Hey Toilet Paper Hoarders: We Know Who You are Now

Many of us found ourselves stunned, confused and s* out of luck during the past couple months as store after store had empty shelves where the toilet paper should have been.  (See our blog post: Americans. Love. Toilet Paper.)  Toilet paper, in fact, became such a rare commodity that people had to resort to the grey market, buying partial rolls on places like eBay and swapping favors for tp on community social media groups.

It quickly became evident that the reason for the coast to coast shortage was due to a small amount of people engaging in vast amounts of hoarding the valuable rolls.  (Some companies reported an increase of up to 700 percent in toilet paper sales.) But who were these reactionary individuals, completely void of compassion for their fellow human beings?  Well, thanks to new research conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, we now have the answer to that question.

Study overview

Researchers surveyed 1,029 adults from 35 countries who were recruited through social media. Between 23 and 29 March 2020, participants completed the Brief HEXACO Inventory (which ranks six broad personality domains) and shared information on their demographics, perceived threat level of COVID-19, quarantine behaviors, and toilet paper consumption in recent weeks.

woman in pink long sleeve hoodie carrying tissue rolls

Profile of Toilet Paper Hoarders

Here is an overview of the research findings about what sorts of people hoard toilet paper during a pandemic:

√ Perceived threat was the strongest predictor of who hoarding toilet paper. People who felt more threatened tended to stockpile more toilet paper.

People who generally tend to worry a lot and feel anxious are most likely to feel threatened and stockpile toilet paper. 

√ Older people stockpiled more toilet paper than younger people.

√ Americans stockpiled more than Europeans.

√ The personality domain of conscientiousness — which includes traits of organization, diligence, perfectionism and prudence — was also a predictor of toilet paper stockpiling.

white toilet paper rolls

So as it turns out, the Toilet Papers Hoarders of the COVID Lock Down share the same personality qualities as many people’s bosses. Remember this.  Because this little fun fact can provide you with some pretty powerful leverage when negotiating your next promotion or pay increase.



Journal Reference: Lisa Garbe, Richard Rau, Theo Toppe. Influence of perceived threat of Covid-19 and HEXACO personality traits on toilet paper stockpiling. PLOS ONE, 2020; 15 (6): e0234232 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0234232