The Psychological Consequences of Money
Kathleen D. Vohs, et al.
Science 314, 1154 (2006);
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The Psychological Consequences
Kathleen D. Vohs,1* Nicole L. Mead,2 Miranda R. Goode3
Money has been said to change people’s motivation (mainly for the better) and their behavior toward others (mainly for the worse). The results of nine experiments suggest that money brings about a self-sufficient orientation in which people prefer to be free of dependency and dependents. Reminders of money, relative to nonmoney reminders, led to reduced requests for help and reduced helpfulness toward others. Relative to participants primed with neutral concepts, participants primed with money preferred to play alone, work alone, and put more physical distance between themselves and a new acquaintance
eople long have debated the effects of
money on human behavior. Some scholars
have pointed to its role as an incentive,
insofar as people want money in order to trade it
for prized goods or services (1, 2). Others, however, have deplored money for undermining interpersonal harmony (3). We propose that both outcomes emerge from the same underlying process: Money makes people feel self-sufficient and behave accordingly.
In this Report, “money” refers to a distinct
entity, a particular economic concept. Consistent
with other scholarly uses of the term (1), we use the
term money to represent the idea of money, not
property or possessions. Our research activates the
concept of money through the use of mental priming techniques, which heighten the accessibility of the idea of money but at a level below participants’
conscious awareness. Thus, priming acts as a
nonconscious reminder of the concept of money.
We tested whether activating the concept of
money leads people to behave self-sufficiently,
which we define as an insulated state wherein
people put forth effort to attain personal goals and
prefer to be separate from others. The term as we
define it does not imply a value judgment and
encompasses a mixture of desirable and undesirable qualities, which may help explain the positive and negative consequences of money (4).
The self-sufficiency hypothesis encapsulates
findings from extant research on money. If money
brings about a state of self-sufficiency, then a lack
of money should make people feel ineffectual.
Previous research indicates that physical and mental
illness after financial strain due to job loss is
statistically mediated by reduced feelings of personal control (5). A recent theory by Lea and Webley (1), which...
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