The NonVerbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs & Body Language Cues


Plastic shopping bags lower the wow-factor of whatever you're wearing. --Veronique Vienne (1997:156)

Hunting & gathering. The usually pleasurable act of wandering through stores in search of consumer products, services, and bargains.

Usage: Shopping is a uniquely human activity with a. prehistoric roots in hunting and gatheringb. primate roots in foraging, and c. neonatal roots in the grasping reflex (see OBJECT FANCYNeuro-notes). U.S. adults spend ca. six percent of their waking time (i.e., six hours a week) shopping (Sun et al. 1989). (N.B.: American women shop 40% more than American men [Sun et al. 1989].)

Evolution. As a nonverbal activity, the joys, challenges, and routines of shopping are partly innate. Wild primates, e.g., make daily foraging trips in search of food to consume and, seemingly, to enjoy. Chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, use color vision to browse for nuts, fruits, and berries. By ca. two m.y.a., our earliest human ancestors (Homo habilis) spent less time hunting than foraging, gathering, and scavenging--in family groups--for whatever they could find (Blumenschine and Cavallo 1992). The landscape was their mall.

Today I. We spend a great deal of our social time collectively browsing for apparel, colorful objects, and edibles in shopping malls. In the U.S., e.g., nine out of ten (i.e., 94% of) adults report having visited a shopping center "last month" (Conn and Silverman 1991:127).

Today II. The shopping quest is rewarding--whether we actually buy or not. In the U.S., men buy an average 35 articles of clothing a year, while women purchase 54 (Conn and Silverman 1991:32). For American women, the favored item is clothing, while for men it is automobiles(Conn and Silverman 1991:128). Most American men (two-thirds) do not shop alone for their own clothes, but instead are accompanied by women (Conn and Silverman 1991:128).

Media1. The modern shopping mall, which borrows heavily from messaging features designed for Disneyland, has, like the theme park itself, become a form of "media in the round." "'In a business that is as dependent as film or theater on appearances,' the magazine [Chain Store Age Executive (winter 1992)] concluded, 'the illusion of safety [in a shopping mall] is as vital or even more so, than its reality'" (Glaberson 1992:B4). 2. In a survey of Self women's magazine readers, a. 49% shop "whenever the mood strikes"; b. 69% prefer shopping by "Myself"; c. 74% spend the most time shopping for "Myself"; d. 72% shop most often in "Malls"; and e. 72% "find shopping helps if you're depressed" (Anonymous (1992E).

Pediatrics. Babies are pre-adapted for shopping. They arrive on earth ready to explore--i.e., to actively look, listen, and reach out to touch and handle colorful objects in their world. (N.B.: Forty square feet of shopping-center space has been constructed in the U.S. for every baby born since 1986 [Conn and Silverman 1991:128].)

Psychology. In the U.S., 96,738 acres of land are occupied by shopping centers and malls (Conn and Silverman 1991:89). A patron entering a store usually turns right (perhaps due to the right eye's dominance). According to marketing psychologists, shoppers look around the front section directly inside a store's entrance, but are less likely to buy goods displayed there than items located in areas to their right. (N.B.: Whether right or left-handed, we do more impulse buying on a shop's right-hand side [Kyriakos1992].)

Psychiatry. The uncontrollable urge to buy things is called oniomania.