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Money makes us selfish and cold – but why does it happen?

Several experiments showed that money makes people more asocial and egocentric. Why is that?

Money can affect people’s emotional expressions and reactions to others. Thinking about money makes people more business-like, where transactions are based on objective standards and emotion is unsuitable. 

These people show less emotion in public and expect others to do so as well. Let’s look at experiments that reveal that minor reminders of money make people less emotional in public when dealing with strangers.

Money changes our perception

As a quantifiable instrument of exchange, money has come to symbolize the application of cold, hard logic to human interactions. As a rule, these kinds of dealings are impersonal. Because of the confidence boost that comes with having access to financial resources, people are more likely to go alone in their pursuit of happiness. 

Also read: Cryptocurrencies as a Christmas gift in 2022?

Emotional expression is essential in interpersonal interactions. There are a wide variety of interpersonal contexts in which emotions play a significant role. An individual’s emotional state during a conversation can reveal a lot about what each party involved is looking for. However, they are less suited to impersonal business-oriented communications. 

Experiments prove it

In one experiment, they divided 50 university students into two groups. The first group was ready for the concept of money, the second group remained passive. In the experiment, for example, they had a pile of Monopoly money in their peripheral vision or were presented with a stimulus (word phrase, pictures, screen saver with dollars, etc.) related to money. 

In the second group, they were not exposed to monetary incentives. They did not know that the capital was part of the experiments and they filled out different questionnaires. Participants were given a difficult problem to solve with the information that help was available if needed. It took students exposed to money much longer before asking for help.

In one test, a participant was filling out a questionnaire when a stressed-out student entered the room asking for help. She explained that she was an undergraduate student and needed help coding data sheets, which would only take a few minutes. 

Some of the participants did not help her at all. The control group volunteered an average of 42 minutes of their time, while the monetary group volunteered a maximum of 25 minutes. Another experiment gave participants the opportunity to lend a helping hand in a situation that required no skills. In a staged accident, a person was walking across the room and spilled a pencil case. Monetary participants offered to collect pencils to a less extent.

Colder behavior

In a different experiment, the researchers told each participant that they would conduct an interview with a participant from the control group. While the experimenter went to get them, the money participant had to prepare two chairs. Subjects in the money group set up chairs with a greater physical distance between themselves and new acquaintances, compared to control subjects. 

Read more: Rise of internet and social media – what you did not know

When choosing between two activities (a home-catering dinner versus four personal cooking lessons), subjects focused on money more often chose individually focused activities. And when given the opportunity to work with another participant or independently on an advertising project, the less money-oriented subjects chose teamwork.

Final thoughts

These experiments showed how money actually changes people or reveals what’s already hidden inside. Money makes people more unethical, asocial, selfish, and unwilling to help strangers. 

I got into financial markets by accident in 2012 and started with Forex trading. Later in 2017, I started investing in stocks in cryptocurrencies and began writing articles profess...

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