This Associated Press article, redistributed in papers like the Sun Times, describes the psychology behind the “lipstick factor,” or how affordable luxuries (like coffee) can be largely immune to wide scale economic downturn.

CHICAGO (AP) Since Marty O’Rourke lost his job making furniture late last year, the 39-year-old gave up driving to save money.

He gave up take-out dinners. But there’s one thing he won’t give up, he says sitting with a friend in a coffee shop: “my mochas, which I love. I go every day. I just feel really relaxed.”

Despite the sinking economy, it seems most everyone has a favorite little luxury they’d be hard-pressed to jettison, whether it’s that daily latte, a night at the movies, a bar of good chocolate or some other pick-me-up.

And consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow says that’s healthy, especially given the stomach-churning financial reports.

Small indulgences, she says, are “like life’s punctuations.”

“They take a normal progression and the give it a little zest here and there,” says Yarrow, a professor of business and psychology at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. “Even in a down economy, when people are getting smaller luxuries, they’re even more important. We need to feel bolstered. We need to feel delighted.”

There’s more. It’s worth reading…