Credit cards and global cognitive focus
Buffardi, Laura E.
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Credit cards are increasingly prevalent in the lives of consumers. Recent research has established that interacting with credit cards produces a different cognitive mindset in comparison to interacting with cash. Buffardi & Campbell (2009) have shown that credit cards lead to a big picture, inclusive, or global cognitive focus; whereas, comparatively cash leads to a detail-oriented, exclusive, or local cognitive focus. The present research tests a potential mechanism underlying this cognitive shift – temporal distance. In two studies, it was determined whether a cognitive association exists between credit cards and distant time and whether this association is responsible for credit cards inciting global cognitive focus. First, implicit and explicit reports of the ease of association between credit cards and distant future time (and cash and near time) were examined. Second, global focus was assessed when the time until a credit card payment was manipulated to be in the near future rather than the distant future. Results showed that individuals have an implicit and explicit bias for pairing credit cards with distant future time. It was also found that reducing this pairing by assigning a near future payment to a credit card purchase eliminated the credit card – global focus effect. Implications of these findings for consumer psychology and consumer educational and debt prevention programs are discussed.