Money is such an interesting thing, isn’t it? The only way most of us can survive anymore is to have “enough” of it. We work ourselves to mental and physical exhaustion in hopefully jobs we love, but usually jobs we hate or jobs we tolerate until we find something different (hopefully better). Money is the subject of a variety of quotes such as, “When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.” from Oscar Wilde, my personal life motto “That money talks, I’ll not deny, I heard it once: It said, ‘Goodbye’.” from Richard Armour, and the classic, well-known colloquialism passed around by holier-than-thou, budget living, bulk buying, planners “Money can’t buy you happiness.” Happiness may not be available for purchase at Target, but there are some things on sale I really want that might make me happy, so if anyone has money that’s not making them happy and they want to donate it to my happiness that would be pretty excellent.
It’s no surprise that money inspires people to do a veritable smorgasbord of stupid and embarrassing things in an effort to gain some. There are actually hours of television EVERY WEEK dedicated to this concept. What many people don’t realize is that money can have some slightly less obvious impact on our behavior. A Hong Kong study led by Yuwei Jiang has shown that participants exposed to images and/or references to money become less emotionally expressive while becoming more emotionally intuitive to the behavior and expressions of others. The prevailing theory for this result is that when thinking about money a person heads into a business frame of mind and we all know there is know place for emotion in business.
Jiang and his team performed a total of six studies with participants that included Hong Kong undergrads and American adults. Participants were asked either to judge the lighting and clarity of images – the active group would then look at pictures of money while the control group would see images of seashells, furniture, or leaves or to rearrange a series of words into coherent sentences – the active group would have words that pertained to money and finance while the control group’s words would pertain to neutral topics. The results left parties who were exposed to anything finance-related emotionally closed while very aware of the emotional behavior of others whereas the control groups noted no changes in behavior.
The researchers pointed out that there were certain things that could be done to lessen the effect that money had on participants. For example, when participants who had been exposed to money were informed that the emotions displayed by others were being done so in private they tended to rate those behaviors as less intense. Ultimately, I’m not sure how this information will be useful in the long run, but I do know this: the next time you play poker, you’ll have a really good idea of whose money is really on the line.