Don't fall victim to the Target Effect.

By Elizabeth Preske
October 07, 2018
Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

You know the drill.

You walk into Target looking for one thing — like a new pair of gloves or a package of toilet paper — and you walk out with a cartload of items. Were you planning on getting them? No. But as soon as you saw those salt and pepper shakers you couldn't resist picking them up.

As you dump your glorious, new purchases in the trunk of your car, you are probably wondering how you even wound up in the kitchen goods section in the first place. Blame the Target Effect.

You see, the store's aesthetic is designed to make you spend. "You have good people in the marketing department at Target, and they have really good designers who have created such an ambient atmosphere for people," psychologist Dr. Kevin Chapman told Refinery 29. “It's really well lit at Target, right? There's a lot of color at Target. It's pretty consistent throughout the store and generally that's going to make people happier. And what do people do in happy-feeling environments? Why, spend money, of course!”

Creating this happy-inducing atmosphere goes beyond the look, though. According to Chad Grills, CEO of The Mission, studies show that listening to music can boost your productivity as well as your mood. Target knows this, and up until recently, the store used to forego playing background music at its stores to limit distractions and keep you focused on shopping (which could explain why we spend so much time slowly meandering through the aisles).

Over the past few years, however, music has been slowly introduced to at least 245 Target stores in the country, reported the Minneapolis Business Journal. A Target spokesperson said the playlists would be “upbeat, positive and [have] a playful personality.”

But whether or not your local Target has a soundtrack, you can take steps ahead of time to work a little psychology on yourself. If you'd like a little help saving money the next time you're heading to Target, bring some headphones. Listen to faster music to keep yourself moving more quickly and spending less — and make sure you're not listening to slow or classical music while you're running errands — you may find yourself moving more slowly through the store and buying more expensive items.