Relationship between Emotions and Money

29 Mar 2018

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It is well known that money, the symbol of power have always played an important role in our lives. Moreover, it seems that people get in contact of money value starting from childhood, when children usually express their desire to become reach when they will grown up. Younger person and adults follow the same desire as children, but they are more familiar of how money is earned. Well, to find out the effect of money on our attitudes and emotions I started to read scientific articles based on this subject.

In this essay I focused on different perspectives related to the significance of money in our lives.

For the beginning, I will mention a short description of money found in research.

The four most common unique money-associated emotions have been identified: Security, Power, Love and Freedom. Money, for many, can stand for Security. Also, having money reduces dependence on others, thus reducing anxiety and in this category we include the rich people who have money to spend it on all the things they want, but at the same time they feel high insecure.

Another meaning associated with money is Power, because money can buy goods, services and loyalty, it can be used to acquire importance, domination and control. With little money, these individuals feel weak, helpless and humiliated. Money can be used to buy-out or compromise enemies and clear the path for oneself. Money brings power and it can be considered as a search to regress to infantile fantasies of omnipotence. (Goldberg & Lewis, 1978).

For some other persons, money are a symbol of Love, which is given as a substitute for emotion and affection. Those who visit prostitutes, ostentatiously give to charity, spoil their children, are all doing this only to buy love. Others sell it: they promise affection, devotion, endearment and loyalty in exchange for financial security. Money, through generosity, can be used to buy loyalty and self-worth but can result in very superficial relationships.

If we pay a bit attention we discover that according to the Freudians, the buying, selling and stealing of love is used as a defence against emotional commitment (Goldberg & Lewis, 1978).

Many people admit that money provides Freedom and it seems that this is the more acceptable and more frequently attribute attached to money. It buys time to pursue one’s whims and interests, and frees one from the daily routine and restrictions of a paid job. For individuals who value autonomy and independence, money buys escape from orders and commands and can breed emotions of anger, resentment and greed.

In one study made in UK, 409 participants ( only 157 were female) completed a short questionnaire that measured four emotional associations of money: security, freedom, power and love. Their age ranged from15 to 71. The majority of participants were born in the UK (71.9%), 10.7% in Europe and 9.0% in Asia. In terms of marital status, just less than half of participants were single (48.6%) and 49.1% were either in a relationship or married. Also it was important to know the educational level of participants : 43.3% had studied to undergraduate level and 20.2% had continued with postgraduate studies.

The purpose of the study was to evaluate a short multifaceted measure of money-associated emotions in order to better understand people’s relationship with money in Britain.

Participants completed a 16-item questionnaire, which contained questions regarding their relationships with money.

The 16 items are categorised based on four scales: Security (Cronbach’s Alpha = 0.65), Freedom (Cronbach’s Alpha = 0.51), Power (Cronbach’s Alpha = 0.76) and Love (Cronbach’s Alpha = 0.43). Participants were also asked to provide, by their own definition, how much someone had to earn to be considered ‘‘rich’’.

Results showed that personal definitions of what it means to be ‘rich’ and participant gender were the most consistent predictors of the emotional underpinnings of money: for the majority of women money =security and for men money=power, high position.

Advanced educational attainment and a right-wing political orientation were significant predictors of freedom and power, emotional attachments.

At the same time, was noticed a large inter- correlations between power and freedom and between power and love.

After reading this study I found another interesting study which refers to the effect of money and economics on attitudes about volunteering. In the year 2009, in Canada, two studies had a similar aim : testing whether calculating one’s own hourly wage rate along with prior experience with hourly payment affected attitudes towards time by activating the concepts of money and economics as it is related to the self (i.e., self-reported propensity towards thinking of one’s self as an economic evaluator when making decisions). The key of the studies was the use of manipulation. Participants were recruited from a nation-wide database maintained by the Stanford Graduate School of Business. The pool consists of participants from all over the country, recruited online via Craigslist and similar sites. The pool contains approximately 15,000 registered participants and represents a large variety of people with different demographic characteristics. Sessions were opened for individuals interested in participating in a survey about their work experiences. A total of 66 participants completed an online questionnaire in exchange for a $5 gift certificate to an online retailer.

After reading a consent form, participants were told that the researchers were conducting a survey on how Americans think about their time and that they would respond to demographic questions about their jobs so that comparisons could

be made with national survey estimates. This introduction provided a rationale for asking participants to respond to detailed questions concerning their earnings and work hours that comprised the experimental manipulation. After the introduction, participants were randomly assigned to one of two experimental conditions. Specifically, participants read information about average annual earnings in the US (‘‘Annual earnings before taxes or other deductions: $42,288”), the number of hours typically worked per week (‘‘Number of hours usually worked per week in a year: 40 hours”), and the number of weeks most people worked (‘‘Number of weeks worked in a year: 50 weeks”).

Participants were told they should feel free to use scratch paper or a calculator on their computer in responding to the two questions. They were asked to multiply the number of weeks worked in the prior year by the average number of hours worked per week in the prior year. Then participants were asked to take the annual salary and divide it by the total number of hours worked. Participants were told that this number was ‘‘an approximate hourly wage (i.e., the amount of money earned per hour)”.

