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The Deeper Meaning of Black Friday


The paper aims to find the connection between the biggest shopping event of the year, Black Friday, and four concepts, namely social proof, loss aversion, mental accounting, and decision paralyzer. Moreover, the relation of discounts and gifts, as well as the competitive nature of presents will be discovered. Black Friday is a perfect example of how retailers use psychological knowledge to receive the biggest profit. The author of the article The Deeper Meaning of Black Friday aims to provide the reader with the evident information regarding the connection between Christmas, Black Friday, the excessive gift of God, and the willingness of people to compete using gifts as the tool for the establishment of the social status.

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The event after the Thanksgiving holidays has a deeper meaning than just providing the discounts for the Christmas season opening. The paper makes an accent on the origins of the shopping event and highlights the reason for the significance and popularity of the day after Thanksgiving. Due to the in-depth analysis of the literature, we found the connection between the popularity of Black Friday, social influence, and psychological concepts. Social influence and opinion seem to be the significant factors in making Black Friday the most widespread shopping event. The society of consumerism is a prolific environment for retailers to create such tradition. The study is relevant as it presents a detailed analysis of the psychological phenomenon of Black Friday; however, it should be pointed out that the area demands further research.

Main Body

Black Friday is the most expected shopping event of the year. According to recent studies, almost 140 million people in the United States shop during Black Friday. More than 50 billion dollars are spent annually during Thanksgiving weekend (Gilovich & Belsky, 2011). The issue regarding the positive side of Black Friday is controversial. Some people tend to think that this occasion is worth waiting in line for getting the best products for the lowest price. However, is it so? The public opinion concerning Black Friday changes as some start to understand that it encourages overspending and makes people aggressive. It is the illusion that retailers make impressive sales.

There is hardly a person in the world who does not know about Black Friday. However, the concepts and theories that stand behind the event remain a secret for the vast majority. The article The Deeper Meaning of Black Friday written by Ian Bogost claims that sales and discounts can be considered as a gift, and it is not about generosity, it is about the competition (Bogost, 2015). The potlatch is a good example of the competitive nature of gifts.

The paper is focused on Black Friday as a social phenomenon. The accent is laid on four major concepts associated with the biggest shopping event, namely social proof, loss aversion, mental accounting, and decision paralysis. Gifts and discounts as the tool for competition and generosity should also be examined as well as the connection between social influence and Black Friday’s obsession.

Concepts and Theories

Black Friday is a perfect example of how human behavior depends on the society. Social proof is a psychological phenomenon that describes the behavior of people who reflect the actions of others thinking that everyone else knows better how to deal with a difficult situation.

Loss aversion is about avoiding losses and gaining profits. Such a tendency is fundamental for Black Friday, to create the illusion of offering wonderful discounts; people believe that they will save money. However, it is not so.

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Mental accounting is another concept that is associated with the biggest shopping occasion of the year (Gilovich, Keltner, Chen, & Nisbett, 2015). Mental accounting aims to describe how people treat money.

During the rush of Black Friday, people face the decision paralysis. When there are too many options, it is difficult to make a decision; however, not making a decision sometimes can be costly.

The author of the article The Deeper Meaning of Black Friday compares gifts and discounts to one ultimate gift that God made to humanity, namely sacrificing Jesus Christ for humankind’s sake. Marcel Mauss notes that the true nature of the gift is the barter. Competition is a fundamental key to understanding why people stand in a line. Everyone wants to get the best price, the best gift for wife or husband and expect to receive something equally prestigious in return.


Black Friday is the shopping tradition. It occurs on the fourth Friday of November. The event opens the Christmas shopping season and offers discounts and sales to the customers (Bell, Weathers, Hastings, & Peterson, 2014). There are many reasons that make Black Friday the most popular shopping day. First and foremost, it occurs before Christmas and starts New Year’s preparation. The vast majority of the workers have the day off and enjoy their holiday weekend. To make profit retailers have chosen the most appropriate day of the year. Retailers used to offer the customers sales for the whole holiday weekend; however, the situation has changed. Nowadays, the fundamental strategy is to create a feeling of urgency, and that is, the tradition is not followed.

