This is Your Brain on Money
We've all heard the saying that money is like a drug, but new studies show this old adage may actually be true. A recent study in China was performed in which half of the participants counted stacks of Chinese money, and the other group counted stacks of blank paper. After that exercise, the participants were instructed to put their fingers in bowls of water heated to 122 degrees and rate how uncomfortable it felt. The subjects who were counting money earlier reported that the water didn't feel as hot to them as it apparently did to the subjects who were counting blank paper. After counting money and dipping their hands in hot water, the subjects filled out questionnaires to see what was going on in their minds. They found that when the subjects were reminded of money, they felt stronger. This may all be the result of "priming", in which thinking about one thing can subconsciously trigger a related response. Subjects who walk more slowly when they are reminded of the elderly is another example of priming. Although 122 degree water is not hot enough to do lasting damage, it is hotter than what the consumer Product Safety Commission recommends setting the home water heater.
This experiment and others are part of a research paper title "The Symbolic Power of Money" published in the journal Psychological Science. These researchers' are noticing that money can act as a substitute for social acceptance, reducing social discomfort as well as physical discomfort and even pain. They hypothesize that money can be used as a substitute for another pain buffer, love. Research they performed prior to this study indicated that hot water didn't feel as hot when the subject had someone standing beside them. Research on money, the flow of it, how to regulate it, get more of it and create it, has been an obsession for all time. Now it seems we are getting closer to explaining why.