You see that new bass guitar in the store front window. Your eyes widen and a million thoughts all rush through your head at once like seeing the love of your life for the first time.
You head inside and check the price. $400.00 isn’t too bad you tell yourself. The wife won’t mind if I bought another bass or splurge on that other cabinet head. It is on sale after all and it is just one more piece of gear.
Whose really at fault here? Plus, the wife can’t stay mad forever, right?
You’re experiencing a common feeling among bass player and guitar players alike when surfing Craigslist, eBay or stepping into your local Guitar Center. You’re getting G.A.S (or simply GAS) or gear acquisition syndrome.
GAS is that feeling that is most commonly associated with bassists and guitarists when they see a piece of gear that they really want right now.
GAS has hit all of us at one point or another and its effects are not just limited to musicians. In doing research for this post, apparently camera collectors and photographers are about as known for their GAS problems as musicians are.
Keep reading to learn what goes into GAS and how to control GAS with science and a better understanding of what drives the musicians intentions to buy.
A New Pedal, Drugs and Buying a Car
GAS is nothing more than another name for wanting-something-really-bad and in some cases actually making the purchase and then going through the cycle of GAS. Like lusting over a new car, house, boat, camera or something else that tickles your fancy, there is that powerful feeling of want that overtakes us and should we decide to act on that feeling, we’re rewarded with a special chemical called dopamine.
Dopamine is a special chemical in the brain that gives us that temporary feeling of euphoria whensomething rewarding, positive – or even negative – happens to us. Whether we just got that new job, bought a new bass or broke up with our girlfriend, dopamine is released and, like any drug natural or synthetic, we become addicted to it and our behavior begins to change to receive more of that dopamine.
As much as rewards and “good stuff” that happens in our lives affects the dopamine levels being released, stress also affects our willingness and drive to look for rewards.
When something stressful happens, the body responds by releasing stress hormones into the body as a coping mechanism from the body and the brain. Stress hormones decrease our ability to inhibit impulsive behaviors and increase our desire to find rewards. Because of stress, we are sometimes unable to control desire for rewards that alleviate stress.
Ever find yourself buying more things that you later regret buying when you’re in a bad mood or depressed like cables, pedals or Burger King? You can thank your body’s natural coping mechanisms for that.
I Thought I Needed That Pedal…
We like to buy things. The act of exchanging money for something that brings us joy, personal satisfaction or can give us an edge on someone else are just some of the reasons why we buy things and the list of why we buy is extensive and heavily rooted in years of consumer buying habits from all walks and mediums of industry.
Our body does have its own psychological tools at work to help influence the situations where we buy and the mindset that makes buying optimal for us, but buying is as much an external event as it is an internal one.
How we buy and why we buy has become an area of scientific exploration in and of itself. Just about every aspect of how someone else can make a sale on someone has been analyzed down to colors, sound, and overall presentation.
When confronted with the salesman or the marketer, we’re quick to turn the other cheek in disgust. We don’t want to be bothered face-to-face, but when we’re looking online at gear, many of the aspects mentioned above at play to help coax our emotions along to get us to buy that piece of gear.
To top it all off, when we’re in doubt about making the purchase, we turn to reviews and the opinions of others to help gain a better perspective about the purchase we’re looking to make. We want to make sure that our GAS is not misplaced or we’re in the running to waste money and time with something that doesn’t suit our needs as sufficiently as we hoped.
Gear Acquisition Syndrome Cure: Consider These Options and Go Back and Read the Whole Article for Context (If You Haven’t Already!)
This post is meant to cure your GAS by giving you a look into the psychology and physiology involved with the body and brain when it comes to buying. The cure to this post is being able to understand what goes on during that split second when you see this:
and how to control yourself on making that purchase. Gear buying can be a major decision and when you’re dealing with a $100, $200 investment in a piece of gear, the best cure for your gear acquisition syndrome is first to be aware with what’s happening.
Once you’ve reeled yourself in, consider some of these other approaches to improving your decision-making process to make sure that the purchase you’re looking to make is really the best one for you and not an impulse:
Pretend like you’re advising a friend on the decision.The logic to this is that once you’ve stepped aside from your short-term emotions and begun to craft a logical argument for making this purchase with the hope of convincing a hypothetical friend that this purchase is the right one
Limit the amount of information you take in about the purchase. Though reviews and outside opinions are good to weigh all the options – or as many of them as you can – but too much information can paralyze you into not making a decision. To understand what information is the right information to be looking for, try asking questions that are directly related to the product itself. Will this work in my pedal board? How much money would I have to spend on an adapter to make it work? are just a few sample ideas of questions pertaining directly to the purchase about to be made.
Sleep on it. Impulse purchases are called impulse for a reason: you made the purchase in a split second after basing it on a set of mentally shallow parameters without thinking the entire purchase through. Walking away from the computer or out of the Guitar Center, doing a little bit of research on the gear and the going to sleep and approaching it again with a fresh head is the best way to see if your impulses were really impulses or actually hard reasons for wanting to buy that particular piece of gear.
For me to make a post with something like, “Step 1: Don’t buy anything.” would be disrespectful and downright inappropriate to everyone reading this.
See how this works then next time you have a tough decision to make.