Throughout history, the adjective black symbolized tragedy. The definition ‘Black Friday’ is referred not only to the shopping but for the panic of 1869 as well. In 1951, Black Friday was a day when the vast majority of the employees pretended to be sick to have four days off because of the Thanksgiving holidays. The article in the New York Times used this term to describe one of the busiest shopping days before Christmas. In 1981, retailers decided to create an event that will bring as much profit as possible (Raymen & Smith, 2015). Nowadays, Black Friday is not only the American phenomenon; it became popular in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, India, France, and Germany. As a matter of fact, Black Friday is a perfect example of how proper management strategies with the combination of human psychology work for the achievement of success.

Discussion and Conclusions

Black Friday is an example of how concepts of loss aversion, mental accounting, social proof, and decision paralysis can be combined for the successful widespread of the event.

Madness during Black Friday can be described by a social proof theory as it is commonly used for manipulation. Retailers create an atmosphere where everyone wants to buy something because all people are doing it. The drawback is that aggressive behavior comes in addition.

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Loss aversion is a typical reason for people to shop during Black Friday. As a matter of fact, people want to save money buying things they do not need for illusion discounts. Sometimes the product can be bought for a better price on an ordinary sale. However, the delusion of the discounts and the fear of economic loss is a guiding power.

The vast majority of people spend more money using gift, credit, or debit cards (Zhou, Zhang, & Zimmermann, 2013). As a matter of fact, those who shop during Black Friday usually do not take cash, and this is considered to be an advantage for the retailer as the customers would spend more in the shopping race.

Black Friday proves that the vast majority of people in their willingness to meet expectations and to buy something cannot choose what to consume, as there is a panic atmosphere and the customers grab everything they see because they will acquit all the purchases thinking that it was on sale, and it helped to save money.

The pivotal point of Black Friday is not to let the customers buy everything on sale at the lowest price; the actual sense is deeper. The retailers put not the top products on the biggest sale (although the products are in small quantity) and wait for the customers to come and buy something in addition. The author compares the magnanimous gift of God to the discounts of retailers, noting that such things are incomparable.

The aspect of religion seems to be essential to take into account while investigating how religious beliefs linked to the willingness to compete by giving a present to someone (Lyden & Mazur, 2015). Black Friday is an impressive phenomenon that shows the cooperation between the perfect manager’s work, advertisement, psychology, and human nature.

The area demands further research as it is significantly important to investigate the connection between the society of consumerism and the popularity of Black Friday. Moreover, statistics of Black Friday’s success in different countries may contribute to a better understanding of the similarities between the people of different cultures.


Bell, G. C., Weathers, M. R., Hastings, S. O., & Peterson, E. B. (2014). Investigating the Celebration of Black Friday as a Communication Ritual. Journal of Creative Communications, 9(3), 235-251. Web.

Bogost, I. (2015). The Deeper Meaning of Black Friday. The Atlantic. Web.

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Gilovich, T., & Belsky, G. (2011). Attention Holiday Shoppers: Plastic Hurts-Then Hurts Again!Web.

Gilovich, T., Keltner, D., Chen, S., & Nisbett, R. (2015). Social Psychology (4th ed.). New York, NY: WW Norton & Company Incorporated. Web.

Lyden, J., & Mazur, E. (2015). The Routledge companion to religion and popular culture. New York, NY: Routledge. Web.

Raymen, T., & Smith, O. (2015). What’s Deviance Got to Do With It? Black Friday Sales, Violence and Hyper-conformity. British Journal of Criminology, 56(2), 389-405. Web.

Zhou, L., Zhang, P., & Zimmermann, H. (2013). Social commerce research: An integrated view. Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, 12(2), 61-68. Web.

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