“What’s Pain Got To Do With It?”: How the Pain of Payment Influences Our Choices and Our Relationships

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One of the most frequent things we do as consumers is make purchase. We pay for a coffee or for food, we pay for necessities around the house, we even pay for one another, buying drinks or dinner for a friend every now and then. In today’s marketplace, the decision of whether to purchase is also coupled with the decision of how to make a purchase. Consumers have so many different methods to pay for their transactions. Can the way a consumer chooses to pay change the likelihood that s/he make a purchase? And then post-purchase, can the payment method used to pay for a purchase influence how connected individuals feel to that product, brand, or organization? Given that we sometimes pay for others (and vice versa), can the way we pay influence our interpersonal relationships?

In what follows, I argue that the way individuals pay, and specifically the pain associated with making a payment, can have a pervasive effect on their decision to make a purchase and how they feel post-transaction. Across three essays, I focus on how the pain of paying can influence the likelihood to purchase an item from a consideration set (Essay 1) and subsequently, how the pain of paying can influence post-transaction connection to a product, organization, or even to other people (Essay 2 and 3). Across field, laboratory, online, and archival methods, I find robust evidence that increasing the pain of paying may initially deter individuals from choosing. However, post-transaction, increasing the pain of payment may have an upside: individuals feel closer and more committed to a product that they purchased, organization that they donated to, and feel greater connection and rapport to who they spent their money on. However, I also demonstrate the boundary conditions of these findings. When individuals are spending money on something that is undesirable, such as paying for a competitor, increasing the pain of payment decreases interpersonal connection and rapport.





Shah, Avni Mahesh (2015). “What’s Pain Got To Do With It?”: How the Pain of Payment Influences Our Choices and Our Relationships. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/11381.


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