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Study: Money Makes People Mean

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mean business personA recent study entitled The Psychological Consequences of Money shows that people with money on their mind are less likely to help others. Here’s the abstract:

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.

An article on MSN Money describes how the study was performed at the University of Minnesota, Florida State University and the University of British Columbia.

Students and non-students involved in the study were split into two groups. The control group received neutral preconditioning while the experimental group participated in money-related activities. The two groups then participated in scenarios and the experimenters monitored their behavior.

In the final three experiments, money-prime participants placed more physical distance between themselves and a participant partner, preferred solitary to group leisure activities and more frequently chose to work alone rather than with a peer compared to the control participants.

If you’re reading this website, chances are you have money on the mind. Perhaps you think about money-related issues more than most people, especially if you are interested of taking control of your personal finances, like I am. If the study is accurate, that means you are less likely to work with other people, less likely to ask for help when needed, and less likely to help others in need when performing activities.

Published or updated February 5, 2007. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Toby

Looking at my own life, I can definitely see these behaviors at play. While I have not gone all “Gordon Gekko”, I think I do lack some empathy for financially strapped people, especially when I perceive that their situation is self-inflicted. After all, if I can dig myself out of debt, save money, get a better job, and start investing, why can’t they?

As far as “going it alone”, I think most people who “have money on their minds” are not being anti-social. I think they are just more selective about who they accept help from. Your drinking buddy is probably not the best person to get stock tips from (unless he’s Warren Buffett). Your uncle who is a retired banker, on the other hand, is more likely to be a positive mentor for you. Personally, I may decide to have a beer with my uncle and skip watching football with my buddy.

At the end of the day, it is all about balance. If all your activities center around money and success you will end up rich and alone. But as long as you balance your activities, (a little) greed is good;)

-Toby

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avatar The Digerati Life

wow. that’s pretty scary. I have seen exceptions though.. but I see that this is but how human nature works in general unfortunately!

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avatar Terry

What if you’re thinking asbout money from the “other” angle (anxiety/worry)? I worry about money all the time (I earn minimum wage) and I definitely want to play and work alone and sulk a lot. (I have no marketable skills and no money to pay for education or training to get marketable skills, so I see my situation as hopeless.) And yes, worrying about money does seem to make me meaner.

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avatar cindy

ack, it’s sad but true. i have lost several friends to law schools. it’s like they were sent into the classroom and a secret alien nation ate them up and took over their bodies. ack, i hate these money greedy flashy lv wearing zombies!

ack ack ack

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