The study showed the undergraduates with either money or economic concepts were less willing to volunteer their time. The results suggest that economic evaluation is one causal mechanism affecting attitudes about time use.

The argument is that when people paid by the hour think about their time in terms of money, they are more likely to adopt an economic evaluation lens when making decisions about spending time and, in particular, will devalue uncompensated activities.

The literature on priming suggests that money and economic concepts negatively affect pro-social behavior. For instance, some researchers have shown in one experiment conduct in 2004 that exposing undergraduate students to business-related objects is sufficient to produce less cooperative behavior. In their most recent reviews of the priming literature, Wheeler, DeMarree, and Petty (2005, 2007) argued that primes affect behavior by inducing changes in the self-concept. Although in 2005 prior research has examined individual differences in the love for money and recognized the important role of an ‘‘economic self” in human, but the focus of the study was specifically on the psychological activation of economic evaluation within the self-concept framework.

Another study that have drawn my attention was made in Poland and was related to children and how the symbolic meaning of money affects their social behavior and social preferences. The general Hypothesis of the whole study was that: Money activation leads to self-sufficient behavior in children aged 5–8 and were conducted two experiments.

Experiment 1: A total of 126 children (63 females) participated in the study (aged 7–8) from several primary schools in two different cities in Poland participated in the study after researchers received permission to carry out the experiments from headmasters, teachers and parents.

Hypothesis 1: Children in the experimental condition will exhibit more selfish preferences than children in the control condition.

Design: The first part of the study (manipulation) was conducted in groups of 20–25 children. At the beginning, every child received a small gift (a sticker) and was informed that they would be able to get more gifts by playing the games. The person conducting the experiments showed then a poster in A0 format presenting various coins and notes (in the experimental group) or pictures and symbols dealing with flowers, plants, and ecology (in the control group). Children were randomly assigned either to the experimental or to the control condition. They were asked to talk about what they had seen on the posters placed in front of

them on the blackboard. After 5 min, children were asked to draw something

that was connected to the topics of the poster, and, then went one by one into another room to participate in the games. An analysis of pictures prepared by the children showed that, in the experimental group, all of them drew coins, and in the control condition almost all drew flowers In the main part of the study, we used two allocation games to elicit children’s social or selfish preferences. Another experimenter, who was blind to the experimental conditions and to the aims of this research, conducted this part of the study. Children were asked to make two decisions concerning the allocation of stickers showing heroes from various fairytales between themselves and children from another class in the same school, who were anonymous to the decision-makers.

Each game was explained in detail, to make sure that the children understood the consequences of their choices. In the ‘‘prosocial game’’, the participants could choose between the allocation (1,1) – one sticker for themselves and one for their partners – and the allocation (1,0) – one sticker for the decision-makers and nothing for the partners.

Results of the first study revealed that the tendency of children to make egalitarian

choices was weaker in the experimental group, referring to those children who participated in the money activation procedure.

Experiment 2 : Participants were 120 children (61 females and the rest males) . (aged 5–6) from three public nursery schools in Poland. Before developing the experiment, researchers received permission from headmasters, teachers and parents.

Hypothesis 2: Children in the money activation condition would be less helpful than children in the control condition.

Design: Every child was randomly assigned to one of the four conditions: notes; coins; buttons; pieces of paper and were told that they would be taking part in a counting test and would get a reward (a sticker) irrespective of whether they succeeded. or not. After this, they were asked to choose the future reward and can leave the room. To see if they are interested to remain in class if they will received another reward, the experimenter asked children for help in preparing the task for another group of children. The children who agreed to do this receited a task to

choose as many purple crayons as possible from a box of mixed crayons standing in the farthest corner of the room and bring them to the experimenter. Those children who said they had finished the task received another reward and then went into the next room to play with the older children. This was done to prevent them communicating with the children who were still waiting to participate in the experiment.

All the participants have been also examined individually. The experimenter who was a woman was blind to the study hypothesis and to our expectations. She also did not have a knowledge of psychology. The experimenter was trained precisely in how to conduct the study and received strict instructions concerning conversations with participants. She was not allowed to talk freely to the children.

Results showed that children from the experimental condition collected a significantly lower number of crayons than children from the control condition and this can be considered a strong and significant effect of money activation.

As a general conclusion of the two experiments : Children aged 5–8 reaction to money is very similar to the way adults react.

To sum up, I should say that money was a powerful influence on social preferences and social behavior in children, teenagers and adults.


Furnham, A. (2000). Many sides of the coin: The psychology of money. Personality and Individual Differences, 5, 501–509;

Gasiorowska, A.; Zaleskiewicz T.; Wygrab.( 2012). Would you do something for me? The effects of money activation on social preferences and social behavior in young children. Journal of Economic Psychology, 33, 603–608;

Pfeffer J ; DeVoe, S. (2009). Economic evaluation: The effect of money and economics on attitudes about volunteering, Journal of Economic Psychology 30, 500–508;

Furnham A. ( 2012). The meaning of money: The validation of a short money-types measure.

Personality and Individual Differences , 52, 707–711.

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