Pathological Buying Online as a Specific Form of Internet Addiction: A Model-Based Experimental Investigation (2015)

PLoS One. 2015 Oct 14;10(10):e0140296. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0140296. eCollection 2015.

Trotzke P1, Starcke K1, Müller A2, Brand M3.


The study aimed to investigate different factors of vulnerability for pathological buying in the online context and to determine whether online pathological buying has parallels to a specific Internet addiction. According to a model of specific Internet addiction by Brand and colleagues, potential vulnerability factors may consist of a predisposing excitability from shopping and as mediating variable, specific Internet use expectancies. Additionally, in line with models on addiction behavior, cue-induced craving should also constitute an important factor for online pathological buying. The theoretical model was tested in this study by investigating 240 female participants with a cue-reactivity paradigm, which was composed of online shopping pictures, to assess excitability from shopping. Craving (before and after the cue-reactivity paradigm) and online shopping expectancies were measured. The tendency for pathological buying and online pathological buying were screened with the Compulsive Buying Scale (CBS) and the Short Internet Addiction Test modified for shopping (s-IATshopping). The results demonstrated that the relationship between individual’s excitability from shopping and online pathological buying tendency was partially mediated by specific Internet use expectancies for online shopping (model’s R² = .742, p < .001). Furthermore, craving and online pathological buying tendencies were correlated (r = .556, p < .001), and an increase in craving after the cue presentation was observed solely in individuals scoring high for online pathological buying (t(28) = 2.98, p < .01, d = 0.44). Both screening instruments were correlated (r = .517, p < .001), and diagnostic concordances as well as divergences were indicated by applying the proposed cut-off criteria. In line with the model for specific Internet addiction, the study identified potential vulnerability factors for online pathological buying and suggests potential parallels. The presence of craving in individuals with a propensity for online pathological buying emphasizes that this behavior merits potential consideration within the non-substance/behavioral addictions.