This shock to the system may further damage the already-fragile psychology of the consumer. Writing a check or deducting the price of a pair of shoes directly from your bank account packs a much more potent emotional punch than charging the pair of Allen Edmonds loafers on your American Express platinum card. Chalk it up to a concept called “the pain of paying,” said Dan Ariely, the author of Predictably Irrational. (It’s a concept the parents of his students at Duke University feel every semester.) Imagine that a restaurant, rather than charging $30 per meal, charged 50 cents per bite, with a waiter standing tableside collecting after each chomp. That would be an extremely unpleasant meal. But credit puts a safe distance between the ecstasy of consumption and the agony of payment, and thus makes us feel better. Said Ariely: “If it’s more difficult to get credit, it might make people feel more pain of paying and therefore spend less.”
Nice to see this talked about. The concept that paying cash hurts more should be familiar to Dave Ramsey fans.