Jonah Lehrer cites research that shows the ease of paying with credit cards makes people spend more:

...when it comes to the question of whether or not Americans can suddenly reverse long-term consumption trends - we want that shiny new HDTV, and we want it right now! - it's worth pointing out that this isn't simply a case of modern decadence, or of the baby boomers/Generation X not having any self-control. Instead, it's an example of how seemingly insignificant cultural tweaks - in theory, it shouldn't matter how we pay for things - can have profound implications.

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