Credit card purchases give the brain the same ‘hit’ as cocaine and spur shopping sprees, research has revealed confirming a narrative from compulsive buyers who say they are addicted to spending.
It has long been known that shoppers tend to spend more when using plastic instead of cash.
Now a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) shows that credit card spending triggers the same chemical reaction in the brain as addictive drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines.
The researchers found that the cards ‘step on the gas’ by putting costs out-of-mind regardless of expense.
But different cards can spark different desires, the study showed. Cards used in restaurants and on holidays create a greater appetite for spending than cards used to buy fuel, for example.
The research’s co-author, Professor Drazen Prelec, said: ‘The reward networks in the brain that are activated by all kinds of rewards are activated by a credit card purchase.
‘The act of putting that plastic credit card in your hand is associated with enjoyable purchases.’
Read More: Kid spends Rs1.1mn on video game from mother’s credit card
The researchers studied brain scans of participants who used personal plastic cards or cash to make real purchases of everyday products.
The findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that cash purchases did not stimulate ‘reward networks’ in the brain.