Study: People who hoard toilet paper are just looking for a symbol of safety
by Jennifer Ouellette/arsTechnica
Back in March, we reported on the strange phenomenon of people scrambling to stockpile toilet paper as the coronavirus pandemic led to widespread adoption of shelter-in-place and social-distancing policies. Now German scientists have pinpointed a couple of key personality traits that appear to be linked to this kind of hoarding behavior, per a new paper in the journal PLOS ONE.
Consumer behavior researcher Kit Yarrow told Ars in March that toilet paper hoarding is at least partly an attempt to gain a sense of control when the world feels uncertain and dangerous. “When we feel anxious, which I think all of us do right now—it would be sort of abnormal to not feel a little anxious—the antidote to anxiety is always control,” she said. “And since we can’t really control the track of this disease, we turn to what we can control, and that’s why people are shopping. It’s like, ‘Well, I feel like I’m doing something, I feel like I’m preparing. I feel like I’m taking control of the thing I can control, which is stocking up.'”
As for why people hoarded toilet paper in particular, according to Yarrow, this kind of panic buying could be …read more: