Why is it called Black Friday?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s that time of year again — pre-Christmas sales like those offered on Black Friday and Cyber Monday are upon us, and plenty of people are ready to dash out the door to take advantage of these opportunities.

So why are people driven to participate in Black Friday? It can be a combination of reasons, including people’s competitive nature, a desire to do something for your loved ones, high expectations and economic stressors that motivates one to get everything they want for their family and friends at the best price.

Ken Yeager, Ph.D., is the director of the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Stress Trauma and Resilience Program. He said these huge sales can trigger the same response in people’s brains as drugs and alcohol.

In addition, Yeager said some personality types are more prone to fall prey to Black Friday madness. These include the bargain hunter, the risk taker, the gambler, and those with Type A personality disorder. You can also add to the list the people who are more susceptible to advertising ploys.

According to Yeager, nearly all of us want to do something nice for people and if you bring it back to the simplest point, we all have that expectation of getting the perfect holiday gift, and perhaps at the perfect price. But a sign that you’ve gone too far is that you end up with less peace of mind, serenity and holiday cheer. Maybe it starts with an obsession and high expectation, but then you recognize yourself being short-tempered or frustrated getting from place to place, which could lead to even more aggressive behaviors.

Any time competition is involved, adrenaline joins the party. It can go over the “unhealthy” line when competition becomes aggression. We see this in sports all of the time, but we’ve also seen this in Black Friday where there have been stampedes at stores among people seeking those special deals. That’s why stores started staggering them.

Yeager offers this advice for those crossing into an unhealthy Black Friday mentality: Breathe, step back, and give yourself a reality check. Your worth to the person you’re giving the gift to has absolutely nothing to do with the present and everything to do with who you are.

“I think people tend to lose track of that,” Yeager said. “We often feel like we have to give something, but the most important thing we can give is spending time with each other.”


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