Money on the Mind: Social and Psychological Ramifications
I came across an interesting article on MSN Money last night titled Does money make you mean? which described a study conducted on a group of subjects who had been preconditioned to have money on their minds when various experiments were conducted. The study found that those with money on their minds tended to be more indifferent and less helpful toward others, preferring to do things on their own and waiting longer to ask for help when help was needed.
The “money primed” group was preconditioned by doing puzzles with money-related words, reading essays containing references to money, being shown posters of money and given play money and tokens to handle. This group was then combined with the control group (not preconditioned to think about money) in several staged situations. In one test, the group was assigned to complete a puzzle and told that help was available if asked for. Money-minded subjects waited longer to ask for help than the control subjects did. In another situation, a passer-by “accidentally” spilled a box of pencils on the floor and the test subjects were asked to help; those who had been “money primed” picked up fewer pencils. When asked to donate to a university student fund, “money primed” subjects gave less.
The researchers concluded that the money-minded subjects weren’t consciously being rude or selfish, but were simply indifferent, as if they didn’t know how to help out or couldn’t see themselves as having a role in someone else’s life.
This Sounds A Lot Like Me
When I read this, my first thought was that this sounded a lot like Madoline and me. Ever since moving to California and needing to live frugally, we have become very independent and tried to be as self-sufficient as possible. When something in our house breaks, we always try to fix it ourselves. When we find that we can’t do it on our own, we usually procrastinate a while before finally calling someone in to fix it. This is, of course, due to the fact that we are money-conscious and try to save whenever we possibly can. While we do not dislike being around other people, we also don’t actively seek to get involved socially.
At this time in our lives, most or all of our behavior is influenced by money. We do not have close family or friends whom we could go to for help if we needed it (because we have moved so much, we have lost touch with childhood friends and most of our classmates now live all over the world and have their own families). Because we don’t feel as if we can rely on people, money is the only thing that can guarantee our health and security.
Money Can Buy Happiness
My second thought after reading about this study was that this is natural survivalist behavior. In this day and age, one simply cannot survive without money. True, money can’t buy “Happiness” bottled and ready to go. But, money buys food, pays the mortgage and doctor’s bills. Money makes sure that our pets, who are our family, are well fed and taken care of. Money is what will keep us healthy and comfortable throughout our lives. And health and comfort play a big part in one’s happiness.
So, at this time, I’m afraid we are just as the research finds – indifferent and unhelpful (with the exception of this blog, hopefully) – not out of hate for others, but out of necessity to ensure our own future survival. As many others do, we dream of one day being financially free. We hope to one day be able to give to causes we believe in and even start charitable organizations of our own. But in order to be able to help others, we have to be able to help ourselves first.
Recommended reading: Does money make you mean?