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More Junk Food: Shopping Cart or Basket?

Cart-pushers less likely to buy from checkout racks

Q. I've read that people buy more junk food at the checkout line if they shop with a handheld basket rather than a cart. Can this be true?

A. That's what a team of European social scientists reports (PDF) in the Journal of Marketing Research, based on observations in a supermarket.

See also: Save money on groceries with online coupons.

Researchers tracked 136 randomly selected shoppers making their way through the aisles. Basket shoppers were nearly seven times more likely to add "vice products" such as chocolate bars from racks at the checkout line than people who pushed shopping carts.

The explanation (or so the team theorizes): "arm flexor contraction" that occurs when carrying a basket causes tension and strain on muscles, triggering a need for instant gratification.

But just so you know, the American Diabetes Association puts its faith in baskets. Their smaller capacity, it reasons, will help you avoid impulse purchases that undermine goals of a lean and healthy diet.

Also of interest: Test your smarts with comparison-shopping quiz. >>

Sid Kirchheimer writes about consumer and health issues.