives a sense of security which further enhances this behavior.

Panic buying has its adverse effects on social, economic as well as health aspects.[4] Whenever the supply-to-demand ratio gets reversed, there is a lack of access to the commodities. There is chaos among the people for acquiring the necessities and vulnerable populations such as people belonging to lower socioeconomic strata, people suffering from chronically debilitating diseases, and elderly are at a much higher risk of being left out and experience scarcity.[5]

Panic buying is a relatively unexplored area in human behavior research where the decision of making a purchase is clouded by emotions of anxiety and anticipation and social influences of what the other people are doing[6]. Despite the importance of the topic, the current understanding of panic buying is very limited. A search on PubMed for learning materials and articles containing panic buying in their title, abstract, or keywords only yielded 62 results till date (Mid-February 2021). Among the 62 search results, 48 studies were done in the year 2020 and early 2021 only, implying that most of the studies were chiefly triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The discussions are majorly based on reporters or medical professionals whose perspectives are published in newspaper articles or social media platforms.[1],[5] The overall findings and discussions on this topic are very scarce and focus on a few causes that can trigger panic buying. To understand the products procuring behavior and policies that could be recommended to mitigate panic buying, there is a need for research in this field.

  Challenges associated with Panic Buying Research: Top

Challenge 1: Unpredictability of crisis

One of the important challenges in panic buying research involves the unpredictable nature of any crisis or disaster.[7],[8] It is difficult to foresee the intensity and the duration of any full-fledged crisis with certainty. Planned research is difficult as one cannot anticipate when a crisis will occur or how long it will last and how the mob will react to it.

Challenge 2: Priorities during emergency situations

It is a well-known phenomenon that panic buying occurs mostly during emergency situations such as any war or crisis or during pandemics when people are scared for their well-being or survival.[6] During such states of emergency, the government directs the all-possible resources and policies to combat those situations.[9] Furthermore, during such a crisis, the priorities of research are different, and if any research that does take place, it is mostly related to mitigating the immediate effects of the crisis.

Challenge 3: Funding

During times of disaster, most of the funds are directed toward the interventional aspects related to the crisis in hand which further narrows down the scope for research. National and international organizations are more likely to spend the resources and workforce for speedy and prompt relief.

Challenge 4: Defining the panic buying problem and the population at risk is challenging

Many people do not consider panic buying as a problem. During times of crisis, one tends to think about his own needs first and considers stockpiling as a survival instinct. People of any socioeconomic, cultural, or occupational background may indulge in panic buying the commodities of their perceived need. This perceived need could be varied among people and could hold an individual meaning. Therefore, it is very difficult to assess the magnitude of the problem and the population at risk.

Challenge 5: Rare occurrence

Panic buying is not a usual phenomenon, it occurs during the time of any disaster or any crisis. The occurrence of such a crisis in itself is a rare phenomenon that further makes the planning of any systematic research more difficult.[9] During the crisis, the people tend to have a different mindset and may perceive and react to things differently than they would otherwise do. They may not consider their behavior irrational in the state of crisis and may perceive the same behavior differently when viewed retrospectively.

Challenge 6: Difference in perspectives

People and scholars around the globe hold varied notions regarding the panic buying behavior. Many consider it as a psychological vulnerability, thereby would readily advocate the studies and researches to fathom its genesis and to further improve their understanding.[6],[10] While others may consider it as a deliberate behavior intending to create chaos and would likely dismiss any proposal or possibility of enhancing their knowledge regarding the phenomena.[9] Furthermore, some would consider it as a marketing strategy by disrupting the supply-to-demand ratio of the basic necessities and would demand strict measures against it.

  Conclusion Top

Panic buying is herd behavior, people react and act in accordance with their own self-interest and by procuring the basic necessities, they imbibe a sense of self-satisfaction and a feeling of security and behave contrary to the common good of all individuals. Whenever there is an event of uncertainty, people perceive it as an imminent threat and follow what the crowd is doing rather than what should be done in a more logical way. Research in this field will be very promising as well as challenging in accordance to manage the disaster and also the human behavior during the disaster.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Arafat SM, Kar SK, Menon V, Alradie-Mohamed A, Mukherjee S, Kaliamoorthy C, et al. Responsible factors of panic buying: An observation from online media reports. Front Public Health 2020;8:603894.  Back to cited text no. 1
McKinnon G, Smith ME, Hunt HK. Hoarding behavior among consumers: Conceptualization and marketing implications. J Acad Mark Sci 1985;13:340-51.  Back to cited text no. 2
Morrice DJ, Cronin P, Tanrisever F, Butler JC. Supporting hurricane inventory management decisions with consumer demand estimates. J Oper Manag 2016;45:86-100.  Back to cited text no. 3
Panic Buying and How to Stop It. Open Learn. Available from: https://www.open.edu/openlearn/health-sports-psychology/psychology/panic-buying-and-how-stop-it. [Last accessed on 2021 Feb 13].  Back to cited text no. 4
Arafat SM, Kar SK, Menon V, Kaliamoorthy C, Mukherjee S, Alradie-Mohamed A, et al. Panic buying: An insight from the content analysis of media reports during COVID-19 pandemic. Neurol Psychiatry Brain Res 2020;37:100-3.  Back to cited text no. 5
Yuen KF, Wang X, Ma F, Li KX. The psychological causes of panic buying following a health crisis. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2020;17:3513.  Back to cited text no. 6
Morse SS, Mazet JA, Woolhouse M, Parrish CR, Carroll D, Karesh WB, et al. Prediction and prevention of the next pandemic zoonosis. Lancet 2012;380:1956-65.  Back to cited text no. 7
Lin Y, OuYang S. Irregularities and Prediction of Major Disasters. New York: Auerbach Publications, 2010. DOI: 10.1201/9781420087468.  Back to cited text no. 8
Arafat SY, Kumar Kar S, Shoib S. Panic buying: Is it really a problem? Int J Soc Psychiatry 2021;67:520-1.  Back to cited text no. 9
Arafat SM, Kar SK, Marthoenis M, Sharma P, Hoque Apu E, Kabir R. Psychological underpinning of panic buying during pandemic (COVID-19). Psychiatry Res 2020;289:113061.  Back to cited text no. 10


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