What are the things that influence you when you’re choosing what to buy from any given store? A study soon to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that, even if you don’t realize it, how items are displayed in a store—any kind of store—may affect your purchases. Researchers found that shoppers subconsciously tend to focus on the central option in a product display area in the five seconds before they make their decision, Phys.org reports.

"Consumers are more likely to purchase products placed in the middle of a display—without even being aware of it," Onur Bodur, co-author of the study and associate professor at the Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business, is quoted as saying. He and his fellow researchers used eye-tracking devices to see how the placement of a variety of products would affect sales. They then asked participants in their study to discuss their decision-making process, and it was at this point that they learned that the consumers weren’t aware that they had been focusing on a particular area of the display.

The authors of the study recommend keeping these findings in mind and consciously subverting the tendency to focus on the central display area, which may often contain premium products instead of the products from which you might get the best value for your money. "By using this newfound knowledge that visual attention is naturally drawn to the center of a display, consumers can consciously train themselves to make a more thorough visual scan of what's on offer," says Bodur.

So the next time you’re in a supermarket, bookstore, or department store, make it a point to check out the prices and quality of the items on the top and bottom shelves as well as the middle ones. You may just find yourself saving a pretty penny.

(Photo by Rowan Peter via Flickr Creative Commons)

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