If you've ever signed up to a subscription box service, you'll know how addictive they can be.

There's the anticipation of waiting for the box to arrive, the excitement of wondering what's inside, and the thrill of getting a haul of shiny new products delivered directly to your door once a month.

But according to retail experts, there's a reason why we can't get enough of subscription boxes — and it all comes down to psychology.

University of Tasmania marketing lecturer Louise Grimmer has studied the science behind it all, and she said the rush we get from subscription boxes was similar to a gambler's high.

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"If you keep giving subjects the same reinforcements all the time and they're always certain there's going to be a reward, people tend to lose interest quickly. But when you're gambling, you're never sure when or if you're going to get that reward, and the same goes for subscription boxes. There's uncertainty about what's inside them, like gambling. The rush of dopamine you get when you open a box is like what you get when you gamble, or when you get a like on social media," she said.

"Another aspect is the principle of behavioural consistency — consumers and humans are all creatures of habit, we tend to behave in a certain way and exhibit the same behaviour. Subscription boxes are a pleasurable thing, they arrive at your door once a month, so people keep their subscription going.

"The other thing retailers use is the scarcity principle — the fear of missing out. What some services are doing in America is offering boxes curated by celebrities and the premise is this isn't going to last forever, so you have to sign up quickly to get this box."

Grimmer stressed she was neither for or against subscription boxes, as long as consumers were getting high quality, good value products — but she said it was important to understand the psychology behind why we're likely to get hooked on them.

"You just need to be aware of the psychology of why you might be wanting these boxes, and you need to be aware of the fine print. You hand over your credit card details in order to have a recurring subscription, and sometimes people don't read the rules around minimum delivery or cancellation, so it's a case of buyer beware," she said.

"Some services also want to tailor-make a box for you, so they ask you to fill out a detailed questionnaire, and while that helps them curate your box, you need to be aware that the information collected can be shared with the brands featured in the box."