November 27, 2006
|Money Makes Meanies||Science/Technology|
Pictures of dollar bills, fantasies of wealth and even wads of Monopoly money arouse feelings of self-sufficiency that result in selfish and often anti-social behavior, according to a study published in the journal Science.
All it took to discourage college students from contributing to a University Student Fund were 15 short phrases such as "a high-paying salary." Those primed by money-related phrases donated an average of 77 cents, compared with $1.34 for students exposed to neutral phrases like "it is cold outside."
"The mere presence of money changes people," said Kathleen Vohs, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota and lead author of the study.
Money makes it possible for people to achieve their goals without asking for help. Therefore, Vohs and her colleagues theorized, even subtle reminders of money would inspire people to be self-reliant — and to expect such behavior from others.
A series of nine experiments confirmed their hypothesis. For example, students who played Monopoly and then were asked to envision a future with great wealth picked up fewer dropped pencils for a fellow student than those asked to contemplate a hand-to-mouth existence.
Money also influenced how people said they preferred to spend their leisure time. A poster of bills and coins prompted students to favor a solitary social activity, such as private cooking lessons, while students sitting across from posters of seascapes and gardens were more likely to opt for a group dinner.
"Money changes people's motivations," said co-author Nicole Mead, a psychology graduate student at Florida State University. [Emphasis added]
The root of all evil, and all that. Meanwhile, the Scrooges will scoff — but then they would, wouldn't they. Bah, humbug!