Money and the way we use it have long been the subject of many an economic study, but in more recent years academics have been looking into the psychological dimensions of money. What associations do we draw with money? How does it make us feel? How does it affect our behaviour? The CPA magazine recently ran an article summarising the results of some recently published studies on these very topics and some of the results are quite surprising.
Money can reduce our pain sensitivity – both physical and emotional
In a study conducted in China it was found that students who were given 80 $100 bills to count before putting their fingers into hot water reported less physical pain than students who were given 80 pieces of plain paper to count. Similarly those who counted the money reported feeling less distress in a social exclusion scenario.
Money can make us more self sufficient
For an American/Canadian study students filled out questionnaires in front of computers with different screensavers playing. The students were given the option to work together or alone. Those who sat in front of a screen saver displaying money were more likely to elect to work alone, and were more likely to provide solitary answers to survey questions such as “what is your favourite activity?”.
Money can make us less empathetic
In a US study students were asked to write a story containing certain stimulus words, and were then asked to draft a letter to a scholarship student informing them that their scholarship was being pulled due to lack of funding. The group of students who were given economic themed stimulus words for their story expressed less compassion in their letter and reported lower feelings of empathy.
Money can make us more self absorbed
A study in France observed people on the street by an ATM. People who passed were asked to participate in a survey. In a second part of the study an actress dropped her buss pass seemingly without noticing. People who stopped at the ATM and handled money were half as likely to stop and participate in the survey and significantly less likely (60% v. 96%) to stop a woman the actress and return her pass.
It would seem that not only proximity to money itself, but merely being subconsciously reminded of money can have a large effect on our decision making and social interactions. Other studies referenced also found that money can make us more likely to lie, and more likely to condone the existing social order. Though these are perhaps less unexpected findings, the extent to which thoughts of money can alter our behaviour is much greater and more diverse than anticipated by many, and should prove to be an interesting field of psychological research into the future.