Why are people panic-buying and hoarding bulk items?

Scared shoppers are continuing to strip store shelves during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But why are so many people stocking up on certain supplies in such a hurry?

Behaviorist Dr. Ali Fenwick says people start loading up their shopping carts because their brain switches from a rational state to survival mode. Unknown situations can scare people into getting more than they actually need.

Fenwick says the “scarcity effect” also comes into play. Once people notice fewer of a specific item on the shelves, they assign a higher value to that item, and believe they may need it before it completely runs out.

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Experts say “herd mentality” may also cause you to feel unprepared for not getting the same items other people are purchasing, but in the end, panic buying helps people feel in control.

Fenwick says when you buy what you think you’ll need, it can help you feel more prepared for what’s to come.


In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

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