This week’s book learning is from ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman –
We looked at a fascinating experience on ‘Priming‘ last week that showed how we responded to stimulus subconsciously. This week, we look at what happens when the stimulus is money.
Researchers used a couple of experiments – the traditional ‘unscramble the sentence’ experiment where they unscrambled sentences with a money theme (e.g.: make a 4 word sentence out high salary desk paying a) and also by using smaller stimuli e.g. placing a monopoly board on the table in front, or a computer screen in the room with a $ bill screen saver.
The reminders of money produced some interesting and some rather troubling results –
– Self Reliance: Money primed subjects persevered twice as long on tougher problems before asking for help
– Selfishness: They were MUCH less willing to help a student who pretended to be confused about the task. And, when an experimenter clumsily dropped a bunch of pencils, they picked fewer pencils!
– Less Open/Connected: When money primed subjects were told they were to set up two chairs for a conversation with a researcher, they kept their chairs 118cm apart (vs 80 cm on average), and showed a greater preference for being left alone.
The general theme that was observed is that the idea of money primes individualism and the idea that being reliant or dependable on others is not encouraged.
Living in cultures, families with lots of reminder of money, as a result, likely results in such behaviour!
(Consequently, priming also explains why dictatorial regimes have the picture of the dictator as a symbol – it primes us to believe ‘big brother’ is watching and that we are dependent on big brother for everything. Fascinating stuff!)
Bonus quote: ‘Do not educate your child to be rich. Educate him to be happy. So when he grows up, he’ll know the value of things, not the price.’ :)
Here’s to keeping a look out for money primers in our environment this week!