Cashless payments may increase the consumption of unhealthy foods

New research published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research has unveiled that the widespread use of cashless payments through credit cards or mobile applications could substantially increase the consumption of unhealthy food.

The study included two separate experimentations: one of a simulation shopping task using electrodermal activity and another experiment comparing shoppers based on their educational attainment.

Researchers associated with the University of Chicago aimed at explaining the link between cashless payments and unhealthy consumption of food by demonstrating changes in bodily changes to payments and how it influences consumer responses.

It was suggested in the study that cash and cashless payments induce distinct levels of negative arousal during shopping decisions, with the physical transference of money for food when shopping at a store, elicits more negative arousal.

“Two experiments test this decision-risk inattention hypothesis in the context of vice food (i.e., hedonic food with health risks),” according to the study.

“Study 1 demonstrates that cashless payments reduce negative arousal measured through skin conductance, and increase purchase intentions of vice food. Study 2 shows that the effect of cashless payments is stronger for shoppers who are more sensitive to health risks,” the study also states.

The findings concluded: “Our studies show that cash payments induce a higher level of negative arousal compared to cashless payments. This negative arousal directs consumers’ attention to risk factors involved in purchase decision such as the health risks posed by food items.”

The study was authored by Joowon Park, Clarence Lee, and Manoj Thomas.

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