Gruen transfer

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In shopping mall design, the Gruen transfer (also known as the Gruen effect) is the moment when consumers enter a shopping mall or store and, surrounded by an intentionally confusing layout, lose track of their original intentions, making consumers more susceptible to make impulse buys. It is named after Austrian architect Victor Gruen, who disavowed such manipulative techniques.[1][2][3]


The Gruen transfer is a psychological phenomenon in which an idealised hyper-reality is realized by deliberate reconstruction, providing a sense of safety and calm through exceptional familiarity.[1][2][4]

In a speech in London in 1978, Victor Gruen disavowed shopping mall developments as having "bastardised" his ideas:[5][3] "I refuse to pay alimony for those bastard developments."[6]

References in other media[edit]

A television program on Australia's ABC1 network, called The Gruen Transfer, is named after the effect. The program discusses the methods, science and psychology behind advertising.[7]


1952 – Dayton company commissioned Victor Gruen to build the first indoor, climate controlled shopping mall, Southdale Center,[8] in Edina, Minnesota.[9]

1956 – Southdale Center grand opening.[9]

1960s onwards – Shopping malls became very popular as they were in many cases the only air-conditioned place in town. Many more shopping malls started opening using similar designs and were very popular until the 1990s.[2][9]


  1. ^ a b Weiss-Sussex, Godela; Bianchini, Franco, (Editor) (November 30, 2006). Urban Mindscapes of Europe. Series:European Studies Series. Amsterdam, New York, NY: Brill Academic Publishers, Rodopi. p. 92. ISBN 9789042021044.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b c Hardwick, M. Jeffrey (2015-08-18). Mall Maker: Victor Gruen, Architect of an American Dream. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 9780812292992.
  3. ^ a b Frank, Jacqui (December 6, 2016). "There's a psychological phenomenon that explains why you lose track of time in shopping malls" (Video). Business Insider. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  4. ^ Miles, Malcolm; Hall, Tim; Borden, Iain (2004-01-01). The City Cultures Reader. Psychology Press. ISBN 9780415302456.
  5. ^ Malcolm Gladwell, The Terrazzo Jungle, The New Yorker, March 15, 2004, Accessed June 12, 2009.
  6. ^ Byrnes, Mark. "Victor Gruen Wanted to Make Our Suburbs More Urban. Instead, He Invented the Mall". The Atlantic Cities. The Atlantic Media Company. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
  7. ^ "ABC TV - The Gruen Transfer - FAQ". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2008-02-27. Retrieved 2010-07-03.
  8. ^ "Retailing, Southdale shopping Center was also the first indoor shopping mall". The Economist. December 19, 2007. Retrieved June 12, 2009.
  9. ^ a b c "Southdale Center | MNopedia". Retrieved 2016-05-17.