Why Do Malaysians Love Shopping Malls So Much?

9hoursofsenses
4 min readDec 26, 2019

The weather is too hot to be elsewhere? Or is it something more?

Photo by Omar Elsharawy on Unsplash
Photo by Omar Elsharawy on Unsplash

By the end of 2016, there were 255 malls in the Klang Valley (Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, and Putrajaya) with a total retail area of about 68.2 million sq ft. As of 2018, the average occupancy rate of these malls was reportedly at 85–87 percent. By the end of 2019, Malaysia is expected to have 700 shopping malls in total with a total retail area of 170 million sq ft. We don’t have to know these statistics to realistically understand the expansive coverage of malls we have in the country. Taking a drive around Klang Valley, one can always spot big shopping malls along the way — each fighting against one another to become the new, winning concept; each filling as the triumph of mundane in our urban lives.

A young backpacker from Barcelona commented on the ridiculousness of our malls, “Why do you guys have so many malls here? I don’t think I’ve been to a country with this many malls.”. Me too, my mate. What is the most worrying sight of shopping malls would be families spending time in malls? Wandering aimlessly is now part of family entertainment, retail therapy now extends into kids’ lives. This is a wrong form of ‘start them young’ as kids are being exposed to an environment that supports consumerism, filled with unimportant marketing information they might absorb as worldviews.

Huda Akil of the University of Michigan performed a study on rats, in particular, rats and dopamine-driven reward. A light on the left side of a rat’s cage signals that lever pressing will produce a reward from a food chute on the right side. Remarkably, rats eventually will work for the chance to hang around on the left side of the cage, just because it feels so nice to be there. The signal has gained the dopaminergic power of what is being signaled. Similarly, rats will work to be exposed to a cue that signals that some kind of reward is likely, without knowing what or when. This is what fetishes are, in both the anthropological and sexual sense.

From the anthropological sense, we can possibly ask — is that why people love to hang around shopping malls that much? Perhaps, this could also explain why we tend to add items to carts and rarely checkout on online shopping websites. Doing so ignites a dopaminergic power; it allows us to…

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