Emotion makes us more likely to make impulsive purchases

What is Hot state decision making?

High levels of emotion, or when we’re in a ‘hot state’, can impact the rational process of making a decision. 

We’re lured in by what we’re feeling at the time, so may ignore or downplay other important factors that have long-term effects. For example donating to charity after watching a distressing advert without thinking about if we can afford it.

The evidence it works

In an experiment conducted by Brendl et al. in 2003, one group of people were given popcorn and another left without food. The two groups were then asked to rate the attractiveness of various products – some being food items. 

Those who had popcorn before rating products reported the food items more attractive. Summary being that they’d been made hungrier by the popcorn, or put in a hot state, so they were more attracted to the food.*

Where it fits in our behavioural model – The ‘means’ METRIC

The three core principles of our Behavioural Model is that every behaviour has to have a motivation, trigger and the means.

The means are the resources to get what you want. This isn’t just money – choosing and buying also costs time and effort, thought and worry.

In theory, the means depend on what’s in short supply. So if we’re short of time, we’ll spend money. If we don’t want to take a risk, we’ll invest more thought. If everyone else is doing one thing, we’d rather join the queue and spend time, than feel like the odd one out.

But our judgement of these things is often flawed. For example, we can only judge numbers in comparison with other numbers and we’re inclined to not waste energy, so the easier something seems the more likely we are to choose it (like joining the queue). Which forms the basis of our Behavioural Model.

The means model is split into six different sections: Money, Effort, Time, Risk, Individuality, and Conscious thought. Which handily spells METRIC.

Hot state decision making comes under the conscious thought section of our model – we tend to revert to autopilot decision making when we’re put in a hot state.

How we've used it with clients


For Bradstone customers, their garden is their pièce de résistance. A place to host friends and family, show off their sense of style and relax in a space they’re at home with. It’s ultimately a reflection of their lifestyle, so emotion played a big part in creating it.

We put our customers in a hot state by selling the dream garden, earmarking quality, experience and style. We also took over the Ideal Home website as part of the strategy with great results.




The line ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ fits this bias perfectly. We can all relate to the feeling of hunger that makes us pick up the first thing we see – even if it’s not our favourite. And the fact Snickers are so widely available brings it back to the product too.



The Hard Rock Café Hotel in Orlando has a lot more to offer than just hotel facilities. Knowing that a lot of people visiting the hotel would be hungry, they wanted to remind people that they could enjoy their ice cream shop too. 

To direct people to this, the hotel pumped out artificial scents of sugar cookies and waffle cones. Acting as “aroma billboards” they drew people towards the ice cream shop in the basement. Using the Hot State bias, they saw sales increase by 45%.

Hard Rock Hotel’s Emack & Bolio’s Marketplace
Hard Rock Hotel’s Emack & Bolio’s Marketplace


Charities tugging on our heart strings to get us to donate isn’t new. But Save the Children did it particularly well here. So well in fact they created a sequel the year after which was just as emotive.


How we can help you

We’re an agency that makes your marketing more efficient with behavioural science. To find out how we can help you reach your goals, get in touch now.

By Ellen Jackson

Creative Copywriter